Best Montessori Learning Toys

Updated October 2020
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Buying guide for best montessori learning toys

The Montessori method of teaching used in some schools and by some homeschooling parents actually starts in infancy. Montessori learning toys promote personal agency, independence, and tactile learning. These toys are often made from natural materials and are suitable for a range of ages. Whether you homeschool your children or not, Montessori learning toys can be an enriching addition to their toy collection.

Before you go shopping for Montessori learning toys, there are some important factors to consider. Different toys correspond to different ages and skill levels. As with any toy for young children, you’ll want to be mindful of small parts that could easily break off and be swallowed by babies. Other qualities to consider include design and price.

Continue reading this guide to discover more about Montessori toys, from the benefits they offer to the factors you should consider when selecting them. For inspiration, we have provided information about some of our favorite Montessori toys on the market.

Montessori learning toys can go hand in hand with household activities that help children learn about the world around them. Simple chores like sweeping, washing a window, or watering flowers can help develop hand-eye coordination while teaching life skills.

The Montessori method

The Montessori method was developed by Maria Montessori, an Italian medical doctor who studied pedagogy extensively in late 1800s Rome. As part of her learning, she observed how children in Rome’s asylums were treated poorly. This inspired her creation of a method that centers on developmental progress for children.

In partnership with Alice Franchetti, Montessori opened her own school and refined her methodology there. By the early twentieth century, the Montessori method had spread to the United States. Following Montessori’s death in the 1950s, the Montessori method experienced a resurgence in popularity in the 1960s.

What sets the Montessori method apart from other methods is its emphasis on child-centered learning. Caregivers are encouraged to create a space for safe multi-sensory exploration. Tactile learning is particularly critical in the early years, from birth to age three. At this stage, children quickly absorb new information from their environment. The first three years of life are critical for laying a foundation for future learning. Montessori toys for this age range introduce or promote concepts such as object permanence and hand-eye coordination.

In an increasingly digital age, tactile skill building is still fundamental for human growth. Even without a Montessori classroom, the right learning toys can unlock new discoveries for children.

Expert Tip
If you want your child to only have access to Montessori learning toys, consider purging your child’s toy box. Get rid of duplicate toys, battery-operated toys, and toys that aren’t age-appropriate. Toys like bikes, scooters, and trampolines are suitable to keep because they support the development of motor skills.
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Key considerations

Age appropriateness

Different Montessori learning toys are suited to different learning levels.

Under 12 months: Infants are just beginning to gain control of their bodies. As they begin to sit up and pull themselves up, they’ll enjoy a simple baby gym. You can also look into wooden teething toys.

Between 1 and 2 years: Babies in this age range benefit from toys they can shake, rattle, push, and pull. Hand-eye coordination begins to develop at this critical age. Wooden rattles, tambourines, and toys that toddlers can push and pull as they learn to walk are excellent choices.

Between 3 and 4 years: Montessori learning toys for these kids may focus on aspects of real life such as grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and building. A wooden puzzle of a world map, a basket with cloth fruits and vegetables, a wooden number set, and a mini science set are prime examples of appropriate Montessori toys for this age range.

Between 5 and 6 years: Children continue to benefit from toys with real-life components in this age range. Additionally, they can build on cognitive skills while learning more about the world around them. Consider toys that have an intensive building component, such as a 50-piece puzzle or building block set, a simplified board game that develops strategic skills rather than competitive ones, a math game, or a simplified human anatomy set.

Learning purpose

The best Montessori toys allow children to master specific tasks. An abacus, for example, teaches simple math functions. A wooden kitchen set familiarizes children with the tools needed to prepare their own food. A wooden world map allows children to explore geography and where they are in relation to the rest of the world. Consider the skills and concepts you want to introduce to your child. Chances are you can find the right Montessori learning toy for it.

Did you know?
A key component of the Montessori method is movement. Give your child time to move around with a bike, scooter, push toy, or impromptu dance break.
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Features

Natural materials

The Montessori method centers on purposeful play that introduces infants and children to the world around them. Montessori learning toys are derived from natural materials such as metal, wood, and cloth. All three of these materials can vary in temperature and weight in a way that plastic does not. Furthermore, metal, wood, and cloth have their own “taste” and are often safer for infants to put in their mouths.

Simplicity

Many of today’s toys are loaded with colorful buttons, sounds, and all kinds of features. The plethora of choices can cause children to flit from toy to toy, unclear as to how they can completely master each one. With Montessori learning toys, less is more. The best Montessori toys are streamlined in purpose. Simple in function and design, children are able to focus on fully exploring the range of a toy before moving on to a new one. 

Design

Montessori toys tend to be appealing in their simplicity. These toys are pleasing to look at without causing sensory overload. It’s possible to find toys in fun shapes that appeal to kids such as animals (dogs and turtles, for example), planes, and cars. Quite a few of these toys are colorful as well. Primary colors are most prominent in toys made for the younger ages.

Expert Tip
If your child is new to the Montessori method of playing, be patient. In the beginning, you may find that your child only plays with a toy for a few minutes before moving on to the next. By removing distractions and providing uninterrupted play time, your child’s focus and attention span will gradually improve.
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Montessori learning toy prices

As with the majority of toys on the market, Montessori learning toys vary widely in price. You could pay anywhere from $10 to $250 for a Montessori learning toy.

Budget: Toys in the $10 to $30 range are often for children under 24 months. Simple toys such as teething rings, small building block sets, rattles, and stacking toys foster hand-eye coordination at an affordable price. You may also find simplified puzzles for slightly older children here.

Mid-range: Toys from $30 to $60 tend to be more elaborate. Think of 100+ piece building sets, wooden jigsaw puzzles, and science sets. Quite a few of the toys in this range work best for children ages three and up. However, you may find some baby gyms for infants in this price range, too. Higher-quality materials that are less likely to break can be found here — though it’s entirely possible to find toys of decent quality in the budget range, too.

Expensive: Toys in the $60 to $120 range often emphasize movement. Wagons, bikes, balancing toys, and scooters are prime examples. Fortunately, a number of these toys grow with your child, so you’ll be able to keep them for years before your child tires of them.

Any Montessori toy that costs greater than $120 may boast exceptional quality and design.This may include large, child-size building blocks along with movement toys. If you opt to splurge, we recommend choosing something that your child (or their younger siblings) would likely enjoy for years to come.

Tips

  • To encourage play, limit distractions in the play area. Remove TVs, tablets, phones, and noisy electronics. Montessori toys are passive, so they aren’t “activated” unless a child explores them.
  • Keep your child’s toys relevant. Remove anything that they haven’t engaged with for the past several months. Chances are, your child has outgrown those toys.
  • When they’re done playing, have your child put toys away. This teaches organization and helps the child know exactly where to find the toy the next time. A simple set of child-accessible shelves is excellent for toy storage.
You can model for your child by playing with a toy yourself. As you explore the full range of the toy’s function, your child will see how they can arrive at their own discoveries as well.

FAQ

Q. What’s the main difference between Montessori learning toys and other learning toys?
A.
Montessori learning toys emphasize age-appropriate exploration. Their straightforward design allows children to engage at their own pace and uncover their own findings. Quite a few learning toys are electronic, noisy, and flashy. These appear impressive, but they’re not always age-appropriate and may distract your child rather than engage them.

Q. Are Montessori learning toys worth the high price tag?
A. Not all Montessori learning toys are expensive. You can find building blocks, stacking pieces, and puzzles at affordable prices. If outfitting your child’s toy box with Montessori toys feels rough on your wallet, you can supplement their play with real-life activities. For example, if your child is a toddler or older, they can help with cooking tasks like pouring ingredients and clean-up. These activities support the development of motor skills while teaching your child about their world.

Q. Do Montessori toys have to be wooden?
A.
Wood is a common material for Montessori learning toys, but you can also find ones made of metal and cloth. Wooden toys are usually higher in quality and longer-lasting than plastic toys.

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