"The hands are the instruments of man's intelligence" M. Montessori
The importance of the hand is at the heart of Montessori education. The use of hands helps the child construct itself thought Maria Montessori. "The hand is the tool of the mind". Years later, science tends to prove that indeed manipulation is paramount in learning, and that retention will be greatly enhanced if the child learned through manipulation rather then mere rote learning.
If the hands bear such importance, then the tools we use should allow the hand to work at optimum level: to help the learning process, but also to foster the love of learning.
What is more frustrating, even for us adults, to use a tool that is either defective or of poor quality? This experience can be even more frustrating for the little child who does not have the amount of coordination we do for common tasks.
I often see in children's store or catalogues tools aimed for children that are either poorly constructed or made with lesser quality products. And unfortunately, they seem to be the norm.
They are also usually made to entice the children's eyes, with bright colors of other features like mass media products which, in the end, makes them overwhelming. For the parents, these items are cheap, and thus interesting budget wise.
But if the hand truly has the importance we attribute it, I think it is wise to use high quality, functional, attractive and beautiful material to keep it working.
Children are able to use tools way before we expect them to and better then we them credit for. What they need is guidance and an adequate and safe environment where they can experiment with such tools.
E was given true and good quality tools at a very young age. And I can see the results of this already. His desire and will to work with his hands and use tools is very strong.
I try to fill his need of using his hands for very meticulous tasks by having a rotation of practical life activities requiring fine motor skills, hand eye coordination, and also deep concentration... in a variety of situations, whether they are real of artificial.
Good quality tools can be found now easily thanks to a some Montessorians who wished to offers good tools that would be correctly sized for children.
I usually find what I need and get inspired by:
For Small Hands and Montessori Services : both have beautiful and inspiring material for the small and not so small child
Michael Olaf is another site that is just as wonderful.
But do not underestimate locally found products. There are many treasures that can be found in regular stores. Sometimes, it is just a matter of thinking outside the box.