Best Montessori Toys for Babies of 2020

Best Montessori Toys for Babies

December 10, 2019

Best Montessori Toys for Babies

Best Montessori Toys for Babies
Photo by @julietjoie
Best Montessori Toys for Babies

If you’ve heard or read about Montessori lately, you’re not alone. From your Instagram feed to your favorite parenting site, the Montessori philosophy—a century-old approach to education—seems only to be growing in popularity.

Developed by Italian physician Maria Montessori in 1897, Montessori is a child-focused approach to learning that emphasizes hands-on, child-directed work. The philosophy encourages kids to engage in thoughtfully prepared, age-appropriate activities that nurture their cognitive, social, emotional and physical development. And while you’re a few years off from having to decide if a Montessori preschool is the right choice for your family, it’s definitely possible to start incorporating the Montessori philosophy at home, right from day one, through doing what comes so naturally to your baby: playing.

What Is a Montessori Toy?

There’s no official list of “approved” Montessori toys; rather, a toy is considered Montessori-friendly if it supports the same educational philosophies as the Montessori approach. Here’s what to look for when choosing a Montessori-friendly toy for your baby:

  • Natural materials. The Montessori philosophy centers around surrounding a child with natural materials that they can learn about and explore. Does this mean absolutely no plastic allowed? Not quite. But for the most part, traditionally Montessori-friendly toys are made from natural materials like wood, metal, cotton, wool or even rock.
  • Simple and free of distractions. Translation: no batteries required. Think toys that will encourage your little one to engage in open-ended, imaginative play.
  • Focuses on a single skill. Toys that focus on a single skill or concept build the foundation for more advanced learning later on. A single-shape puzzle, for example, a rattle with a bell on it or a pounding bench are all single-skill toys that also teach more sophisticated concepts as your child grows and develops.
  • Realistic and purpose-driven. Maria Montessori favored toys and books that were rooted in reality, not pretend. This means if you’re choosing between a figurine that’s a cartoon-like image of, say, a cow, versus a realistic one, it’s always best to go with the one that’s based in the real world. She also observed that children love to mimic the world around them, so anything that can help your little one feel like a true part of the “grown-up” world is encouraged.

There’s one other thing to remember when choosing Montessori-friendly toys for your baby: less is more. Instead of stocking your little one’s playroom with tons of toys, choose only a few. Focus on toys that will go the distance and that are appropriate for whatever developmental stage your little one is in at the moment. Fewer toys will enable your baby to focus more on the task at hand—and there’ll be less for you to clean up at the end of a long day.

Babylist Picks for the Best Montessori Toys for Babies

Grabbing Toy

This classic rattle and teether is a perfect first Montessori-inspired toy for your baby. Thanks to its light weight and unique shape, it’s easy for even the tiniest hands to grab onto and explore. The gentle rattle noise and the squishy structure make for the perfect first sensory learning experience. And it’s made from natural rubberwood, so you won’t have to worry about any toxic paints or chemicals getting into baby’s mouth.

Sensory Toy

Children, especially babies, love exploring their senses, and sensory play is encouraged within the Montessori method of learning. Each of these balls has a nubby surface that your baby will love to touch, taste and explore. The balls are also great for developing motor skills—you can bounce, roll and toss them around safely without worrying that your little one is going to get hurt.

Teething Toy

Wooden teethers are an ideal solution for tiny sore gums. This whimsical teether combines all-natural wood and hand-crocheted beads made from 100% cotton yarn. It’s easy for your baby to grab, and it can be washed with running water and mild soap when it starts to get icky. You can even customize the colors.

Board Book

The Montessori method recommends choosing children’s books that are based in reality, include interesting details and are appropriate for a child’s age and learning level. This board book more than fits the bill, featuring 100 simple first words along with corresponding photographs. The bright, realistic images will catch the attention of even the youngest readers, while older babies and young toddlers will love expanding their vocabulary with lots of new words.

Open-Ended Play

One of our favorite toys of all time, this heirloom-quality rainbow stacker may look simple, but there are so many ways your little one can play with it. From nesting to stacking to turning the arches into tunnels and hills, the open-ended, imaginative play possibilities are endless. It’s handcrafted and made from wood and non-toxic, water-based paints. (We’ll also add that it makes a fun and stylish addition to any nursery decor.)

Stacking Toy

Montessori toys should have a purpose, and stacking toys have several. Stacking toys help young children unlock the earliest of math concepts by introducing them to concepts like size, shape and sorting. This bright, colorful wooden rainbow stacker works for babies and right through to the toddler years.

Musical Instruments

We can’t promise this one won’t tempt you to get out your earplugs—but at least you know your baby will be learning something along the way. Musical toys are super fun for babies, and they also teach about cause and effect. We love that this one is made from (mostly) all natural materials and comes with six different instruments to explore.

Montessori-Friendly Toy Subscription

Subscription boxes eliminate decision fatigue and are a trend we are all in on, especially for new parents who are already overwhelmed with trying to keep a tiny new person alive and well. If you want a jumpstart on your little one’s first toy collection—or just need a guiding hand in figuring out what toys to buy and when—then you need to give the Lovery Play Kit subscription a try. Montessori-inspired and delivered right to your door, each kit includes two months of playthings just right for baby’s age along with a play guide. Just note that you’ll have to be located within the contiguous United States to sign up.

Puzzle

Montessori materials should strike a good balance for a young child; they should be challenging, but not overwhelming to a curious new learner. This wooden shape puzzle is the perfect introduction to problem solving for an older baby or younger toddler. Made from maple and cherry wood, the shapes are chunky and easy to grab. (And there aren’t too many of them.) This is also a great toy for building fine motor skills.

Blocks

A good set of wooden blocks is the ultimate grow-with-your-baby toy, not to mention super Montessori-friendly. Blocks encourage your little one to build, imagine, develop motor skills and even experiment with math and physics concepts. This sturdy set is made from natural wood and finished with non-toxic paint.

Hammer Toy

Montessori toys should isolate a single concept—in this case, hammering a ball through a hole. (And of course the fun of watching it roll out again.) But there’s a lot more going on here, from helping your little one build fine motor skills to teaching them about colors and cause and effect. We also love the simple, classic design and the natural wood materials.

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