Montessori-inspired toys make the perfect play things for toddlers ages 12 months to three years old. Typically characterized as open-ended, simple, and realistic, Montessori-aligned toys tend to spark creativity and imaginative play, exercise and develop dexterity, and promote other important skills. They challenge a child while also providing hours of fun. But with so many toys available to children these days, it can be difficult to tell which kinds of toys are Montessori aligned, and which are worth the money and shelf space. Below, we’ve found 30 great Montessori-inspired toys that are perfect for any toddler.
Realistic Animal Figurines
Nothing spurs imaginative play like realistic animals. Schleich is a favorite toy company of Montessori teachers and parents. It’s a German company which creates extremely realistic looking animal figurines of all kinds. Options for purchasing Schleich range from individual animal figures. to value packs and starter sets. It also offers large-scale sets including a barn or other facility, plus animals and even humans.
Jumbo Bath Wooden Peg Puzzle
Combine the start of real-life skills with the fun of a puzzle with this Jumbo Bath Wooden Peg Puzzle by Goula. This high-quality puzzle includes eight wooden pieces. Each features something used in the bathroom (sink, sponge, comb, etc.). Children practice their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination by removing and replacing the pieces. When they do, they’ll see that each piece reveals a second image of what each item is used for in the process of self care.
Melissa and Doug
Beading sets are helpful in developing children’s fine motor skills, visual perception skills, and hand-eye coordination. This lacing bead set by the beloved toy company Melissa and Doug features 30 large brightly colored wooden beads in myriad shapes. There are also two colorful laces on which to string the beads. Just be aware: this fun educational toy is best for older toddlers who have stopped mouthing new and interesting things, as this could be considered a choking hazard.
Personalized Name Puzzle
J and P Wood Products
J and P Wood Products makes these adorable personalized name puzzles. Handmade from real wood, these puzzles allow an easy introduction to the recognition and spelling of one’s name. Removing and replacing the letter pieces provide great practice for motor skills.
A car ramp like this one from Play 22 is guaranteed to provide hours of fun for any toddler. The car ramp includes a four-level, multicolored ramp, plus four cars in corresponding colors. Toddlers can place the cars anywhere on the ramp, then watch as they race towards the finish.
Mini Buddha Board
This mini, 5×5-inch Buddha Board is perfect for encouraging toddlers to get creative. Best of all, it doesn’t leave a mess! In addition to stimulating creativity, this unique board also encourages fine motor skills. It also allows the child to create beautiful designs using only a small amount of water. The child’s image slowly disappears as the water evaporates, leaving the board fresh for a new creation.
Wooden Puzzle Professions
Puzzles are chock full of benefits for young children, and this wooden puzzle with popular professions makes a great Montessori-inspired gift for any toddler. The puzzle features six different jobs — firefighter, doctor, auto mechanic, chef, grocer, and construction worker — and two pieces making up each profession. Below each piece is an image of the job’s setting. Children must match the two pieces to create the profession. They must also match the profession to the proper setting.
Kids Gardening Tool Set
Real life skills are an integral part to Montessori, and this kids gardening tool set by Kinderific is perfect for introducing the real-life skill of gardening. The set includes pieces that actually work, but which are specially sized for little hands. Included are a tote bag, watering can, pair of gloves, shovel, rake, and fork.
First Shapes Toddler Wooden Learning Puzzle
Younger toddlers just out of the infant stage are sure to benefit from the First Shapes Toddler Wooden Learning Puzzle from Hape, a popular toy brand. The puzzle includes four different multicolored shapes. The pieces are large enough for little hands to practice hand-eye coordination and motor skills. Playing with the puzzle also promotes spatial relationships, matching skills, and dexterity.
As simple as they are, play silks are the perfect open-ended toy for toddlers. Children can use the multicolored silks for imaginative play such as dressing up. Or they can explore movement by waving and stretching the silks. Though many different kinds of play silks are available, we like the great value option of Melodie Naturals, EarlyWorld’s sheer play silks, and the same company’s collection of vibrant solid colors.
Wooden shaking eggs like these from HABA offer toddlers all kinds of benefits. First, they’re perfectly sized for little hands practicing motor skills. Secondly, the act of shaking the eggs helps children to learn about rhythm and sounds. Each of these eggs produces a different sound, and kids can have fun creating different rattles, jingles, twitters, and more. Finally, these HABA eggs are multicolored, and can be used to encourage color and shape recognition.
Farm Animal Matching Puzzle
Little Spark Company
Matching animal figures to real-life pictures is a classic Montessori activity. The Little Spark Company sells this pack of cards and farm animals that makes the perfect gift for a toddler. The matching game comes in a variety of pack options, including just the picture cards, the picture cards with animal figurines, the picture cards with separate animal name, or all of it together. You can even choose to have the names of the animals printed in Spanish or French.
Deluxe Latches Board
Melissa and Doug
Melissa and Doug’s Deluxe Latches Board is just as fun as it is educational. Toddlers can practice hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and dexterity as they work to do and undo the various latches on this high-quality wooden board.
Band in a Box
Melissa and Doug
The popular toy brand Melissa and Doug has a lot of Montessori-inspired toys for toddlers, including this Band in a Box. Consisting of 10 different instruments, this set provides children with the perfect introduction to music, volumes, and rhythms. It also allows kids to work on their motor skills as they grasp, shake, and make their own music.
Geometric Sorting Board
It’s never too early to introduce simple math concepts! The Geometric Sorting Board by PlanToys teaches shape recognition and early geometry as it asks little ones to stack the different shapes according to the number of holes in the center of each one. Toddlers can even practice by sorting the shapes by shape or color. The Geometric Sorting Board was the Winner of the Good Toy Award from Parent Magazine.
Object Permanence Coin Box
Object permanence is an important skill for older infants and younger toddlers, and this toy is a great way to develop it. The Object Permanence Coin Box from Leader Joy includes a box with a drawer and slit on the top, plus large “coins” which children can put into the box via the slit. When children open the drawer, they learn that though things can disappear from sight, they are still there. This toy is also helpful for practicing hand-eye coordination and refined hand movements.
Punch and Drop
Let’s face it: toddlers love hitting things. Direct their desire to hit into the Punch and Drop toy by PlanToys. Don’t worry, it’s totally safe. Consisting of a box, mallet, and three multi-colored balls, the Punch and Drop helps toddlers develop their hand-eye coordination as they both aim for a ball, and align it back into place.
Pound & Tap Bench with Slide Out Xylophone
Meanwhile, Hape’s Pound & Tap Bench with Slide Out Xylophone is a combination of a few toys on our list of the best Montessori-inspired gifts for toddlers. Young children can play with the Pound & Tap Bench in several ways, including playing the keyboard or xylophone — both of which slide out — or pounding the balls so that they roll away. The bench won the 2018 Cribsie Award for the best musical toy for ages 1-3. It helps children develop skills like dexterity, hand-eye coordination, audio recognition, arm movement, and cause and effect.
Mop and Broom Set
For Small Hands
Give in to a toddler’s desire to help out around the house by gifting them this mop and broom set from For Small Hands. It consists of a yarn mop, corn broom, angle broom, and push broom. These real household tools are perfectly sized for smaller children.
Wooden Fold & Go Barn
Melissa and Doug
Melissa and Doug’s Wooden Fold & Go Barn sparks creativity and imaginative play in toddlers — and goes great with the aforementioned realistic animal figurines! Made from high-quality wood and designed to look like a classic red barn, the Fold & Go includes a folding corral, a wooden ladder, and seven realistic animals. The barn’s handle and folding capabilities make it easy to carry wherever one needs it to go.
Rainbow Blocks Set
Blocks are a classic open-ended toy, and can provide hours of fun imaginative play. Guidecraft’s Rainbow Blocks Set consists of 30 colorful and fun-shaped pieces — 10 rectangles, eight squares, six small triangles, four half-circles, and two large triangles. The blocks are constructed of high-quality hardwood and acrylic insets. They’re perfect for exploring light and color, developing hand-eye coordination, and practicing visual perception.
Seven Friends in Seven Bowls
As previously mentioned, Grimm’s toys are extremely popular amongst Montessori-loving parents, teachers, and kids. Another great Grimm’s toy for toddlers is the Seven Friends in Seven Bowls. Each of the seven wooden peg dolls boasts a different color of the rainbow, and comes with a matching, rainbow-colored cup. The friends and their bowls can be used for counting, stacking, sorting, and imaginative play.
Wobble Balance Board
On the surface, a wobble balance board looks like a fun toy with which toddlers can pretend to surf and other games. But really, a wobble board is extremely beneficial in helping young children develop their balance, and improve their posture and confidence. When used for play, the wobble board can become everything from a slide to a bridge for cars, to a cradle for dolls. Additionally, a felt layer ensures the wobble board can safely be used indoors.
The Holdie House by Olliella is the perfect Montessori-aligned dollhouse for toddler-aged girls and boys. Constructed of pine, the house features five separate rooms perfect for housing peg dolls or other figurines. The house is extremely lightweight and includes a handle for easy transporting.
All-in-One Wooden Easel
Every toddler needs a place to create, and we think this All-in-One Wooden Easel by Hape makes the perfect place! This children’s easel includes everything a kid needs to express himself creatively, including a chalk board, magnetic whiteboard, three paint pots, and a replaceable paper roll. The height can even be adjusted for a growing child.
There are lots of play kitchens on the market, but this one from IKEA is a particular favorite amongst Montessori-adhering families and teachers. The primarily wood kitchen features a sink, stovetop, oven, dishwasher, and microwave, plus a few hooks for hanging the necessities. Some especially crafty Montessori parents have even outfitted the play kitchen with real running water to make it into less of a play station and more of a real-life self-care station.
While a traditional bicycle will have to wait until the little one is a bit older, a balance bike like this one from Strider is perfect for toddlers ages 18 months to three years. The balance bike is equipped with no-flat tires, an adjustable handlebar, and built-in footrests that are ideal for one just learning how to balance and ride forward.
Large 12-Piece Rainbow Stacker
If there is a classic Montessori toy, then it may just be the Grimm’s 12-piece rainbow stacker. This delightful open-ended toy can provide hours of entertainment, and stimulates creativity with the many things the rainbow can become (is it a rainbow….or a bridge?). Attempting to balance the arches also becomes practice with balance. The Grimm’s rainbow stacker is also available in six pieces.
Classic Kitchen Helper Stool
Encourage your favorite toddler to start helping in the kitchen with Guidecraft’s Classic Kitchen Helper Stool. Designed for small children with safety in mind, this sturdy wooden stool can be adjusted to 15” or 18”. It also folds up for easy storage, and comes in multiple color options.
Pikler Climbing Triangle
Children ages six months to five years can have a blast playing on the Little Climber, a popular version of the Pikler climbing triangle. As children play and climb, they’ll be exercising creativity, developing motor skills and balance control, and growing both muscles and confidence! This particular Pikler triangle is made of your choice of Baltic birch or bamboo. It’s suitable for both outdoor and indoor use, and even folds flat for easy storage.
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