My favorite toys for my kids are open-ended ones that offer a wide variety of exploration and learning. And while I also really appreciate self-correcting activities, sometimes being able to break free from the set mold can really challenge kids to also think outside of the box. From the moment we purchased our Montessori cylinder ladder, it has been an endless journey of exploration and learning!
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Ways to teach with Knobless Cylinders
Our family really loves using knobless cylinders for an assortment of activities and learning opportunities. It was a purchase I didn’t know would be literally the most loved toy for consecutive years in a row. In fact, I just pulled it out of our toy rotation, and again, instantly attracted to it like a magnet.
Most specifically, we love using a Knobless Cylinder Ladder.
So you might be thinking…
“What’s even the difference between Knobless Cylinders and a Cylinder Ladder?”
First, knobless cylinder sets do not have a board that they call home, rather they live in color coded boxes. Similar to a basic wooden puzzle for kids, a cylinder ladder has cut out circles where you place each cylinder on its end.
Second, a knobless cylinder set comes in usualy 4 colors and they also have varying diameters and dimensions beyond just color. What I really love about using a cylinder ladder set for is when I want each peg to have the same circumference and I only want them to vary in height and color.
Finally, there aren’t as many pieces to a cylinder ladder. Usually there 26 pieces (5 cylinders of 5 colors) whereas knobless cylinders usually have 4 colors and 10 pieces each (44 total, including the four boxes each set lives in).
How to use a Montessori Cylinder Ladder
Early Dexterity Skills
Even my youngest was playing with this at 10 months or so. All she did was line up each peg to correspond with any circular hole position on the board. Therefore it builds hand-eye coordination, motor skills, and works on grip and grasping.
Pull those cylinders off the board and stack them! Because theyall have the same size base, this also works on dexterity by being able to gentlely and precisely place one on another.
Creating Pattern Lines
Again, moving the cylinders off of the board, you can work on lining them up on their sides to make color pattern sequences.
Basic Understand of Fractions
Even for very young learners, this is actually a great way to introduce fraction concepts. Because while it’s easy to understand biggest and littlest, maybe saying somthing like “one that is half the size of the biggest” or lining up fractions together for a visual understanding of what two-thirds means.
Large Scale Patterning
Using the board, you can work on making patterns in the image from above. While my specific board is a bit harder because for some reason it was made with 4 of each color instead of making a perfect 5×5 square, a nice square you can do some incredible patterning!
Sorting Gradient Height
Use your cylinder ladder for its intended purpose and have kids learn how to sort the pegs in height order on the board.
Sorting Color Order
If your board is like mine, the colors actually aren’t in color order. This gave us an extra opportunity to explore colors and their relationships to one another.
Basic bar graphing skills
For preschoolers, the basic understanding that one cylinder realtes to one items, you can use the board as if it is a graph and each color is assigned to an object or topic. For instance, have your preschooler ask people to tally people to know their favorite fruit and assign each one a color and graph it. Visually they can see the graph looking down on the board.
Anticipating an outcome is something we’ve been working on and while color is very easy for our preschooler to see and understand, spatial understanding of patterns is a little more complex. So understanding why cylinders are placed in the order they are can be more challenging to identify as the physical height.
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Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living in Boston, MA and believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!