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The Montessori Brown Stair (Broad Stair): Activity and Extensions

Learn about the Montessori Brown Stair (Montessori Broad Stair) and how to present it.

This article gives information on the material, as well as step-by-step instructions for the presentation and a link to a Broad Stair video presentation.

What is the Montessori Brown Stair?

The Brown Stair, also called the Montessori Broad Stair, is a Montessori sensorial activity that is presented in the primary years.

It is a set of ten brown blocks, square prisms, that range in size from (20cm x 1cm) to (20cm x 10cm), increasing by width and height.

The Brown Stair is a grading activity that helps visual acuity and the concept of sequence in preparation for future activities, such as reading, writing, and math.

Much like the Pink Tower, it helps kids distinguish the difference in the size of objects.

The Brown Stair uses linear objects, which gives it a slightly different overall purpose than the Pink Tower, however.

The Brown Stair activity also aims to help develop a child's fine motor and gross motor skills as well as develop muscle memory.

Like most other Montessori activities, there is a built-in control of error.

The control of error with this activity is visual.

the montessori brown stair pin

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Presenting the Montessori Brown Stair

Aim of activity

  • discrimination between linear dimensions

Indirect aims

  • introduces concepts of width and height (pre-math)
  • develops strength and muscle memory


  • thick, thicker, thickest
  • broad, broader, broadest
  • narrow, narrower, narrowest

Points of interest during the presentation

  • the weight of the largest block
  • the order of progression in the prisms
  • the length of the prisms are all the same, but the width and weight vary

When presenting the Montessori Brown Stair, it's important to recognize that part of the activity is having the child carry the prisms to the work area.

Carrying the prisms to the area where the activity will be taking place lets the child get a better sense of the weight of each prism in relation to its size.

It's also great heavy work, which can improve your child's ability to focus on the activity.

How to present the Montessori Broad Stair

  • Show your child how to get the prisms from the shelf, one by one, from thinnest to thickest, with one hand at each end.
  • Have your child place them in the workspace in random order.
  • Tell your child you are going to build the Brown Stair.
  • Starting with the thickest prism, slowly compare each prism to the rest, square ends facing your child, and build the stair.
  • When the stair is built, slowly admire it from different angles and gently run your hand along the top of the stair from top to bottom.
  • Take the Brown Stair apart and invite your child to construct the stair.
  • Show them how to return the prisms to the shelf in the opposite order in which they retrieved them.
“The hand is the instrument of intelligence. The child needs to manipulate objects and to gain experience by touching and handling.” – Maria Montessori

Brown Stair extensions

  • Show your child that the thinnest Brown Stair is the unit of measurement for the rest of the blocks by holding it to the corner of the other blocks.
  • Place a few of the blocks behind your child's back and ask them to hand them to you in order of dimension (thickest to thinnest, heaviest to lightest).
  • Build the Brown Stair vertically, instead of horizontally
  • Remove one of the prisms from the stair after it has been built (have your child close their eyes) and ask your child to find its proper place in the stair.
montessori brown stair and pink tower

Using the Pink Tower and Brown Stair together

  • Invite your child to build the Brown Stair and the Pink Tower alongside each other. This can be done both vertically and horizontally.
  • Cast a “shadow” using both materials, the Pink Tower being horizontal and the Brown Stair laying with each prism longways and vertically.

This is a wonderful traditional Montessori material.

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