Montessori Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers — Red Rods

The Red Rods (also known as Long Rods) are one of the classic Montessori sensorial materials, and I knew I had to have a set at home.  So I asked my husband to make one for us!  Just like with our Pink Tower, the wood was so beautiful that I wanted it to remain natural — so I had him paint the base red so we could still call it the Red Rods.

The Red Rods are a material used for teaching size discrimination (length), which is a beginning math skill.    This work also requires full body movement, which Maria Montessori explained is very important for making connections in the brain.


This work requires a large space to complete, so we use two work rugs to define our workspace.  You begin by having the child carry each rod one at a time and place them at random on the work rug.  It is important that the child carries the rod with one hand on each end so she can feel the difference in length as she holds each one.


When all of the rods are on the rug, find the longest.  Line it up with the top of the workrug, and trace it with your hand.  You then look at the remaining rods and again find the longest.  Line it up below the first rod.


Continue this process with each rod.


When you get to the last rod, say, “This rod is the shortest.”


This work is self-correcting — if you put the rods in the wrong order, you will be able to SEE and FEEL the mistake.  You can also use the shortest rod to check your work.  It should fit in the space at the end of each rod to make it match up in length with the rod above it.

When the child is finished, she carries each rod one at a time back to the stand and then rolls up the rugs.

12 thoughts on “Montessori Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers — Red Rods

  1. This is really cool.
    Could you replicate on a smaller scale, or is feeling the weight of each rod imperative to the exercise?

    1. The weight and length are pretty important, but if you don’t have the space for it you could definitely do it on a smaller scale, as long as the shortest rod is one-tenth the length of the longest rod. I plan on doing the number rods (same size as the red rods, but red and blue strips instead to show quantity) in a smaller scale because I don’t have the space to have both out at full size.

    1. The first time, you present the activity to the child. You tell the child to just watch, then you complete the activity. You say, “Hmmm, I’m looking for the longest rod,” then take the longest rod and place it at the top of the work rug. Repeat until you get to the last one. “This is the shortest rod.” After the initial presentation, the child may want to do it herself. You can simply ask her “which one is the longest?” and show her where to put it, repeating until it is finished. The child may need a few separate presentations of the work before she can do it completely by herself.

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