The Geometric Cabinet is a Sensorial material used with a long series of lessons that last throughout most of the Primary years (ages 3-6) in a Montessori classroom. The cabinet contains 6 drawers, each containing 4-6 cut-out wooden shapes with knobs on top. (I’ve posted photos of each drawer in a later post.)

- Drawer 1: 6 circles, varying in diameter from 10 cm to 5 cm
- Drawer 2: 6 rectangles, varying in size from 10×10 cm to 10×5 cm
- Drawer 3: 6 different types of triangles
- Drawer 4: 6 different regular polygons (pentagon to decagon)
- Drawer 5: 4 curvilinear figures (oval, ellipse, curvilinear, triangle, quatrefoil)
- Drawer 6: 4 rectilinear figures (rhombus, parallelogram, right trapezoid, and isosceles trapezoid)

The series of lessons starts with getting familiar with the 2D shapes by tracing them and finding the matching frame, then learning the names of the shapes, then matching the shapes with cards placed at a distance – first with a filled-in version of the shapes, then a thick outline, and finally a thin outline.

The purpose of the work is to develop visual and muscular discrimination of two-dimensional shapes, as well as visual training and preparation for learning geometrical figures. Indirectly, the tracing of the figures also prepares the child’s hand for writing.

Unfortunately, the Geometry Cabinet is also on the extreme side of expensive: $506.10 from Nienhuis, $118.95 from the much more reasonably priced Montessori Outlet. Yes, you get a beautiful cabinet that all six trays fit in for that price, and over three years it may be worth it to spend $120. But whether it’s worth the price or not doesn’t change the fact that it doesn’t fit in my budget. So…homemade it is.

I did buy the demonstration tray, so I now use that as the one tray for all the drawers. The drawers themselves are just where the figures and frames are kept when not in use. I’m actually way behind on this series of lessons, because for a long time I thought I was just going to skip it based on the cost. Therefore, I don’t have everything made and set out at this point, but I do have my plan.

With a regular Geometric Cabinet, children choose which tray they want to work with, slide it out of the cabinet, and take it to their rug to work. My system is that the empty tray will sit on top of the shelf, with the drawers nearby. Drama Queen or Mr. BANG will choose which drawer s/he wants to work with, open that drawer, and simply fit those pieces onto the tray.

To actually make the figures, I use foam sheets. Many of the shapes are the same ones (and same size) as the metal insets (which I purchased), so those were easy to simply trace and cut out. For the others, I just do the best I can.

The “official” colors of the Geometric Cabinet are yellow and blue, but I just go with what colors of foam I have enough of! For drawers 5 and 6 (the first drawers you introduce), I made white frames and blue figures. That used up all my white, though, so I’ll likely be using different colors for other drawers. That’s not perfect, because some of the lessons involve using multiple drawers at once, and having different colors would take a lot of the challenge out of that. So I guess I’ll either buy more foam or just allow the different colors. (Pardon me as I refine my plan as I type!)

I bought some wooden “doll heads” at a craft store, which work well for the knobs on top of the figures.

As for the cards, I purchased the ones for the introductory tray when I bought the tray. I plan to purchase the others from Montessori Print Shop for a mere $3.79. If you haven’t discovered MPS yet, go take a few minutes and browse around there – it’s amazing! They have TONS of fabulous materials that you simply print at home! (I print on cardstock, then laminate them.) It’s definitely one of my favorite Montessori websites.

What about you? Have you made a DIY Geometric Cabinet a different way? I would love to see it – especially if you have a better idea for the cabinet itself. Hmmm…as I’m typing this, I’m thinking a puzzle shelf might make a good shelf… Has anyone tried that?

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Great ideas … thanks so much for sharing your tutorial, Jenny! I featured your photo and post in my DIY Geometric Shapes post at http://livingmontessorinow.com/2011/12/05/montessori-monday-diy-geometric-shapes/.

Thank you, Deb! 🙂

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What did you use to cut foam precisely?

I actually just used normal scissors – nothing exciting! 🙂

Oh so this wasn’t the poster board foam then? I bought foam core board but it bends if I use scissors so I have to use xacto knife. Scissors would be easier!

Aleksandra, I just used the simple foam sheets: http://www.amazon.com/Foam-Sheets-2-Inch–2-Inch-50-Pack-Rainbow/dp/B00284NN82/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1447811580&sr=8-2&keywords=foam

I’m going to have a go at making the geometric cabinet – thank so much for the instructions! What kind of glue did you use to attach the knobs to the foam shapes?

Just a quick question…are they sturdy? When you pull them out or pop them in, does it take extra precision to make work, or could a 2 year old with very unrefined skill still use it. I want to make them (for budget reasons) but I don’t want to waste the money or time if they won’t be usable for my little guy. Thanks🙂