“A child who has become master of his acts through long and repeated exercises, and who has been encouraged by the pleasant and interesting activities in which he has been engaged, is a child filled with health and joy and remarkable for his calmness and discipline.” – Dr. Maria Montessori
What Is a Montessori Toy?
Montessori toys are created with a specific developmental goal in mind, not just for the child’s entertainment.
They always look to support a child’s natural growth stage, whether it’s to encourage independence, to improve fine motor skills, to stimulate problem-solving, or to help them build good concentration skills.
Maria Montessori favored toys and books that were rooted in reality, not pretend. This means it’s better to get a realistic figurine of a cow vs a fun cartoon looking cow riding a bicycle, as it’s just not going to look that way in the real world.
Unlike many think when they get into Montessori toys, Grimms rainbow isn’t a Montessori toy, even though you can pretty much see it everywhere on Instagram or in Facebook groups. It doesn’t mean it’s a bad toy (it’s great actually!), but not a must-have for your household if you can’t afford it.
Why Are Montessori Toys Wooden?
Montessori toys principle is that they need to be made of natural materials (metal, cotton, wool, wood) – not cheap plastic. Many essential things for babies are made of plastic, so there’s no need to get more of it when it comes to toys.
They don’t have to be made of wood, but most are. They are natural, elegant, and very simple, no-buzzing, lights, or forced sounds.
You want to avoid cluttering your child’s mind and to allow her to fully concentrate on figuring out the toy and master a new skill.
Can your baby or toddler enjoy Montessori toys? ABSOLUTELY.
Age 0-3 is when your baby or toddler has an absorbent mind, that learns by itself. That is why Maria Montessori said that “especially at the beginning of life must we, therefore, make the environment as interesting and attractive as we can.”
What are the best Montessori toys for babies and toddlers that can offer them a great learning experience?
Best Montessori Toys for Babies
Subscription vs Single Toys
You may have heard about Lovevery or Montikids subscriptions. You pay a monthly fee and every 3 months you receive a box of age-appropriate new toys for your baby.
They’re extremely popular among parents in Facebook groups. For a busy parent they can come in handy, but keep in mind that they come with a hefty price tag.
Personally, I think especially smaller babies don’t need as many toys and you can find the same exact toys for less on Etsy or elsewhere.
You can introduce your baby to Montessori toys from the very first weeks. There are 4 Montessori mobiles you can start with.
• Munari Mobile (approx 3-6 weeks old baby). It is made of black and white shapes. At this stage, your baby color vision starts to develop. Watching objects with high contrasts helps her track the movement of an object, its depth and also encourages her to practice focus.
• Octahedron Mobile (approx 5-8 weeks old baby). This one is made up of 3 octahedrons: red, blue, and yellow. Your baby will first encounter and explore geometrical shapes, patterns, and get to know the primary colors.
• Gobbi Mobile (approx 7-10 weeks old baby). It is made of small, same-size spheres of a single color, say blue, with graduated shades and positions. The Gobbi Mobile helps your baby perceive the variation of color and the depth of the spheres.
• Dancers Mobile (approx 8 weeks old baby). The dancers are made of holographic paper, are very light, and move very easily. This will grab your baby’s attention and help him track the movement of objects, focus on it, and also follow their path.
These mobiles are not for grabbing, they are just for observing. You can set up an activity gym high enough to safely hang mobiles so your baby could watch them. Some versions of the Montessori mobiles are pretty big, so you might have to attach them to your ceiling.
Check the size carefully and see if you’re comfortable drilling your ceiling or a wall.
2. Montessori Rattle
There are so many variations of the Montessori rattle. It is usually made of wood, with a bell attached to it or placed inside. The rattle may also have a crochet cover, which is great for teething.
You can start with a simple cylinder rattle, your baby could easily grasp it and explore the cause-effect relationship between her hand’s movement and the rattle’s sound.
If you do decide to buy rattle that has external bells, which could be more eye-catching, like this one, always supervise to make sure your baby doesn’t put the bells in her mouth.
The baby places the ball inside the box and watches it disappear for 1-2 seconds until it reappears, rolling on the tray. This toy helps them understand that an object exists even if they can’t see it for some time. They learn about an object’s permanence.
If not well designed, the ball can get stuck in the box and frustrate your child. So, choose your source carefully.
Somewhere around 9 months, you can buy a 3-size circle puzzle or any variation of these.
If you want to give your child the most Montessori approach, chose puzzles that have one shape per puzzle – like these ones.
They should have large knobs, so your baby could easily grab them and position them in their right spot. Your toddler will learn about sizes and shapes, will exercise his fine motor skills, and will discover that each object has its right place.
If it’s too advanced, it may frustrate your baby, so start gradually. These types of puzzles evolve into more complex ones, that you can, later on, use for a toddler.
The Montessori spinning drum is great for the tummy time. It has small balls inside that keep rolling making a noise, but the colorful drum itself spins at a slow or fast pace – depending on the child.
It develops hand-eye coordination and helps your baby gain some strength.
6. Stackers (rings, cubes)
There are multiple variations for this one. It is basically a vertical dower, on which the baby can place and remove objects such as rings, and then more complex shapes like cubes or triangles.
It’s a wonderful activity for practicing hand-eye coordination, concentration, and the manipulation of small objects.
After your baby masters the vertical dowel, you can try a horizontal one, which helps her exercise wrist and body movement. These will later serve her when she’ll learn to write and clothe independently.
Best Montessori Toys for Toddlers
This is a toy that you’ll be able to use for a very long time. As a toddler, your child will love to find the right spot for each object, spotting patterns, such as shapes and colors.
Later, you can use this toy for language, counting, and so on. Your toddler will find numerous ways to use it, even building towers.
Having this toy around will greatly benefit your toddler’s fine motor skills and creativity.
If they’re too small, it will cause a lot of frustration. Setting them up for success will help your toddler gain confidence in his abilities.
Bead stringing develops your toddler’s fine motor skills, decision-making, teaches patience, and perseverance. Also doing this activity together could lead to great language practice. You can talk about the colors, the shapes, how many beads they have put on the string, how many are left.
It’s an activity that requires a lot of focus and patience, so encourage your toddler and make it fun. Make a necklace and wear it to show them how worthy their work is.
3. Busy Board
Or it could be an all in one activity board with puzzles, hooks, snaps, bolts, felt pockets, tubing, magnets, a whiteboard, anything you know your toddler is interested in.
It will keep your bub engaged for a long time, as it has so many things to explore and discover. And it has great benefits.
It develops their fine motor skills and logical thinking, it encourages them to focus on the activity, it supports their independence, spurs their creativity, and helps them exercise patience and perseverance.
You might want to keep it simple, having too many new activities at once might overwhelm your toddler and have him give up.
It’s a simple toy, but simplicity drives so much creativity in a toddler. These are just a couple of boxes of different sizes, but there are a lot of ways your child could use them.
Your toddler will learn how to nest them, which brings many advantages. It helps them improve their dexterity, understand spatial relations between objects, it encourages them to problem-solve and to develop visual discrimination.
They could also build a tower with the boxes, use them as little houses for their figurines, or as parking spaces for cars. You’ll be surprised how creative your toddler will get with these.
5. Musical Instruments
This is a perfect time to introduce musical instruments to your toddler. Playing drums, a xylophone, the maracas, or a rain stick – are great ways for your child to relax, learn about sounds, concentrate, relieve stress, and have fun.
On top of that, it is a sensory experience that will give pleasure to your toddler. Not to mention the connection you build with your bub.
While they play the instruments you can accompany them by singing along.
You can either let them explore the instruments independently or show them how to use it to make a sound, in case it’s a more complex one.