The Best Montessori Toys For Babies and Toddlers
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Montessori toys encourage development and independence from a young age. They seem to have a magic touch, keeping your little one engaged in a way no other toy can. So what is so special about Montessori materials and which are best?
Maria Montessori developed her famous educational philosophy in Rome, Italy in the early 1900’s. Based on her observations of young children, Dr. Montessori developed a set of materials ideal for their unique developmental needs. Since then, Montessori schools have been founded all over the world, and the Montessori method can also be used at home, from birth.
What Makes Montessori Toys Unique?
Often you will see wooden blocks or other toys made from natural materials, but wooden toys are not automatically in line with the Montessori method. Montessori toys feature some very specific characteristics. These elements are what make them in-line with the Montessori philosophy.
Montessori toys are:
- Simple: Montessori toys are visually simple, not flashy. They focus on one skill at a time. Task-Oriented: Montessori toys invite the child to complete a specific “job”, such as fitting a set of differently sized pegs into their correct holes.
- Developmental: Children are enraptured when playing with Montessori toys because they address exactly which skills the child is naturally developing, whether that is learning to walk, hand-eye coordination, or fine motor skills.
- Accessible: Kids can work with Montessori materials without adult assistance. They can fix their own mistakes.
Our Top Picks
The Best Montessori Toys for Babies:
The Best Montessori Toy for Newborns: Montessori Set of 4 Mobiles
A Perfect Choice for Babies Who Like To Reach for Objects: The Play Gym by Lovevery
The Best Toy for Babies Struggling With Separation Anxiety: Elite Montessori Object Permanence Box
A Good Choice for Babies Who Are Just About To Crawl: CutiePieToys Montessori Rolling Drum
A Good Choice for Babies Who Want to Touch All of Mom and Dad’s “Toys”: Melissa & Doug Shape Sorting Cube
The Best All Around Montessori Toy for Babies: The First Years Stack Up Cup Toys
A Good Toy for Parents Who Want to Introduce Their Little One to Music Early On: Goplus Classical Kids Piano
The Best Montessori Toys for Toddlers
An Ideal Choice for Pre-Walkers Who Almost Have It: Hape Block and Roll Cart
The Right Toy for Toddlers Who Only Want to Do What Mom and Dad Do: Melissa & Doug Dust! Sweep! Mop!
The Best Toy for Toddlers Who Want to Be By Mom’s Side At All Times: Little Partners The Original Learning Tower
The Best Montessori Outdoor Toy: Strider Classic Balance Bike
The Right Choice for Toddlers Who are Interested in Buttons, Snaps, and Velcro: YHZAN Learn to Dress Boards
An Ideal Choice for the Toddler Who Won’t Stop Reaching for Your Keys: Color Matching Lock Set
The Best Outdoor Practical Life Skills Toy: Gardening Tool Set
The Best Montessori Puzzles for Toddlers: Montessori Animal Puzzle Cabinet
Continue reading for a complete breakdown by age.
The Best Montessori Toys for Babies: Newborns to 6 Months
Only a small number of simple toys are needed in the early months of life. Newborns are sharpening their visual skills, so mobiles are a perfect choice for the first toy. As they grow, infants also enjoy toys that allow them to grasp and shake. Rattles help reinforce little one’s understanding of cause and effect.
The Best Montessori Toy for Newborns
These mobiles are your baby’s first toys. At birth, babies are visually attracted to high contrast. The black and white mobile fascinates our newest family members and you can introduce the others shortly thereafter. At this age, the baby’s only “task” is visual observation. On the outside not much appears to be happening, but on the inside, her brain is already developing. Soon, she’ll try to reach out for a mobile, and that’s when you know she’s ready for a batting toy.
A Perfect Choice for Babies Who Like To Reach for Objects
This activity gym is perfectly designed for your baby’s developmental stages. Start with hanging objects for the infant to bat and later move to rings to grasp. The Lovevery Play Gym is designed with Montessori in mind, so it is simple and not crowded with unnecessary stimulation. You can adjust it so that only the objects your baby is “working” on are available.
The Best Toy for Babies Struggling With Separation Anxiety
The object permanence box is one of the first Montessori materials that has a very clear task. Before this, babies are mentally processing information so the actual work that they are doing is less apparent. Around seven or so months, babies begin to realize for the first time that an object still exists even when they cannot see it. This concept is called object permanence, as the Object Permanence Box is designed to reinforce it. The task is to drop a ball into a hole at the top of a box. The ball is “gone” but the baby can then retrieve it again from the box’s side. Dropping the ball into the hole also works on fine motor skills and visual discrimination. The child can self correct and does not need adult assistance to play with this toy. It has one, clear task, that focuses on one developmental skill.
The Best Montessori Toys for Babies: 6-12 Months
During the second half of the first year, most babies learn first to sit up, and then to crawl. They may be teething. They develop a pincer grasp and begin to eat solid food. The best toys for this age challenge little ones to manipulate objects with their hands in increasingly complex ways.
A Good Choice for Babies Who Are Just About To Crawl
When babies play with this toy, they quickly discover that they can push it and roll it a short distance away from them. They are then encouraged to crawl towards it and push it again. The rolling drum is ideal for pre-crawlers who can already sit up. This toy has a specific task of rolling and retrieving, but you may also see babies shaking it or using it as a teether. That is fine because their natural curiosity will guide them towards its purpose when they are developmentally ready. Because it rolls a short distance, adults do not need to intervene to bring the toy back to the baby--in fact, resist the urge to do this and let your little one experience a little bit of frustration as they figure out how to retrieve the toy.
A Good Choice for Babies Who Want to Touch All of Mom and Dad’s “Toys”
This toy works on visual discrimination, as babies work to push the shapes into their correct holes. The task at hand is very clear and engaging. Adult assistance is not required--the child can tell if each shape is correctly positioned because that is the only way it will fit through. Little ones love this toy and the feeling satisfaction it provides.
The Best All Around Montessori Toy for Babies
This stacker toy focuses on the variable of size--each cup is slightly larger than the next, and they can be nested or stacked up into a tower. This toy can be used for open ended play but there are Montessori works tasks, like making a tower, that kids will naturally discover. Control of error is embedded into these tasks; for example, if the cups are stacked incorrectly, they will be left with an odd cup at the end. Toddlers can self-correct an error like this without needing to ask what to do.
A Good Toy for Parents Who Want to Introduce Their Little One to Music Early On
Montessori musical toys are accurate albeit tiny representations of the real thing. A toy piano is perfect to introduce when toddlers can sit up or are beginning to pull up and stand. The most basic task of any musical instrument is to make a sound, and during the first year of life babies are exploring the idea of cause and effect, so they love banging on the keys.
The Best Montessori Toys for Babies and Toddlers: 1 to 1.5 Years
Sometime after their first birthday, most babies take their first steps. This major milestone is preceded by lots of practice and mental exertion. It may seem like your little one forgets about everything in the world except his quest to walk. When he finally does it, a whole new world opens up. Early toddlerhood is all about wanting to imitate what adults do so real-life toys are perfect for this age.
An Ideal Choice for Pre-Walkers Who Almost Have It
This toy has a very clear purpose: the task is to push it along! And doing so incorporates the very important milestone of learning to walk. Using a push cart is a developmentally appropriate way to learn to walk and practice walking with some support. Unlike walkers that strap the child in, the push cart lets your little one use the same muscles and balance required for fully independent walking.
The Right Toy for Toddlers Who Only Want to Do What Mom and Dad Do
Once toddlers become confident walkers, they attempt to imitate everything their parents or the adults in their life do. One year olds are obsessed with household tasks like sweeping the floor, washing the dishes, or preparing a snack. For this reason, the Melissa & Dog Dust! Sweep! Mop! kit is an all-time favorite. To keep things in line with Montessori, let your little one try their hand cleaning up real crumbs.
The Best Toy for Toddlers Who Want to Be By Mom’s Side At All Times
A learning tower is a must-have for one year olds, who want to do everything mom is doing. A step ladder with added barriers to prevent falling, a learning tower lets your toddler reach up to the kitchen counters where he can help you prepare snacks or do other household tasks. In Montessori, toddlers are taught practical life skills as part of their basic education. For example, you might teach your little one to slice a banana with a butter knife.
The Best Montessori Outdoor Toy
A balance bike is an alternative to the classic tricycle, and it allows toddlers to bike independently at a much earlier age. The balance bike is a small, two-wheeled bike without pedals. The child pushes along on it, while developing their sense of balance. Kids who start with a balance bike generally do not need training wheels later on. Toddlers can ride independently on these bikes by simply placing their feet down when they begin to wobble.
The Best Montessori Toys for Toddlers 18 months-2.5 Years
While babies take in their world through their senses, toddlers begin to classify and mentally organize their world. They love patterns and repetition and are fascinated by small objects. Fine motor skills begin to develop. Toddlers gain a lot of independence over a short period of time, and they want you to know that! The Montessori approach allows children to do as much as they can or want to do on their own, so pause when you see them struggling with a button and wait for them to ask you for assistance. You just might be surprised at what they can do.
The Right Choice for Toddlers Who are Interested in Buttons, Snaps, and Velcro
A classic in the Montessori classroom, dressing frames help children learn to manipulate buttons, snaps, zippers, and other clothing fasteners. Each board has one individual skill, so that you can give your child the boards that she is developmentally ready to practice with. It is very clear to the child what she needs to do and whether she has done it correctly. Dressing frames support independence, a key component in Montessori.
An Ideal Choice for the Toddler Who Won’t Stop Reaching for Your Keys
This set of locks and keys has a clear task: to unlock or lock the locks! The child matches the key to its corresponding lock by its color. This toy works on fine motor and real life skills. Adult assistance is not needed since it is clear if the key is correct based on whether the lock opens.
The Best Outdoor Practical Life Skills Toy
Get your young child involved in gardening by letting him rake, dig, and care for plants. A set of child-sized tools is the perfect way to make these activities accessible to our youngest family members. Gardening fits in well with the Montessori practical life curriculum, and kids love it.
The Best Montessori Puzzles for Toddlers
The five wooden puzzles in this set detail the anatomy of various plants and animals. The knobs on each puzzle piece help toddlers handle them easily and work on developing the pencil grip. The task is obviously to place the pieces correctly, and a child can tell on his own whether he has done that. Vocabulary such as “roots”, “fins”, or other parts can be introduced when you first present the puzzles.