Knobless cylinders (buy here) are a traditional Montessori material, which can be introduced as early as 2 ½ years of age, starting with just simple gradation: from the thinnest to the thickest, or from the shortest to the tallest. As the child grows, you can start introducing patterns: simple single color patterns at first, progressively increasing the level of difficulty.
Adrian at three years old enjoys combined-cylinders patterns (when you combine one or more cylinders sets) and today, in a spirit of the holiday, Adrian chose to do the pattern from Knobless Cylinder Set 4 Comparison Cards/the last level of difficulty. (You may download Set 4 cards for your personal use only.)
To complete any pattern, first, the child has to sort each set individually. Here, Adrian sorted red and green sets separately.
To self-check, Adrian would run his finger to see whether all cylinders are arranged in a progressively graduating order.
He then placed the thinnest green cylinder on top of the thickest red cylinder, to resemble the pattern on the card.
Adrian had to count how many green cylinders should be on top of red cylinders, to know exactly when to switch to the part that has red cylinders on top. (It was interesting to observe that after determining that only five green cylinders should be on top of red cylinders, instead of continuing, he started from the other end.)
This activity is great for developing concentration, critical thinking abilities, fine-motor-skills, and it is fun as well. I love seeing the great satisfaction on Adrian's face once he completes the pattern!
See here 🎄Christmas Tree from Montessori Number Rods & Knobless Cylinders.
For detailed presentations, see here an initial introductory lesson on "Knobless Cylinders."
Although you would always start with one set at a time, as the child gets more proficient, offer more than one set of cylinders together to discover different properties such as similarities and differences in dimensions between the cylinders. This is where you would use sequence, pattern and comparison cards.