pink tower
Montessori theory

Montessori Material: The Pink Tower

“The environment itself will teach the child, every error he makes is manifest to him, without the intervention of a parent or teacher, who should remain a quiet observer of all that happens.” – Montessori (2017)

“For the child to have a true experience, she must be allowed to make mistakes.”

Welcoming mistakes and accepting them might be a challenging task to follow, but the outcomes are inspiring. Whenever this idea is brought up, I think of unique material in our classroom. It is a material where mistakes result in a clamour – the kind that makes any adult’s head turn, ready for a rescue. However, if we take Montessori’s words to heart, we must be tolerant of our mistakes and observe the magic of the Pink Tower.

pink tower

What is it?

The Pink Tower consists of ten prisms each varying in height, width and depth. Each is painted in the exact same shade of pink. The tower has a 10cm3 prism at its base and is topped by a pristine 1cm3 prism. The Pink Tower is a favourite among the newcomers in the class – especially for those curious three-year olds. It is large, bold and attractive – everything needed to pique the interest of someone exploring the environment. 

The Pink Tower finds itself in the sensorial area of the environment. This is where the senses are noticed, identified and refined. Montessori believed: “The senses, being explorers of the world, open the way to knowledge”. It is only through an experience, grounded in sensory activity, that the intelligence can be operated.     

The Presentation

The child is introduced to the Pink Tower as it stands by the shelf. A perfect tower on a little stand. As we introduce the tower, we ask the child to unroll a mat for the workspace. After this, the journey begins. The child lifts the first block with a careful pincer grip and walks to the rug to place it down. The child returns, noticing the block is a little different; more strength is needed to lift this one. Once the block is placed down, the child returns. The prisms become heavier, and their fingers become more stretched as they move back and forth. It is only at the last block where the 3-year-old realises that this is a very heavy block, and their little hands can only meet the edges of the final block. But still, they persist and make the journey to the mat one last time. 

Once they reach the mat, all the blocks are mixed-up, and now it is time for their visual discrimination to take over. The guide builds the tower first, with precise movements. Then we ask the questions ‘What comes first?’ and then ‘What comes next?’ to hint at how they can build it. Sometimes it is a clear understanding of the gradation pattern; sometimes, it’s not. But this is not a problem because the tower will tell the child if they’re building it correctly. If it falls to the mat, the child usually pauses, looks at their work and starts again. They continue to discover the perfect pattern for how to build the magnificent tower. This is one of the magical aspects of the Pink Tower – almost no guidance is needed. The material will speak for itself. 

As mentioned above, one can imagine the child’s rich sensory experience. Not only do they observe and experience gradation, but they also experience weight discrimination as the blocks get heavier and heavier. When the tower is built successfully, we marvel at the creation by moving around the tower with care. We observe it from an aerial position and then from all sides. This enables them to visualise the symmetry of gradation and the incremental pattern they created and mastered, and maybe even take a moment to feel proud of what they built. 

pink tower

Pink Tower and Mathematics 

The Pink Tower is an indirect preparation for mathematics and founds the experience of the child’s mathematical mind. Building the tower is innately a sensory experience for the quantity 10. The child moves up and down ten times. The child feels the incremental progression of the sequence n3 as their hand stretches by 1 cm on each journey back to the mat. This all comes from the children, with no hints or explanation from the guide. The child feels their way through this mathematical experience, built on from this point onwards. 

With every sensory experience, we can see that the child has myriad experiences. It is experienced because of their agency and confidence to make mistakes within a safe and loving environment. How can we as caregivers and families offer this same kind of safe experiential environment at home? 

Article written by Ellen-Anne Williams

References and More Materials to Read 

Montessori, M. (2017). The Discovery of the Child. Amsterdam: Montessori-Pierson Publishing Company. (pages 127, 129) 

Amiguet, A (2014) Building the Pink Tower Upside Down, ANAMI Montessori School


  • Annette

    Wonderful description of how children learn through exploration! And the picture of the abstract tower was a gem, shows non-conformity , imagination and problem solving.

  • Kiki

    That is 1 perfectly imperfect pink tower. Thanks for the explanation about the processing and learning.

    Maryann says her friend looks handsome. We are at Fiumicino Airport in Rome and Maryann was peering at my phone as I read this article.

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