The egg and cup is a fantastic first puzzle for infants, best presented at 8-9 months. It offers a perfect first challenge for children who are just beginning to work out the relationship between items and are keen to practise using their hands together, an exiting new movement!
The Montessori Egg and Cup is one of the most simple materials you could imagine; raw wood with all its imperfect textures and grains, an uncomplicated, ergonomic design without interest or embellishments all leading to a straightforward outcome. Surely a child would be bored by such a toy and would prefer flashing lights, music and pop up surprises? Au contraire!
From a sensory perspective the egg and cup merits closer inspection, it’s not perfect, in fact it’s very flawed! The colours and textures aren’t obvious the way they are in plastic or metal items and it feels much heavier than those materials. You can expect an infant to closely inspect each inch of the egg and cup, and more than likely lick each part of it for good measure!
Practically the Egg and Cup is a material which isolates one concept: hand-eye coordination. A child must fully explore both items and then must concentrate very hard on establishing the relationship between the two items before fitting them together. There’s no competition for attention or confusing relationship between lights, sounds, spinning parts etc.
While another more commercial toy may be more exciting for an adult who has experienced all that and egg and cup has to offer for a child it is fascinating. With every item I give Alfie I always try to study it as a baby would, hold it in a fist the way a baby would, rub it against your face the way a baby would; you’d be surprised about the fresh information you receive about at an object when you do this! By offering a toy like this you are allowing a child to develop their coordination, but more importantly, to build their concentration and hone their eye for detail. These are two skills without which, they will flounder.
I’ve included this picture of Alfie ‘misusing’ the materials. I noticed he was tossing and rolling the egg a lot, often it ended up beside the dog who was sitting in front of him. At first I thought it was coincidence until Claude (fed up of being thumped with the egg) moved behind Alfie. Within seconds Alfie turned round and was tossing the egg to him again! He loved watching it wobble away and then stretching after it. Alfie had given the item a new function, one that suited his focus on learning to move and one which I hadn’t considered and surely would have interrupted if I hadn’t been following the child!