As you enter a Montessori primary classroom, your gaze is immediately drawn to it: the pink tower. And then to the golden beads… and the ever beautiful bead cabinet. These are among the most iconic pieces of Montessori educational tools that exist. Nearly every Montessori school has them in their classroom.
So what is the Pink Tower, and what makes it so iconic (other than the striking color)? It’s a core learning manipulative for sensorial education within the Montessori curriculum and one that your children will love and learn from for years.
Let’s take a look at the uses for the Pink Tower, and why it’s designed perfectly for growing minds.
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Not just a stack of blocks
At first glance, you might think the Pink Tower is just a stack of building blocks with a very eye-catching color. Like every item in a Montessori sensorial toolkit, though, it’s much more than its outward appearance would suggest.
The Pink Tower is made of 10 wooden, pink cubes in an ascending size pattern, smallest on top to largest on the bottom. Each block - though different in size - is the same color, shape, and texture, which provides consistency for the child to reference when working with the Tower. They can easily identify the blocks, see their beautiful pink color, and recognize consistent texture on their fingers, so the primary work is exclusively focused on discerning size and order.
The Pink Tower should be introduced around 2.5 - 3 years of age when the motor skills needed to use it well will be developing. During this initial presentation, and a short period thereafter, your child will work on motor skills and size/order recognition, but the Tower provides far more educational opportunities beyond this age range.
Size and order recognition
When a child begins to use the Pink Tower, they are typically unable to assemble it in the correct order. Young children won’t be able to figure out the pattern at first, but this is one of the main purposes of the Pink Tower: to help a child work on figuring out ascending and descending order and arrangement (largest to smallest and smallest to largest). In other words, the pink tower initially helps the child with visual discrimination based on differences in dimension.
Using their little hands to place and manipulate the blocks without knocking the Tower over is also a large component of this period of education. Not only will they learn to build a stable tower, they will also be able to recognize when it’s not right, and disassemble and reassemble it more quickly each time. Through repetition and development of their hand-eye coordination, the child learns to move their hands in a specific way.
Finally, during this period, the child will learn persistence and focus, as it takes quite a bit of both to learn how to accurately stack the Tower. This persistence is one of the core goals of Montessori education and it will carry them through any problems that arise in their life. In fact, persistence to carry through to a goal - also known as “grit” - is seen in psychological studies as more indicative of success in adults than intelligence!
Math, language, and science
The cubes of the Pink Tower do a great deal to further your child’s learning in other subjects as well beyond sensorial learning. For instance, the very existence of the cubes teaches language concepts such as cubes, blocks, and towers, but also superlatives like big, bigger, biggest/small, smaller, and smallest. Manipulating the cubes also prepares them for writing by reinforcing a three-finger grip.
In the world of mathematics, the cubes are 1-10, from 1cm across to 10cm across. This teaches the children the interaction of adding and subtracting on a scale of 10, as well as the geometric concepts of dimension and cubes. They might not be directly taught geometry, but this will stick with them as they age into more complex math.
Presenting the Pink Tower to your children
Demonstrating how to use the Tower is a lot of fun. You’ll want a solid floor, like hardwood, or a mat so that the blocks are level.
- Start by placing the cubes in the workspace and introduce the Tower to your child, explaining “this is the Pink Tower”.
- Bring the cubes over and place them on the mat, inspecting each one.
- Deliberately start with the largest cube, using both hands to carefully place it down.
- Move in order through the cubes, but emphasize care and discretion - comparing cube sizes, for instance.
- Be sure to stand and look from above so that your child understands they can get a comparative angle that way as well.
- When the Tower is assembled, move around it and double-check, and once again from above. This further reinforces the need to be precise and to get as much information as possible.
- Deconstruct the Tower with care and then mix up the blocks randomly and have your child take a turn.
You can go back and forth, or continue to allow them to take multiple turns while you observe. Don’t give pointers other than, if it’s your turn, be sure to demonstrate consideration, comparison, and care.
Working with the Pink Tower with your child will help them understand the goal of the blocks, and they will likely pick up the concept within a few repetitions of watching you, if not sooner.
Why is the Pink Tower pink?
The answer is quite simple - Maria Montessori tested multiple colors for her cube tower and she found children simply respond best to the color pink. That’s it! Kids just love and are drawn to this color of pink.
The Pink Tower is a tall order of fun
It’s a very simple design, but it packs a huge educational punch. The Montessori Pink Tower helps teach your child persistence, three-finger grip, dimensions, and some basic concepts of math and language. In addition to these topics, your child will learn to order from largest to smallest, and count within the numbers 1-10.
There is a huge variety of educational opportunities that the Pink Tower provides. Quite possibly the most profound lessons this tool teaches are persistence/grit and approaching problems from different angles. When the child is trying to determine the best method for finding the stacking solution, they learn to stand and look from above, to approach from the sides, and to compare the sizes of blocks. The fact that each block is uniformly textured, colored, and shaped allows them to focus entirely on the question of dimension.
The bright pink color of the blocks is attractive to the young eye, and will help engage their visual sense while they use their tactile senses to interact with the Tower. Present the Tower in a manner that demonstrates not just how to assemble it, but also how to evaluate each step if they get stuck. This is a lesson in independence and determination and will be the centerpiece of both your Montessori classroom and their Montessori experience.