Educational toys, in general, sustain your child's curiosity, hunger for attention, and neural stimulation for longer periods.
Children are natural scientists—they're inquisitive, curious, and very adventurous. They want to know what this smells like, what that tastes like, what will happen if they do this or that.
Little infants assimilate information faster than toddlers, so you should be looking for toys that will give them a head start in life. However, not just any educational toy can help your child grow up to become the smart boy/girl you're hoping for.
As a new parent, you've probably come across the word 'Montessori' from your fellow parents, teachers at school, or on the internet. In this article, we'll explain what Montessori means and our top 10 Best Montessori Toys for Toddlers of 2021.
What is Montessori?
Montessori is a child-focused approach to education that highlights physical, independent work/activity for children. Developed by Italian physician Maria Montessori in 1897, the Montessori philosophy received a lot of attention and traction last decade.
Maria Montessori's philosophy encourages children to participate in meaningful, age-appropriate exercises that nurture their cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development.
Even if you're undecided if a Montessori preschool is a right choice for your family, you can still incorporate the Montessori philosophy at home by letting your baby play with Montessori toys.
What are Montessori Toys?
Montessori toys are educational toys that support the Montessori educational philosophy. We often call them Montessori-friendly or Montessori-inspired toys.
Play using Montessori toys referred to as a Montessori Activity. While activities may seem like work for your child, this doesn't mean Montessori toys are less fun for them. Montessori activities can keep your little one busy having fun for hours at a time.
Montessori-inspired activities range from fine motor skill activities like play with stacking toys and threading toys to rattles and artwork to practical life activities like button and pre-writing tracing boards.
How to Pick Montessori Toys
Here are certain qualities of a Montessori-friendly toy for your little one:
- Montessori Toys are made of natural materials. The Montessori philosophy focuses on surrounding a child with natural materials that they can learn about and explore. Montessori-inspired toys are made from natural materials like wood, metal, cotton, wool, or even stones.
- Montessori toys are plain and free of distractions. This means the toy must not use batteries or electricity. Montessori toys should encourage your little one to engage in open-ended, imaginative play.
- Montessori toys focus on a single concept. Toys that center on a single activity or concept create a foundation for more advanced learning when your kid grows up. For example, a wooden stacking toy or a rattle with a bell on it is all single-skill toys that teach more sophisticated concepts as your child grows and develops.
- Montessori toys focus on reality and purpose. Maria Montessori favored toys and books that reflect reality, not imagination. For example, a wooden toy in the form of a realistic dog is more Montessori-friendly than a figurine that's a dog's cartoon-like image. She also observed that kids love to imitate their environment, so any toy that helps your little one feel like a true part of the 'grown-up' world is encouraged.
We've classified these Montessori toys into children's age groups. Still, your child might be ready for these toys before or after the category it is placed in. Every child is different, and observation plays a big role in knowing which Montessori toys your child is ready for.
Best Montessori Toys For:
- Montessori toys for 6-month-olds and below
- Montessori toys for 1-2-year-olds
- Montessori toys for 3-year-olds
Montessori toys for 6-month-olds (Infant) Toys
Infants do not need as many toys as toddlers, so we've listed only one or two toys for this category.
Photo: Firebird Workshop's Baby Rattle Roller
The first Montessori toy on our list is the wooden rattle. Rattles are very entertaining to your baby, and they improve your little one's visual tracking (while you shake it and they watch).
Montessori Rattles also help improve motor skills and grasp reflex. Our baby rattles are the best choice on the market because they're handmade from safe linden wood. Linden wood is not as heavy as birch but heavier and safer than plastic, which benefits your baby.
Pros: Made of eco-friendly child-safe wood. Lightweight and well designed.
Price: From $8.78
Photo: Firebird Workshop's Baby Rattle Roller
The second Montessori toy is our baby rattle roller. These cylindrical rollers combine the benefits of a rattle and a rolling toy. They can be a great sensory item for babies as they grasp and shake them in their little hands. This cylinder will also help develop their hand-eye coordination and visual tracking while spurring them to move to reach for the toy during tummy time.
Tummy Time is the period during the day your baby spends awake and on their stomach. It is a crucial exercise for their motor, visual, and sensory development.
We recommend this toy for babies aged 4 months and above.
Pros: Made of eco-friendly child-safe wood. lightweight
Montessori toys for 1-2-year-olds
After six months since birth, you'll notice your little one becoming more alert and curious about their environment. Here are some of our favorite Montessori toys for this age (6 months to 2 years).
It's never too early to introduce Montessori musical toys, and babies love noisemakers like maracas and tambourines and roly-polys. Besides building fine and gross motor skills by picking up and shaking the roly-poly toy, some research even proves that musical toys create more brain pathways and advance development.
12+ Month Montessori Toys
The 1-year-old+ stage is usually when babies become a lot more active (often walking in this 12-18 month age range). I've included a few toys that work on both fine and gross motor development and coordination.
Stacking toys are great Montessori toys and a best-seller. Our vertical stacking toys come in different shapes and sizes, allowing you to switch between different stackers in your child's toy rotation. The stacking doll pictured above is 28 cm tall (11 inches) and 13 cm (5 inches) wide.
Stacking toys improve hand-eye coordination, logical thinking, and also gross motor skills.
Pros: Made of eco-friendly child-safe wood. lightweight
Montessori toys for 3 year old and above
You've got a busy toddler on your hands at this age, and toys are going to be needed to keep their busy bodies and minds engaged :). I've included some more gross motor development toys, as this is a great age for exploring movement further.
Our wooden mortar is made of linden wood and small enough for a toddler to use. Following Montessori philosophy, this wooden mortar toy has one intended purpose— crushing cereals, seeds, crayons, and anything that your kid wants to grind.
It improves gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination and lets kids understand the concept of breaking down things by applying force.
Pros: Made of eco-friendly & child-safe wood. lightweight
We've designed our wooden pre-writing board to teach your kids how to form lines before they start to form letters. Your little one can either trace the lines with their finger or use the wooden tracing knob.
You can perform several Montessori activities like making crayon rubbings of the lines, filling the lines with seeds, beads, or colored counters with your toddler.
The first board focuses on the triangles. The other boards have curved and wavy lines in different patterns. These pre-writing lines are a great technique to develop consistency in handwriting and small muscle control.
Let's discuss Deb Chitwood's article where she uses Montessori principles to teach her daughter, Zoey, how to play with a nesting doll.
She bought a nesting doll set before Zoey turned two years old and placed it on her shelf. Like a true Montessori expert, she wanted to observe Zoey's response to the Matryoshka. Zoey promptly fell in love with the nesting doll, although she also found it frustrating.
Deb applied Montessori principles to help Zoey think about how to put the matryoshka together. She broke down the process into simple steps
She had her daughter sort the Nesting doll pieces into tops and bottoms.
Secondly, Deb used a technique similar to the pink tower presentation used in some Montessori training programs.
She asked Zoey, 'Can you find the smallest doll?' and Zoey found it. Then Deb asked again, 'Can you find the smallest top left?' Can you find the smallest bottom left?' After Zoey put the second smallest doll together, Deb asked the same questions until Zoey had completed the nesting doll.
Nesting dolls are very popular with preschoolers who can continue to benefit from the fine-motor coordination, concentration, and sense of order developed through Montessori play with nesting dolls. Of course, Russian nesting dolls also wonderful as part of a cultural study of Russia.
Pros: Made of eco-friendly & child-safe wood. Water-based tempera for vivid colors and eco-friendly varnish.
Price: from $15.00
Your toddlers will play for hours while helping the mouse eat through the cheese and go through the holes in the wooden block of cheese. They will enjoy threading and unthreading the maze puzzle. This toy's small size fits a toddler's hands and its string 22 inches long so that they can lope or insert the thread in the holes over and over again. It's a classic Montessori-friendly toy for any kid in any environment (plane, train, car, parks).
Playing with our Cheese Threading Lacing Montessori Toy improves your little one's fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, cognitive thinking, visual perception, problem-solving, patience, and concentration. Plus, it is eco-friendly, child-safe, lightweight, and pretty affordable. The string is firmly fastened to the mouse and cheese so that it won't come off easily.
Our Loop and Ball Toss Catching toy is made of high-quality beech wood. When tossing the ball and attempting to catch it in the loop, your kid develops movement techniques, hand-eye coordination, balance, and concentration.
Why Montessori toys?
- Montessori Means Learning Through Working: Each Montessori toy is honed through trial and error to meet your kids' growing needs, fueling their curiosity and building the conditions that encourage engaging play and deep learning. Montessori play provides an abundance of benefits for toddlers, including improvements in language, executive function, and brain growth itself.
- Embodied Learning: Montessori is also called 'embodied education' because it requires learning through action, involving as many senses as possible. When you allow your little ones to move around, they learn faster and more effectively. Motor and cognitive development are connected, and movement allows both to thrive.
- Creativity: Creativity can be cultivated in the earliest years by an infant's. With Montessori toys, you can create an environment that includes appropriate materials that inspire learning through playful exploration.
- Independence: When you give your baby the right tools, they will impress you with their capabilities—from feeding themselves to mastering a challenging toy. Montessori encourages independence and autonomy through each toy's intelligent design, the play space's layout, and how you interact with your child.
- Concentration and Flow: Infants can concentrate for extended periods when given Montessori toys and uninterrupted time to explore these toys. Concentration is essential for all future learning.
- Perseverance: Kids learn best when the challenge before them isn't too simple. Otherwise, they'll become bored or too difficult that it frustrates them.
Where to buy Montessori toys?
When buying Montessori-friendly toys for your baby, remember that less is more. Rather than flooding your little one's play space with lots of toys, choose only a few that are appropriate for your little one's developmental stage. Having fewer toys will let your child focus more on the task at hand.
Shop our Montessori and other wooden toys here.
Why are Montessori toys wooden?
Montessori toys don't have to be wooden. Maria Montessori recommended that toys be made from attractive natural materials, which is why wood is often the material of choice for toys in a Montessori playroom.
The important feature of Montessori toys isn't what they are made from, but their purpose. However, all wooden toys are great because they are aesthetically-pleasing, long-lasting, feel great to touch, and retain their value well.
If you're going for wooden Montessori toys, then you need to understand how to care for wooden toys.