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Consider Montessori-style toys if you’re hunting for simple, beautiful toys that foster a child’s development. Montessori-friendly toys can help children learn essential skills while being fun and engaging. Educational toys benefit kids’ motor, sensory, and problem-solving abilities,” says Charlene DeLoach, contributing editor at Toy Insider. “Toys that are engaging enable them to practice social skills as they play.” If you’ve heard of the concept, you might be wondering: “What is a Montessori-friendly toy?” And it’s a good question.
Before we dive into the question, let’s look at the Montessori Method.
What Is the Montessori Method?
The term “Montessori” comes from Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian physician, and educator who pioneered the concept of child-centered education in the early 20th century. Her work with children with learning disabilities led her to develop “the scientific pedagogy of liberty.” A big part of this philosophy promotes independence and freedom of movement while providing educational opportunities through well-made objects that will spark a child’s desire to learn.
Montessori schools are known for their hands-on, early education programs. “The method starts at birth and continues through elementary school and into adolescence,” says Kathryn Holm, MEd, a 0-3 Montessori educator in Los Angeles, California. It also emphasizes learning through all senses, not just by listening and observing. (“Best Montessori Toys for Babies and Toddlers”) This includes touching, tasting, smelling, and typically being outdoors are considered just as essential as hearing parents’ read a story.
The payoffs can be significant: According to an October 2017 preschool study published in Frontiers in Psychology. Preschoolers enrolled in Montessori schools had higher levels of executive function. Plus, the ability to control impulses and solve problems—than their peers who attended traditional preschools. And other studies have found that kids with solid function skills are more likely to succeed academically and professionally later in life.
What are Montessori Toys?
A Montessori toy supports the same educational philosophies as the Montessori approach. However, there’s no official list of “approved” Montessori-friendly toys. Instead, a toy is considered Montessori if it supports the same educational philosophies as the Dr. Maria Montessori approach. Here’s what to look for when looking for a Montessori-friendly toy for your baby:
Natural materials are always best for babies because they offer more sensory stimulation. Toys made from wood or other raw materials are less likely to contain toxic chemicals or materials like latex (which can be dangerous for your newborn). Look for toys made from wood, cloth, or natural fabrics like cotton and wool instead of plastic or vinyl.
Focuses on a single skill.
The focus of any given toy should be on one skill or activity at once. Toys that focus on one skill help kids learn new skills by reinforcing them over time. It also reduces frustration because they won’t be overwhelmed by trying to master multiple things at once — just one thing! But some toys also do double duty by helping babies develop various skills at once. For example, stacking rings allow baby to connect the sound to sight while allowing them to develop their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
Simple and free of distractions.
The fewer buttons, lights, and sounds on a toy, the better! Babies need time to explore and investigate objects naturally; too many distractions from their toys will only get in their way! Try avoiding electronic toys that make noises without prompting. Instead, ask yourself if you want the toy to be battery-powered or baby-powered,” says Stacy Keane, head of learning at Monti Kids, a Montessori toy subscription service. “
When selecting Montessori-style toys for your baby, remember one other thing: less is more. Think practical and aesthetic: Focus on toys that will go the distance and are appropriate for your child’s current developmental stage. Your baby will love the simplicity of the toys, and you’ll like that they don’t make much noise or take up much space. There’ll also be less for you to clean up at the end of a long day.
We’ve chosen our top 10 Montessori-style toy picks to occupy 6 months to 2-year-olds and up, building on the Montessori approach. We love these Montessori toys for what they have—simplicity, purpose, and beauty—as much as for what they don’t—sounds, lights, excessive parts, and other distractions. They’re perfect for anyone, from a beginner mom to a seasoned Montessori expert!
Best Montessori inspired Toys for 6-Month-Olds and Their Delightful Milestones
1. Grabbing Toy: Manhattan Toy Skwish Classic Rattle and Teether
This baby classic rattle and teether are praised by parents everywhere, making for the perfect first Montessori-inspired toy for your baby. Thanks to its colors, lightweight and exciting shapes, oh my! It’s easy for even the teeniest hands to hold, grab, shake around and explore.
Best of all, Manhattan Toy Skwish Classic Rattle is a tried-and-true winner, thanks to the teether’s clever design. The gentle rattling noise and the squishy structure make for the perfect first sensory learning experience. (“Best Montessori Toys for Babies of 2022 – Babylist”) Praised for its natural rubberwood and texture, you won’t have to worry about toxic paints or chemicals getting into the baby’s mouth.
2. Music appreciation starts at birth: Ehome Toddler Musical Instruments
We have no idea why young kids love to make noise in any way possible; this can include banging their toys together. Provide opportunities and meet this developmental need by redirecting your youngster to a set of child-size musical instruments like Ehome. Watching them figure out how to entertain themselves!
The Ehome is an ideal Montessori toy for children aged 1 and above. Each piece is perfect for little hands. The set includes shaking, tapping, and blowing instruments, which will develop your child’s fine motor skills and introduce them to music. This is one of the best natural wood percussion Instrument toys for toddlers and babies. Especially kids that are still too young to graduate to more robust, chord-based instruments but still show signs of some musical vibe. And this one by Ehome doesn’t look bad either.
3. Building Blocks: Mini Tudou Soft Baby Blocks
Building blocks are Montessori-friendly toys staple and for a good reason. But when it comes to younger babies, you want a safer option. These Mini Tudou Soft Baby Blocks soft and colorful blocks keep babies entertained for hours on end. The rich and easy-to-grip 12-piece set is the perfect introduction to fine motor and cognitive skills toys and will bring little ones into a new world of imagination. In addition, the sturdy blocks are easy to grip, squeeze and stack and won’t hurt anyone if they’re accidentally stepped on.
Each Mini Tudou Soft Baby Block has its own fun design, with shapes, numbers, fruits, Arabic numerals, animal designs, and geometrical patterns, making them even more attractive to little hands. They can also be used as rattles or teethers once the baby starts teething at about 6 months old. Plus, it makes an excellent gift for any occasion such as birthdays or holidays like Christmas!
5. Best for Language Development: Indestructibles Basic Word Book Set
This Montessori classic encourages kiddos to explore books based on objects, animals, and daily life. It includes exciting details and is appropriate for an infant and toddler’s age and learning level. These Workman books also make it easy to hear new sounds, boost language development, and bond with children. Your little one will begin to mimic language, grasp repetition, and grow their comprehension skills by listening to the words.
This set of Workman Publishing books is super durable and a great way to introduce simple concepts about the world. Each book reflects a charming theme and is accompanied by whimsical illustrations. The best part is that these books are made of 100% tear and rip-proof material that can be machine-washed. And are versatile, inexpensive, and can be used at the beach, in the pool or playroom, or anywhere else.
The Montessori method has been around for more than 100 years and is still popular today. It’s a hands-on approach to learning, emphasizing independence and self-discovery. If you’re looking for a Montessori book for tracing letters and numbers. The Scholastic Early Learners book employs the same method — tracing letters and numbers with your finger. But keeps it all bound together in one place and comes with some recommended activities for mixing it up.
6. For learning by doing: Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Magic Color Mixing Bowl
A significant component of Montessori learning has kiddos participate in every daily activity as much as possible. There is so much to learn and absorb while cooking and preparing meals. Plus, this five-star Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Magic Mixing Bowl is a fun way for your child to become more familiar with food preparation.
The bowl lights up and has options for playing songs, making kitchen sounds, and saying phrases for teaching the alphabet, colors, numbers, and mixing colors. The removable pieces themselves have lights, music, and sounds, and something new is always happening when you mix them together. This encourages babies and toddlers to keep placing the pieces in the bowl. The chocolate bar and spoon are also BPA free and can be used as “stirring” and teether toys.
7. Best Smarter Play Gym: The Play Gym by Lovevery
Play Gym is one of those Montessori-friendly toys that thousands of parents fell in love with. The Play Gym by Lovevery is a high-quality activity gym that grows with your child. According to pediatric occupational therapist and Inspired Treehouse blogger Claire Heffron, infant activity gyms can help stimulate developmental milestones through play.
With a simple design and toys designed by child development experts, the Lovevery Play Gym is currently the best baby activity gym. (“Lovevery Play Gym Review: Best Baby Gym From Child … – Insider”) Despite their minimalist appearance, the hanging toys and tummy time stations kept children’s attention for a long time. The large neutral tones mat size is conducive to milestones like rolling. But the design, versatile play, and research-driven developmental guide make it a fantastic buy for parents with a larger budget. Only downside? It was not cheap like the Skip Hop Farmstand ($85). Other activity gyms will still promote the same crossroads
8. Best Montessori Learning Stool: Kitchen Step Stool for Babies and Toddlers
This Leaning Tower by Mangohood is the perfect tool for the curious toddler. There are so many uses here, but we especially love it for everything in the kitchen. Whether they’re helping with food prep, or they just want to be up at eye level with you as you cook, this is a great way to let them help and learn while staying safe. Your tot will learn how to climb up, down, and around this tower — a great way to build confidence, coordination, and strength. Plus, it’s fun!
It’s also a fantastic way to keep them out of your way while you cook, which is always a plus! It’s also an excellent height for allowing them to help you with cleaning. You can use it as a step stool to reach high places around the house (like getting toys off shelves). We’d also recommend these over any other stepping towers; this innovative tower is one of the best toys for six-month-olds you’ll find.
9. A First Shape Sorting Puzzle: AugToy Wooden Puzzles Games
Stacking together puzzles has excellent benefits for the very young through the very old. Puzzles are wonderfully Montessori-aligned, as well. It can be tricky for babies and toddlers if you introduce a hard one too soon. However, this AugToy Toddler Puzzles Games will set the path for a lifelong love of brain-teasers. It features 6 puzzle boards in total, and each piece is easy to grasp. Use this to teach motor skills, identify different shapes and colors, and early counting.
The wooden game makes this an excellent option for younger babies (though they recommend it for 1-year-olds and up). We think you could introduce these puzzles as early as 6 months to help kiddos work on their pincer grasp. Plus, it non-toxic water-based paint so it’s safe for younger kids.
10. Open-Ended Learning: Wooden Wobble Balance Board
Montessori style balance boards are one of the simplest toys with endless use. This Wobble Wooden Balance Board can help your child develop their equilibrium while making for a fun exercise routine. Then flip it over, and it becomes a ramp for cars, baby seats, or even a stepping stone. It can even become a prop for imaginative play. The board is excellent for 18 months and up because they must use their core muscles and engage in gross motor skills to keep themselves balanced. This also helps children develop their self-confidence as they learn how to master something new.
Made from natural solid wood, the Board is very sturdy and durable and finished with non-toxic paint and lacquer. Plus, you don’t have to worry about harmful chemicals leaching into your child’s skin or mouth.