This is one in a series of posts describing the ten Montessori Principles for dementia care. Click here for the first post in the series
The Montessori principle of simple to complex says that when presenting an activity or a task to someone with Alzheimer's or dementia start simple and increase challenge gradually as the person becomes successful at the task. The idea is to progress from simple tasks to more complex, from concrete to more abstract. For example, you may use the task of differentiating between fruits and vegetables as a cognitive exercise. Having the person with dementia sort actual fruits and vegetables would be the simplest and most concrete form of the exercise, while having cards with the name of each printed on it would be much more complex and abstract. Using photographs would be somewhere in between. The trick is to find the level of complexity that allows the person to be successful while still providing cognitive challenge. As the person becomes more familiar with the activity you can add difficulty as long as the person remains successful.
The same concept also applies when reintroducing old favorites such as playing cards or dominoes to the person. Rather than jumping in and trying to play a game, a simpler and more concrete exercise would be to have the person handle the cards (or dominoes) and do simple sorts using templates. You could then introduce more complex sorting and matching activities. Once they are familiar and successful with these activities, you can reintroduce actual card (or domino) games, starting with simplified versions and moving on to more complex as the person is successful. Many of our activities, such as Match the Dots and Match the Suits use this principle.