If you've ever searched for Montessori materials, you've probably noticed they can be pretty pricey. Which if like me you are working within a limited budget, it is not ideal. Fear not, as there is definitely budget friendly options. I'm going to outline some ways to save money with Language, Math, Practical life and Sensorial materials.
Sandpaper letters are to teach letter symbols, their phonemic sound and allow the child the sensory experience of tracing the letters. Now I am not going to name the brand whose price I am referring too as it would be unfair, especially as they are a brand I like because they do provide authentic high quality materials. BUT. If you're looking to buy high quality sandpaper letters you are looking around £60-80 (YIKES!)
There are cheaper alternatives online that I really don' t believe take away from any teaching elements. They are usually a lot thinner, but they're still pretty solid. They still provide the sensorial sandpaper letters to provide the tactile element. They are just as useful and a lot cheaper. Here's a more affordable set from Amazon.
Personally this is the route I chose. They were so ridiculously easy and I made them in one evening with things I already had lying around right when Jax was ready to be introduced to them. No waiting around for delivery or waiting until payday they were ready the next day and didn't cost me anything! All I did was cut up pieces of red and blue card (Blue for vowels, Red for the rest) and write the letters on them with glitter glue and let them dry.
The movable alphabet is for children to start using the phonemic sounds they have learnt with the sandpaper letters to start to "write" words. They are an amazing tool and a must have material as there is so many ways a child can use and explore them. However if you're looking to buy a traditional high quality set of the movable alphabet in their specially designed wooden box you're looking around £50. Which is absolutely worth the price by the way! but expensive none the less.
There's a few cheaper alternatives, simply a lower quality set, you can get them without the box (please don't you'll regret the chaos!) Or you could get a magnetic set of letters like I did. Now whilst I do believe these are perfectly okay and have caused Jax no confusion what so ever, the fact the colours are opposite, which was a total accident on my part, BOTHERS me and I do intend to replace them.
A really simple and easy DIY option that requires no skill or huge effort from you, is a printable option. Now they do the same job and are a good option, but I do think children tend to prefer physically holding the individual letters, feeling their shapes and curves etc. But ultimately, you can find free printables online so this doesn't have to cost you anything.
Here's a free printable of the movable alphabet from Montessori album.
Another DIY option I've seen which does require a lot more time and precision is to make your own simply out of cardboard or felt.
The metal insets are a Montessori material that on the surface seems like a bit of artistic fun, but actually they are specifically designed to train the hand muscles and fine motor skills for future writing. They are a really good material which I want to invest in...But do I want to spend £100 to invest in them? I do not.
There are cheaper options out there, some are not built for purpose where the sizing is off, the shapes are wrong and they are flimsy. But there is also some that are still metal, with the right shapes and size at a much lower price. The metal is generally thinner and they are a bit more fragile but, the original material is meant for a classroom to be used day in day out by multiple kids, if like me you're just investing for the home and for much less children, they could certainly be adequate, you can purchase them here.
DIY options for this are pretty limited, as they do need to be precisely shaped and sleek lines. But it can be done with some time and patience using cardboard. If you do want to try making your own I recommend investing in this printable from TeacherspayTeachers for the correct shapes and outlines to use.
Number rods are a very useful material. They are to teach a solid foundation of quantity for children before even introducing the written number symbols. Whilst they are very useful to have, I do think there's plenty other ways you could do this without them. But if you do want actual traditional large number rods, the going rate is £150.
For me the most logical way to make this cheaper is to buy a smaller set. There is small versions out there that can easily fit onto your shelves at home and will still provide the same concept to your children. Which I think makes more sense as unlike a lot of Montessori materials, the number rods are fairly short lived as they soon progress to the number beads which are used for years!
I have seen quite a few DIY options for number rods, from lego to printables. But you could also make your own with some wood and paint with a simple piece of wood. Each number section is 10cm so it's fairly easy maths to do to make your own. However if you would prefer a printable, you can use this free printable from MontessoriMom
Number beads/bead stair
I mentioned number beads just a minute ago as they are a material that comes after the number rods, they are primarily for learning to count. Although they also get used much later on for multiplication and skip counting. Good quality 1-10 number beads are not all that expensive honestly, but they can get quite pricey, with the more you add on. So I would absolutely go for a cheaper or DIY option to start with if you don't have the funds to invest in ALL the number beads.
Now this is sort of a DIY but it will need a small investment on your part which is the beads and some string. I made these for Jax although we're not ready to use them yet purely because I wanted to see how they turned out and I was quite happy with them. All I did was but beads from 1-10 on string, and then colour accordingly with one of his child safe markers.
If you are looking for a completely free and no hassle DIY option, I got you too! Yet again, a free printable from TeacherspayTeachers. It still provides the purpose of the number beads, albiet at the expense of the sensory element, but is still a useful option if you're not ready to invest in the full number beads set.