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The Montessori method is a popular educational philosophy that encourages children to pursue learning at their own pace and promotes freedom of choice, co-operation and independent discovery.
Developed in Italy in 1897 by Maria Montessori, the practice makes use of children's natural curiosity. It is centred around the idea that if kids are placed in an appropriate environment with suitable tools they will pursue knowledge independently.
There are even specialist schools dedicated to teaching with the Montessori method, but it's a practice that can be employed in the home almost as soon as your child is born with the use of specialist toys. In fact, Maria Montessori was of the belief that children have the greatest capacity for learning in their first six years.
There are no 'official' Montessori toys per se, but certain playthings cater to the essential philosophies of the method and are among the best developmental toys for infants. These toys are simple, usually focusing on a single action or skill, and should be developmentally appropriate (i.e. not too advanced for your child to understand). They should also be grounded in reality (realistic images that reflect the world that children see around them are key) and are often made from natural materials, whether that be wood, wool, metal, ceramic or cotton. Montessori wooden toys, rattles, stacking toys, baby musical instruments, building blocks and puzzles are among the most popular Montessori toys out there, and we've collected together a wide range on our list below. Take a look and find the best Montessori toy for your child!
These wooden sound blocks embody so many of the essential qualities associated with Montessori toys: they're simple, made from wood and are sure to stimulate your child's natural curiosity, providing countless opportunities for open-ended play. The little colourful blocks can be sorted, shaken, stacked, peered through, counted and matched; the beads inside provide an extra sensory element to promote cognitive development, and provide your child with the opportunity to match them up with the other block that emits a similar sound. Opening the hinged lid and stacking and sorting the boxes into the wooden case will help your little one develop their motor skills and the colourful safety glass is bright and engaging. Innovative, well-made and durable, these blocks make excellent Montessori toys for toddlers and young children.
Learning through doing is a key component of the Montessori method, and this sweet little alphabet puzzle is a great way to get kids learning about letters. The indented puzzle board encourages kids to recognise colours and shapes and improves hand eye coordination as they match the appropriate pieces to their slots. In doing so, children can feel the shape of each letter, committing its construction to muscle memory. And the product is reversible; the miniature blackboard on the back provides further opportunity for learning and growth. A two-year-old can begin by matching the letters tiles (sounding them out as they go) and, as they get older, progress to writing the letters on the back with the chalk provided.
Shape sorters are some of the best infant toys for development, and they make great Montessori toys for babies. This Janod shape sorter allows children as young as one to exercise their problem-solving skills, develop hand-eye coordination and enhance their fine motor skills. Made from a lovely natural wood and painted in sweet primary colours, it's immediately engaging without being overwhelming. The cut-out holes along the sides and top allow children to post the six wooden pieces through to the centre by either dropping them in front-on, or sliding them in on their sides. An excellent educational tool.
This best-selling rainbow roller is one of the best Montessori baby toys we could find. Made from a natural rubberwood that's lightweight and sustainable, it's perfect for babies to shake, roll, rattle and chew on. The bright bars of colour are vibrant and stimulating, and particularly eye-catching when the toy is rolled along, and the internal wooden ball rattles gently as it moves. Not only does this toy provide welcome visual and auditory stimulation, but the rolling element also encourages movement, too. Watching it spin out of reach provides an excellent incentive for babies to wriggle along to catch it up again, making it one of the best Montessori toys for babies learning to crawl.
Exploring the natural world is a key component of the Montessori method, so it makes sense that a lot of the best Montessori toys are animal-themed. These animal stackers from Le Toy Van, specialists in wooden toys, make a beautiful set. They're designed to be stacked on top of one another until they come tumbling down, teaching children about cause and effect and helping improve dexterity, but the pieces are simple and versatile enough that they can be used for all sorts of imaginative play. Made from entirely natural materials and painted with non-toxic paints, they make a really ethical product, too.
Great Little Trading Company make really well-designed, good-quality toys for babies and young children, and this bright red bus is particularly lovely. The miniature wooden wheels actually work, so your little one can push the bus along to its little passengers' imagined destinations, or use it alongside other toys and figurines to enhance imaginative play. More than just a wheeled toy, though, it's a great educational tool, able to teach a baby as young as a year old about colours and numbers. The lift-off roof reveals several numbered and colour-coded seats, so your child can match the passengers included to their assigned place.
Stacking cups make great Montessori toddler toys, as they help boost hand-eye coordination and the fine and gross motor skills that are so important at this age of development. This pretty tower is made up of eight stackable cups in stylish, muted shades, several of which have hidden stars, rainbows and other patterns imprinted on the base for little fingers to explore. As with all the best Montessori toys, these cups can be put to many different uses, but you'll be surprised how much entertainment children can get out out of continually stacking and unstacking them - an absorbing and beneficial task!
Wooden blocks make the ultimate Montessori toys - they're simple, open-ended playthings that can be engaged with in all sorts of ways. They can be used to construct buildings and structures that children observe in the world around them and the best sets tend to be made with wood, a natural, sustainable material. This set is super affordable, too, perfect for parents looking to give their children the best learning environment possible without spending an arm and a leg. The 80-piece set consists of an array of blocks in different shapes and sizes, and the coloured ones provide added opportunity for naming and matching.
Musical instruments make great Montessori toys for a 1-year-old, helping to promote essential sensory development and boost fine motor skills. Xylophones make a particularly popular choice, not least because children of this age simply love to hit things. This little fox-themed xylophone is so sweet, with a bright rainbow of eight keys and a mallet attached (helpfully) with a string to its underbelly. Four small wheels allow the toy to be rolled around (perfect for musical play on the go!) and the fox's little face bobs up and down as your child taps away, further teaching them about cause and effect.
Montessori puzzles are simple but highly effective. This jumbo puzzle from children's favourite Melissa & Doug is a brilliant learning tool. The bright, chunky pieces are each labelled with the name of their shape and can be matched with their identical shape and colour on the board, helping to boost hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills. The bold design is nice and eye-catching, it's made from a natural wood and the large, easy-to-grasp wooden pegs means it can be enjoyed by children as young as a year old.
This stackable rainbow has proved to be one of the most popular wooden Montessori toys and it provides countless opportunities for open-ended play. Your little one will gain a great sense of satisfaction from stacking it neatly in its rainbow formation, but the pieces can also be used to create any number of different shapes and designs and can easily be used in conjunction with other toys. Made from a lovely natural wood that's durable and attractive.
This whimsical little wooden cloud is, we found, the best Montessori toy for enhancing dexterity, whilst also helping children to problem solve, learn colours and grow to understand cause and effect. Each little coloured rod can be placed into a spring-loaded hole along the top of the cloud. Push it down and it pops right back up - encouraging your child to swipe and catch it. The sustainable rubberwood is nice and robust, too, meaning it should provide years of imaginative play.
Open-ended art activities play a key role in Montessori education, and are a great way to promote self-expression and creativity. Easels, therefore, make great Montessori toys for 3-year-olds (and older kids) who are at an age when they have more control over their doodles and are more able to pursue a natural talent for painting or drawing. This one is beautifully well-made, with a wooden roller along the top for holding paper, a blackboard underneath and a shelf at the bottom for holding art supplies. It's easy to store (folding neatly away) and designed to last - perfect for passing down to younger siblings.
This little stacking garden is a great way of improving hand-eye coordination, dexterity and fine motor skills as your little one stacks the chunky pieces onto one of three wooden rods. In true Montessori fashion, it makes reference to the natural world, and the pretty, muted colours and sweet little garden animals are sure to appeal at play time. Plus, as with all Le Toy Van products, it's an eco-friendly purchase. Bonus.
A good board book is a great learning tool for very young children, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a tried-and-tested classic; engaging, funny and a brilliant way to further introduce your little one to the natural world as they follow the caterpillar's life cycle. The hand-painted illustrations are bright and vivid, and the little cut-out holes that run throughout provide an extra touch-and-feel element that small hands will love exploring. Food, counting and the days of the week are all explored and provide further learning opportunity and the sturdy board pages and extra-tough cover can withstand plenty of rough handling. A great Montessori-friendly addition to the bookshelf.
Kidadl Best Buys selects the top parent-recommended products across the web for families of all ages. If you liked our pick of the best Montessori toys then why not take a look at our favourite rocking horses? Or check out our guide to the best craft kits for kids to get creative!
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