Introducing the Metal Insets

The Metal Insets are part of the Montessori Language Curriculum. They are a learning tool used to prepare children for writing.

This eye-catching material is comprised of ten flat metal squares that have two components. This includes a pink frame, and a blue metal shape, cut out with a knob in the centre. These metal shapes include a square, triangle, circle, rectangle, oval, trapezoid, pentagon, curvilinear triangle, quatrefoil, and ellipse.

The Metal Insets are usually kept in a cabinet with a slopping back, allowing children to easily see and access the material. This is accompanied by coloured pencils, categorised by colour, on the top shelf of the cabinet. Paper, pencil holders, and work trays are found on the bottom shelf.


Children begin working with the Metal Insets between the ages of three and six.

The direct aim of the material is to help children develop the fine motor skills required for holding a pencil in preparation for writing.

Working with the Metal Insets teaches children to develop their pencil grip, refine their fine motor skills, and learn how to draw within an outline, which is the material’s control of error.

The Metal Insets indirectly allow children to practice concentration and order as they work with, and master, the material.

In addition, the Metal Insets encourage children to challenge their imagination as they create artistic designs. Interacting with these shapes and colours also lay the foundation for future work in Geometry.

Presentation One: Double Outline

  • Invite the child to come work with you, and guide them to the Metal Insets cabinet.
  • Assemble your materials, including: a work tray, paper placed to the tray’s left, the metal inset of the child’s choice on the right (usually a square to begin), and two coloured pencils to be placed in the pencil holder.
  • Bring the materials to the table and set up your work station in the following order: 1) First move the pencil holder and paper; 2) Next take out the blue Metal Inset shape only; and 3) Finally place your pink Metal Inset frame over your paper.
  • Select a coloured pencil, and begin tracing the shape on the inside of the frame. Show the child that we begin tracing at the bottom of the frame, while holding the frame with our left hand.
  • Trace around the frame, making sure the pencil touches each corner and changes direction each time.
  • Replace the pencil in the pencil holder, remove the Metal Inset frame, and observe the shape that was drawn.
  • Next, cover the outline with the Metal Inset shape, and using the second coloured pencil, trace around the object. Remember to keep the point of the pencil against the shape whilst drawing.
  • Remove the Metal Inset shape, and observe the double outline. Trace the shape with a finger to emphasise how both outlines match.
  • Offer the child a turn, guiding them through the activity.
  • Once complete, pack away the materials in the Metal Inset cabinet, keeping the completed work aside to give to the child.

Once the child has used all ten metal insets in this presentation, there are six different extension lessons that introduce dark and light colours (from different pencil pressures), patterns, and other design elements.

1 thoughts on “Material Spotlight: Metal Insets

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