As a parent, you likely want your little one to have the most enriching and well-rounded childhood possible, and this extends to both their education and their extracurricular activities. As such, you probably pick their toys with care, looking for items that will not only be fun and enjoyable, but that will also provide them with a certain level of enrichment and development opportunities. And if all this applies to you, then it would be no surprise if you've already come upon Montessori materials in your search for the perfect mix of education and entertainment.
If not, though, here's a quick breakdown of what the Montessori theory is, why Montessori toys are unique and some of the best Montessori toys you can buy for your child, no matter their age or interests.
What is Montessori?
Montessori is an Italian educational philosophy developed by Maria Montessori in the early 1900s, which has since achieved a significant amount of fame. Since Montessori is used by schools worldwide, you may even have a Montessori school in your neighborhood, or you may know a homeschool family that adheres to the Montessori method.
So, what exactly is it?
The Montessori method relies on a child's individual and natural inclination toward educational experiences. Montessori classrooms allow children to learn through collaboration and hands-on activities and enable them to self direct, with appropriate but somewhat distant guidance from the teacher. Teachers aren't as hands-on under this method and often allow children to learn through their own experiences and each other.
It's seen as a much more holistic learning experience than some may have undergone in a schoolroom decades ago, forced to sit at a desk for eight hours and follow a very rigidly structured schedule.
Why are Montessori Toys Beneficial to My Child?
Montessori toys feature three key elements. They're simple, developmental and accessible.
You won't find a Montessori toy with lots of bright, noisy, electronic features (they're more likely to be made from natural materials) or a Montessori toy that does little more than entertain. Montessori toys tend not to require a lot of parental help and guidance for a child to enjoy it.
Instead, a Montessori toy can be used by the child with no help at all, and they quickly understand how to work and play with it. Montessori toys are also developmental in that they actively engage children during very particular stages of their childhood.
The idea is that Montessori toys hold a certain appeal to children that are naturally curious and inclined to learn, and who find satisfaction from completing a task or solving a puzzle.
Don't think that sounds like your child? The Montessori method believes that these are traits all children naturally have if nurtured early enough. In other words, if you want to develop a curious child who loves learning and problem-solving, it's never too early to start — and Montessori toys can help.
Here are 16 of our favorite Montessori toys, with options for every age group, from various popular retailers, including Amazon and Etsy.
Best Montessori Toys for Babies (0 to 12 months)
Outfitting your playroom or nursery? You'll want to incorporate some of these Montessori toys suitable for infants up to a year old.
Nearly every nursery has a mobile, so why not make yours pull double duty as an educational tool.
These Montessori mobiles are simple (as are many Montessori toys) and feature varying shapes and colors. The mobiles are designed to help your baby learn to focus on still and moving objects while obtaining a better understanding of how objects move within a space. They'll enjoy the contrasting colors and shapes, plus, you'll like the simple yet elegant aesthetic.
From three months old onward, your child can begin developing more vital motor skills with these very simple, wooden, interlocking discs. The primary skill this simple toy teaches? The ability to pass items from one hand to the other.
It might seem like an easy task to parents, but it's one that any child has to learn. With this Montessori toy, it's something they can discover on their own.
Another wooden toy for children ages three months and up is the Montessori wooden egg and cup. It teaches your child fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, plus you'll get a kick out of watching your baby try over and over again to drop the small wooden ball into the matching wooden holder.
Crate & Barrel offers a wide range of fantastic Montessori toys, such as these Montessori balls. They are plush, simple and just what your infant needs to grasp, chew (if you have a teething baby on your hands) and "toss." Even when your child is younger than two months, you can use the ball to help them — much like with the mobile — learn to track visual stimuli by moving it around their space and watching as their eyes follow your movement.
Once your baby moves up to tummy time, they'll likely be able to take the ball on their own and use it as they develop the skills needed to hold, drop and move items.
Even after six months, balls and other similar Montessori items can be used to teach object permanence, which is when you hide an object and have your growing baby find the object. When your baby can find it again, that's when you know they've grasped the concept. Just because you can't see an item, that doesn't mean it isn't there.
Montessori Toys for Toddlers (1-year-old to 3-year-olds)
Once your infant reaches the toddler stage, they'll be developing faster than ever. Help them along their rapid educational journey with some of these Montessori toys.
Suitable for any toddler 18 months and up, this wooden drum made from repurposed rubberwood is a fun musical instrument to add to your child's toy box. The drumstick's rubber head minimizes noise while also preventing more severe accidents (you never know when your child will use that drumstick as a projectile). The toy helps toddlers learn spatial perception and fine motor skills.
Before your child can learn to write their letters, they have to learn several essential skills: how to hold a writing utensil, how to connect the writing utensil with their paper, how to move the writing utensil to form shapes, etc.
This toy/tool can be a big help for children learning all of the above. The simple design features a wooden "writing" utensil and a wooden board with grooves forming various shapes. Your child can use the utensil to trace the shapes as many times as they like.
Worried that the utensil could prove a choking hazard for your child? They can still use the board with their fingers, and you can keep it out of reach until you're sure they won't start gnawing on it.
If your child is still getting the hang of this walking thing, you may want to go with this block and roll cart. It gives them a sturdy handle to grip as they take a few steps and offers a block-and-shape wooden puzzle at the base of the cart (the Montessori method emphasizes the use of building blocks). Your child will learn motor skills, balance, coordination, shapes and problem-solving, all with one simple toy.
As previously mentioned, wooden block sets are a big part of the Montessori method. They're useful in teaching children a range of concepts and skills, including shapes, gravity, positions, balance, self-reliance and cooperation when playing with others
Best Montessori Toys for Preschoolers (3-year-olds to 5-year-olds)
At the preschool age, Montessori toys become a little more complicated and usually feature smaller parts that teach more educational elements to hold children's interests.
This preschool-age toy is just the thing for sensory and "pretend" play. Add water, sand or both to let your child's imagination run free. They can create imaginative situations that make stories surrounding the set's characters, boats, fish, and plants and learn how certain materials (like the water and sand) interact. Beyond adding the water and sand (and likely clean-up), you won't need to assist your child with this parent-approved playset.
These Montessori letter sets are a fun way to teach young children their uppercase and lowercase letters. The cards' sandpaper-like texture gives your child a textile experience as they trace each letter with their fingers, forming muscle memories.
Work through the cards with your child and encourage them to make the sound of each letter as they trace the rough texture with their fingers.
As children get older, the Montessori method often incorporates nature into its curriculum, connecting children to the world around them in engaging, hands-on ways. This fish puzzle is one in an entire collection of nature-centric puzzles that allow your preschool-age child to learn about various animals while also developing their problem-solving and spatial recognition abilities.
Similarly, the Montessori method often gives children miniature real-world tools, allowing them to learn fundamental skills they'll need in real life from an early age. These "real-world" tools might include preschool-sized mops and brooms, child-size kitchenware, toy lawn tools or the like.
Carolyn Garrett from Teach.Work.Mom adds why she thinks this toy is so great. “This is a wonderful Montessori toy that encourages your child to engage in role playing and teaches life skills. Kids can be taught age appropriate chores as early as age 2 and this Montessori toy is the perfect toy to teach them about cleaning up while making it fun,” says Garrett.
“My daughter likes to imitate me. She sees me cleaning so she wants to clean as well. This cleaning play set is wonderful because it encourages her desire to imitate the good example that I set for her by maintaining the home. As your child has fun playing clean up you will be able to encourage them and make cleaning fun,” Garrett adds.
This set features ten locks and keys, all in different colors. The challenge is simple — children have to learn that the blue lock goes with the blue key, the red lock goes with the red key, and so forth while also developing fine motor skills.
Pushing a small key into a small keyhole might not necessarily be easy for your child on the first try, so encourage them to keep trying until they can complete the task independently.
Best Montessori Toys for Elementary-Age Children
As children reach the age where they are ready to begin elementary school, their Montessori-inspired toys become increasingly involved to match their growing curiosity.
Even as Montessori toys become more complex, they still hold fast to the idea of teaching children valuable skills with every playtime. That can be seen with this Melissa & Doug multi-craft weaving loom, suitable for children ages six and up. It comes with 91 yards of rainbow yarn, the loom, a needle and instructions so your child can learn to create a range of craft projects while also fine-tuning and developing their motor skills, project management skills and creativity.
This pulley set is suitable for children over five and comes with wooden reels, a hook, a tension belt and 19 feet of rope. Children can design and operate the specific mechanics themselves and then use the system to transport their toys, snacks and other items into a top bunk fort, treehouse or anywhere else their imaginations take them.
This Hape, award-winning toy teaches STEM concepts, creativity, reasoning and spatial skills. The 102-piece toy set features all kinds of quadrille components that your child can mix and match, all with the aim of getting the included marbles down the created run to the bottom of their designed contraption.
While this toy is rated for children ages four and up, you may find that the sheer number of pieces and the construction challenges are more suitable for your elementary-age child.
Picking the Right Montessori Toys for Your Child
Whatever skills or concepts you want your child to embrace, you can find a Montessori toy that teaches it among our gift guide.
And who knows — you may discover that your child prefers the simple, straightforward and fun experience that Montessori toys offer!
You might also be interested in: 9 Shows For Toddlers That Won't Make You Crazy
The 16 Best Montessori Toys:
- Montessori Mobiles
- LEADER JOY Montessori Materials Baby Interlocking Discs
- Montessori Materials Wooden Ball with Cup
- Teal Baby Plush Ball Rattle
- PlanToys Solid Drum
- Prewriting Wooden Tracing Board
- Hape Block and Roll Cart Toddler Wooden Push and Pull Toy
- Montessori Natural Wooden Building Blocks Set
- Step2 Rain Showers Splash Pond Water Table
- Elite Montessori Lower and Capital Case Sandpaper Letters with Boxes
- Elite Montessori Fish Puzzle Preschool Learning Material
- Melissa & Doug Dust! Sweep! Mop!
- Montessori Material Color Matching Lock Set
- Melissa & Doug Multi-Craft Weaving Loom
- Pulley Set with Wooden Reels and Nylon Ropes
- Hape Castle Escape - Quadrilla Wooden Marble Run Blocks