Some treasures are beautiful because of their simplicity. This is something that Maria Montessori understood deeply. Her specially designed materials are elegant yet unadorned. They focus on natural beauty and allow the core concept to shine through without the distraction of elaborate decoration.
The 7 Friends in 7 Bowls is the perfect example of this less is more philosophy. It is an absolutely gorgeous and incredibly inviting material, but it doesn't overdo it. There are no cartoon faces on the little figures, no patterns on the wooden base. It possesses exactly the right amount of detail and beauty to inspire interest, present a concept and delight little explorers!
The included natural wooden base acts as a foundation for the 7 Friends, helping to maintain a sense of order and providing a neutral backdrop to help the beautiful colours stand out!
The 7 Friends in 7 Bowls activity is, of course, primarily focused on colour! Each friend and bowl represents one of the colours in the 'ROY G BIV' rainbow spectrum; red, orange, yellow, green, blue (the lighter blue in the picture), indigo (the dark blue/purple) and violet (the purple).
The young child engages with the 7 Friends to match each figure to the corresponding coloured bowl. This also incorporates an element of hand-eye coordination and control. The bowls are only a few centimetres in diameter, so it requires some dexterity and focus to ensure they fit into place. For younger toddlers this is particularly engaging and developmentally meaningful.
Children also seem to enjoy creating various patterns from the coloured figures, placing them in various orders to compare the visual appeal of the different arrangements.
The 7 Friends also act as a great opportunity for lessons in the language of colour. They would provide an excellent material for a 3 Period Lesson in the names of each colour, as the figures are completely unadorned by other details (for instance, there are no faces painted on the figures to distract or detract from the colour itself).
The 7 Friends activity also incorporates another fundamental 'Montessori material' characteristic; the self-correcting mechanism. There is only one container (or 'bowl') for each figure (or 'friend') and a single figure fills the whole bowl. This ensures that if a child makes an error early on then they will have a chance to self-correct that later when they encounter the same reversal again.
For instance, the child might have initially placed the violet purple figure into the indigo blue bowl. This means that later the child will have an indigo figure but no space in the indigo bowl. This provides a provokation for the chid to self-correct, noticing that the indigo figure doesn't match the violet bowl. The child can then engage in independent problem-solving by taking the violet figure out of the indigo bowl, placing it in the correct position, thereby creating a space in the indigo bowl for the indigo figure!
Also, I have to say, I just find the 7 Friends absolutely adorable! It is such a gorgeous material that I want to have one on my coffee table at home as well as in my classroom! It is a treasure that I discovered when I first started operating Montessori Child, but I had to wait several months for it to come back into stock with the supplier. I was so excited when it finally arrived on my doorstep, and I was delighted to discover that it was even cuter in my hands than it had looked in the catalogue!
The first day I took it into my Pre-school classroom I was swamped by children eager to explore. In fact, it didn't even make it all the way into the classroom before it inspired interest - one of the children arrived early and came to shake my hand while I was still in the office. As we greeted each other her eyes wandered past me...she had caught sight of the 7 Friends peeking out of my bag! She was immediately eager to engage! At that moment I knew I had found another indispensable resource for my Montessori environment.
The 7 Friends in 7 Bowls all sit together on a circular wooden tray. That tray itself measures around 18cm in diameter. Each 'bowl' is around 4cm x 4cm (height x diameter). The 'friends' measure around 6cm tall with a base diameter of around 3cm. So each 'friend' sticks out a few centimetres from the top of the bowl (as shown in the product images) making it easy to grasp. The spherical 'head' of the friend figures is 2.5cm in diameter so it does invite a 'finger' grasp rather than a whole palm grasp but it doesn't require too much precision.