It is no wonder that this activity is such a favourite of Montessori teachers around the world - it is strikingly elegant in its simplicity and combines creativity with coordination!
The set consists of a cork board (19cm x 26cm), more than 50 wooden shapes, wooden hammer and 'nails'. The set also includes sheets of design suggestions to inspire a child.
The set is also conveniently self-contained in a specially made wooden box. This helps to keep all the pieces together. The clear perspex sliding lid ensures that the child can always see what is inside and this helps to maintain the visual appeal and point of interest. The wooden box measures approximately 30cm x 22cm. The activity can be used in the tray of the box or the cork board can be taken out (which leaves you with a wooden tray/box as an added bonus!).
This is one of the activities that sits almost permanently on the shelves in my classroom. I love to observe the intense concentration that this experience inspires. Children will sit and attend to their 'tap-tapping' for long periods of time. The brass nails are so petite that they require lots of close attention and fine motor control, so this is a great activity for refining hand-eye coordination. Children also seem to adore creating different artistic scenes and designs with the wooden shapes.
This set easily allows for a progression of difficulty. Initially the activity can be presented with just a few shapes and nails so that a child can acquire the physical skills required (please note: if you present this activity and observe a child struggling to manipulate the nails you can temporarily scaffold the task by substituting push-pins with a larger 'handle' area). When a child has mastered the hammering the activity can be extended by introducing more shapes to allow for the physical aspect to be combined with a more complex artistic expression.
The wooden shapes do have pre-drilled holes for the nails. These are deliberately quite small, with the right amount of space for the nail to fit snugly. This means that there is not much 'room for error' when lining up the nail with the hole and this ensures that the activity promotes attention to detail and fine motor dexterity.
Some teachers choose to introduce real nails to the activity and the wooden shapes are made from a soft enough wood that real nails can penetrate the wood without the predrilled holes.
Please note: The 'nails' included are fairly small. This is fantastic for promoting fine motor skills and attention to detail but it also means that active supervision is required. The activity is recommended for 4-6 year olds but if the set will be present in a room where infants or toddlers are present please be aware that the nails are small enough to potentially be swallowed.