Adventures with Montessori and Autism: Shapes and Solids

In the first level of Montessori (1), the children explore shapes and solids (naming and categorization occurs in later levels). The Montessori program has a geometric solids set, a flat shape set (geometric cabinet), and a metal inserts shape set for pre-writing. They all tie together nicely, but Beth doesn’t really needs to know all the geometric shapes at this point. Learning new language receptively is hard, learning new expressively language is even harder, so I am not going to torture her with learning the difference between an ellipsoid and ovoid (a point which confused even me and my husband, both engineers with a fair amount of math under our belt) and the various types of triangles in preparation for geometry. So I cut some things out of the program, and tried to preserve any shape/solids teaching that might be helpful to Beth in real life.

Geometric Solids

I bought the geometric solids set from ebay for a reasonable price. This is a fantastic video on geometric solids that explains the whole process. Remember, at level 1, the children only explore the solids as in the beginning of this video.

As you can see from the video, Montessori takes a sensory approach and later teaches language concepts that are abstract on paper worksheets for kids like Beth. These language terms can be demonstrated with the shapes: roll, stack, flat surface, curved surfaces, pointy, blunt, you get the idea. These are the solids that relate most to the real world and therefore are the ones I am teaching Beth: sphere, cube, egg-shaped (called ovoid in the Montessori system, but I am going with egg-shaped), cylinder, cone (street cones being an obvious direct application), and the pyramid (we are using the square based pyramid, like the ones in Egypt, since I keep running into pyramids with Beth for some odd reason, usually in relation to camels).

Our subset of geometric solids. The circle, square, and triangle are bases used later in the program

Our subset of geometric solids. The circle, square, and triangle are bases used later in the program


Beth, me, a camel, and a pyramid, 2014 (Florida)

Beth, me, a camel, and a pyramid, 2014 (Florida)

Geometric Cabinet

What I love about the geometric cabinet: the process of feeling the edge of the shape to get a true sense of the shapes and the sequencing work with cards. What I don’t like about the geometric cabinet: Too many shapes with complex names and with the control cards, cabinet, and demonstration tray it is freaking expensive $$$$$$. I decided it was just best to use the metal insets to explore flat shapes (see below). It is not strict Montessori, but I think it is the best decision for Beth. So, we are skipping the geometric cabinet.

Geometric Cabinet

Geometric Cabinet


Demonstration Tray

Demonstration Tray


Geometric Cabinet Control Chart

Geometric Cabinet Control Chart

Metal Insets

In lieu of the geometric cabinet we are using a the metal insets for learning flat shapes and I will have Beth touch the outside of the blue inset and work left to right with the insets on the stand for the level 1 sensory flat shape experience (which Beth needs because she keeps confusing square with rectangle and the names of the shapes occasionally trip her up). Officially, the metal insets are for pre-writing (they are similar to a stencil) and in the book I am following it says they are not used until level 2 (1). Still, the metal inset set has more shapes than I feel Beth needs to know at this time, and some of the names are overly complicated for a kid with language delays. So I took about half the shapes and we will do level 1 with them instead of the geometric cabinet (touching the outside of the shapes).

Here is the full metal insert set…refer to control chart in section above for true Montessori names:

Metal Insets

Metal Insets

This is the set I decided Beth should work on for flat shapes in lieu of the geometric cabinet:


Set we are using for level 1 sensory experience of shapes. We are calling them circle, oval, square, rectangle, and triangle. I am not getting into the whole that is not an oval, it is an ellipse thing-that again confused the engineers of the house. It is an oval to us, so an oval it is!

Again I found these metal insets on ebay for a reasonable price, but they are still one of the more expensive items we have bought thus far. You can go with a cheaper plastic version sold on Amazon if the cost of the metal inserts is too high, but I felt we needed the heavier version for the pre-writing work.


(1) This will be a quick and poorly edited series because things are happening fast and I just want to write it all down. My daughter is almost 7 years old and we are starting the Montessori program from the beginning using this book, you tube videos, and common sense alterations. We homeschool and do other standard K activities. Montessori is an attempt to fill in developmental gaps and increase independence. See this fellow blogger’s post on the division of the work into periods as outlined in David Gettman’s book: We are starting with period 1 activities (taken from the book), with adjustments of course:

Period One

  1. Practical Activities – pouring beans between two jugs, opening and closing containers; buttoning; buckling; other simple dressing frames; carrying and laying out floor and table mats; saying please and thank you; carrying a tray; lifting, carrying, and putting down a chair, sitting down and getting up from a chair at a table; climbing up and down stairs; walking on the line; folding, hanging clothes on a hook;  brushing hair; dusting

  2. Sensorial – Cylinder blocks; pink tower; box 1 of the color tablets; presentation tray of the geometric cabinet; sensitizing the fingers; touch boards; presentation of Geometric solids; stereognostic bags presentation

  3. Language – Classified pictures exercises; speech stages – I Spy; book corner and library

  4. Math – none

  5. Culture – land and water presentation

montessori book



One thought on “Adventures with Montessori and Autism: Shapes and Solids

  1. You’re off to a wonderful start!

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