Montessori Color Tablets

Curious about Montessori color tablets? You've come to the right place!

Montessori color tablets are one small but important part of the primary Sensorial scope and sequence, designed for children ages 3-6.

The Montessori Sensorial curriculum is a truly unique component of the Montessori method because it trains kids to view the world with an analytical mindset and to explore using all of their senses.

Through the use of focused multi-sensory learning activities, presented in the proper order and in the correct fashion, this refinement of a child’s senses helps them learn to focus for long periods of time, a quality which we now call "grit."

Modern research tells us that a child’s ability to develop grit is the single most reliable predictor of success in life.

Learning Colors with Montessori Color Tablets

Who would have thought that such fun, visually appealing materials would be so important? Of course, when it comes to learning colors, color tablets are an amazing resource. Colors are presented visually using a series of three boxes with curated colored slides in them.

Preliminarily, color tablets are a great way to introduce colors without confounding the concept with other ideas. This isolation of difficulty is an important concept in Montessori pedagogy, because it allows young children to learn and focus on just one difficult element at a time.

For instance, many lessons in color following other educational frameworks introduce colors along with objects of that color - pink pig, red apple, yellow flower. For young children, this can be confusing. Are we learning the difference between the colors, the objects, the size of the objects, or something else? What new vocabulary is critical to learn?

These tablets also play a key role in sensorial learning, as Montessori color tablets are easy to hold as the child learns each specific color.

Let’s learn about what the Montessori Color Tablets are, how to present them, and why you should definitely have this Montessori material in your home.

Montessori Color Tablets - Text overlay that reads the what, why, and how

What are Montessori Color Tablets?

Montessori Color Tablets are three boxes of colored tablets with handles on the sides. These slides come in pairs of 3 primary colors (box one), 11 pairs of primary and secondary colors (box 2) and 9 sets of 7 graded colors, from lightest to darkest (box 3). In general, the first 2 boxes are used for pairing activities and the third is used for grading activities.

What are the purposes of the Color Tablets?

The tablets have a variety of purposes, the primary (also commonly known as the “Direct Aim”) being to teach to identify and discriminate between colors.

Indirectly, the color tablets help children develop a sense of visual order, refine their fine motor skills, and learn grace and courtesy in dealing with classroom materials.

The handles on the sides of the tablets, for example, help children both be mindful of not touching the colors, and also to improve fine motor skills in physically manipulating them.

The simplicity of the Montessori color tablets highlight the elegance of the pedagogy. Associating a certain noun with a color ("brown bear") is needlessly more complicated and muddies the waters, especially for younger children. By sticking only with the colors and their names, your child is focused visually and mentally on learning them and the information is better retained.

Using Montessori Color Tablets

Using the Color Tablets is fun - it’s honestly one of the most popular parts of the sensory Montessori toolbox. Children love identifying, matching, and assembling the colors by shades as more of the boxes come into play. 

Using Box 1

These instructions come from our very own Multisori Sensorial curriculum and shows the simplicity and ease of Montessori homeschooling:

Pick up one tablet, show it to the child and name it: “This is red.” Place the tablet in front of the child. Ask the child to find the matching pair ("I'm looking for one like this."). Place it next to the original tablet. Repeat for all colors. Once done, arrange the tablets randomly and invite the child to match the pairs.

This process helps them learn what colors, matching, and pairs are. It invites them to figure out matching for themselves, and then to describe the colors. Ask them to repeat the colors as they assemble matches, and as they pick up the tiles. Reinforce the words as they recognize the colors and soon they’ll have mastered box 1.

Using Box 2

Box 2 is the same as box one, but with more colors. You’ll simply select a color, name it, place it, and find its match, only this time we have secondary colors, along with pink, black, white, brown, and grey. Go through each of them, and then invite your child to do the same thing. Often, a small child will get excited before you complete going through them all (or even one!). That’s okay. If your child understands the matching process, allow them to use their own hands to move the tablet. Be sure to name the colors as they are matched.

Another fun way to use Box 2 is with a scavenger hunt extension activity. Hide one set of the colors in the learning environment. Line the second set of colors on a work mat or other work space. Ask your child to bring you each color, one by one, and then to match them to the ones on the work space.

Box 2 is even more fun than Box 1 because the complexity ramps up - even though the process is still the same, there are far more colors to learn and pair up.

Oh - and by the way - if you’re buying these traditional Montessori materials, you don’t need Box 1 and Box 2, because all of the color tablet pairs in Box 1 are included in Box 2. Save a few bucks and just buy Box 2!

Using Box 3

This box has the most tablets of all, and it’s the most fun! By now, your child should have a good grasp of the color names and how they pair up, but now we’re introducing shades to the party.

Pick a color, name it, and then assemble all the same-colored tiles from darkest to lightest, or lightest to darkest. Do this with all the colors, explaining what you’re doing, and then mix the tiles up and have your child do the same thing. Again, they may cut you off once they understand the idea - that’s okay! Remember, what the hands do, the mind remembers.

what the hand does the mind remembers quote maria montessori - background is montessori color tablets

Box three not only teaches shades and a variety of color names, but it also teaches superlatives - lightest and darkest. These activities broaden your child’s grasp of language along with color identification ability. So, be sure to introduce language such as light, lighter, lightest, dark, darker, darkest, and shade.

This box demonstrates that colors can be presented in a variety of different ways and still be the same color, like dark blue and sky blue. It opens up their perception and understanding of how things are grouped and further refines their ability to visually discrimination.

Other ways to use Montessori Color Tablets

Once your child has a good grasp of colors and how they work, you can use the Tablets for a variety of other enriching activities. For instance, once your child has a good grasp of color names and shades, you can play “I Spy” and use the color tablets to match other items in the room, by holding up the color tile that corresponds to the item you’re thinking of in the room.

Consider bringing your color tablets on a nature walk, and select tiles to have your child match to an object, animal, plant or scene you see. This helps them identify colors in the context of the wider world, and also see how colors naturally develop around them. It can also give context to learning other things - for instance, identifying that cardinals are red, and then remembering later on that cardinals are a red bird. This can also be a great intro to an art project or nature journaling.

Your children will also enjoy creating scenes with the color tablets using their imaginations.

Color Tablets are a fun, powerful learning material

The Montessori color tablets include bright tiles and have great potential for interaction and extension. Children enjoy using them for years.

Color Tablets come in three boxes:

  • Box 1 includes three pairs of primary colors
  • Box 2 includes pairs of primary and secondary colors, along with pink, brown, black, gray, and white
  • Box 3 includes all of the previous color pairs, and a shade range for each of them, including a gray scale from white to black

Once your child has a good grasp on the fundamentals of identifying and matching colors, you can introduce a variety of games into the mix. Consider identifying items in the room, like I Spy, or having your child walk or run to match pairs of colors spread throughout the room. You are really only limited by your imagination - you can even take them on a nature walk and find color matches in the great outdoors!

From early childhood to a variety of enriching activities with box 3 and beyond, your young learners will enjoy every moment with this important piece of the Montessori experience.

DIY Color Box Printable

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