As my little guy completes his first year Earth-side and we move onto the toddler chapter, I’m reflecting on how important toys were for his development as a baby.
With their emphasis on sensory exploration, fine motor skills, and cognitive development, Montessori toys have gained immense popularity among parents seeking enriching experiences for their little ones, myself included.
Some people say babies don’t need toys, but I was amazed at seeing his tactile, sensory, and motor development grow as he explored his.
Here’s everything we learned and loved when it came to Montessori toys for our baby:
The Idea Behind Montessori
The Montessori method is an educational approach that emphasizes independence, freedom within limits, and hands-on learning. This approach believes in treating children as active participants in their own learning process, fostering a sense of responsibility and self-discipline.
The creator, Maria Montessori, was an Italian physician and educator who opened the first Montessori school in 1907. She was a pioneer in both education and women’s rights. I encourage reading her story – it only made me love this method more.
What is a Montessori Toy?
In the realm of Montessori toys, open-ended play takes center stage. These toys invite your baby to explore their imagination, experiment, and learn.
Babies possess an innate sense of wonder and an insatiable desire to discover the world around them. Montessori toys are meant to foster this, aligning with the following key principles:
- Purposeful and Engaging: Montessori toys should have a clear purpose and engage the child’s senses and curiosity. They should encourage active exploration, discovery, and problem-solving.
- Natural and Sustainable Materials: Montessori toys often prioritize natural and sustainable materials like wood, fabric, and metal. These materials provide a tactile experience, connect children with the natural world, and are safe for exploration. You’re unlikely to see a lot of plastic and busy patterns and super bright, overwhelming colors.
- Simple and Open-Ended: Toys that allow for open-ended play and multiple uses are highly valued in Montessori. They stimulate imagination, creativity, and problem-solving skills, allowing children to explore and express themselves freely.
- Self-Correcting and Developmentally Appropriate: Montessori toys are often designed to be self-correcting, allowing children to learn from their mistakes independently. They should be tailored to the child’s developmental stage, providing appropriate challenges and opportunities for growth.
- Real-Life Connections: Montessori toys often mimic real-life objects and activities. They allow children to engage in purposeful play that reflects the world around them, fostering practical life skills and a sense of autonomy.
- Beauty and Order: Montessori environments, including toys, prioritize beauty and order. Toys with aesthetically pleasing designs and organized arrangements create a calm and inviting space for children to explore and learn.
- Quality Over Quantity: Montessori advocates for a curated collection of high-quality toys rather than an overwhelming abundance of options. Having a limited selection of toys encourages focused engagement, reduces overwhelm, and promotes appreciation for the materials at hand.
What you won’t see are plastic toys that make loud, repetitive sounds from pushing buttons. These can be overstimulating and do not encourage exploration or open-ended play as much as they encourage just pushing a button. And personally, I can’t stand hearing them over and over as a parent!
Baby Montessori Toys We Love
These are our tried and true favorites:
The Lovevery Play Gym is a thoughtfully designed Montessori-inspired play gym that offers a wealth of sensory experiences for babies. When my baby was a newborn, he loved looking at the contrast cards that fasten to the top. As he got older, he would bat at the contrast balls and eventually, looked at himself in the mirror during tummy time and played with the different textures on the edge of the mat.
It has adjustable features that allow for fastening different toys, especially from the play kits, as your baby develops. We used it every day until my son was crawling, at which point the whole floor became his oyster and we turned it into a ‘tent’. It was perfect for tummy time, and a reliable spot to keep him occupied before he was mobile, and now it’s a little hangout. This was one of my most useful baby registry gifts by far! You can get it here.
Read Why We Use Lovevery (Every Day)
The play kits take the research out of Montessori toys. Here’s how.
Our son LOVES his little piano. He gets excited every time he comes across it while crawling, always stopping to play it, or use it to practice standing, of course.
Although he’s no Mozart (yet), the banging on the keys is so much easier on me than repetitive electronic toys, with jingles that end up in my head. It encourages him to create new and different sounds as he plays, and will eventually teach him that different keys make different sounds. It’s a toy that will be useful for a long while to come.
The spinning drum is a captivating Montessori toy that stimulates auditory and visual senses. As little fingers rotate the drum, they are rewarded with delightful sounds and colorful patterns. This was perfect for our son right around 5 months, and he only got better spinning it with it in time.
This came in our Lovevery Sensor Playkit. If you’re a busy parent, I HIGHLY recommend the toy subscription. They send a box that is perfect for your baby’s development every couple of months, which majorly took the guesswork out of toys for me.
They also sent things like a small cup that I probably wouldn’t have trained him to drink out of so early, or a tiny book to entertain him while changing diapers. They think of so many things that wouldn’t have even occurred to me, but that have been super helpful. It takes away some mental load, and we’ll continue with the subscription into his toddler years! Read my Lovevery full review here.
Object Permanence Box
The Montessori object permanence box teaches babies that objects continue to exist even when out of sight. This wooden box typically comes with a small ball or object that can be placed inside and retrieved through a hole. Our Lovevery play kit subscription came with object permanence boxes that started out very simple, then had sliding tops and lids that could open and close. Here’s an option if you only want to buy the box, as well.
Nesting cups are a classic Montessori toy that provides opportunities for open-ended play. These sets of cups, often made from durable and non-toxic materials like plastic or silicone, can be stacked, nested, and used for pouring and filling. The cups in the Inspector play kit also have holes in the bottom in various patterns and amounts, making them excellent pool or bath toys.
Object Fitting Puzzles
Montessori object fitting puzzles are engaging and educational toys that enhance fine motor skills and cognitive development. These puzzles feature chunky pieces in various shapes that fit into corresponding cutouts. They encourage problem-solving and hand-eye coordination.
Busy Board or Busy House
A busy board, also known as a sensory board, is a hands-on Montessori toy designed to engage young children with a variety of activities. These boards feature a range of sensory elements like buttons, zippers, latches, and switches, promoting fine motor skills, problem-solving, and concentration. They can vary widely in terms of size and quality. Etsy can be a good place to find personalized and customized boards and houses.
We have also enjoyed a colorful scarf from one of the playkits that was sheer enough to see through. I would throw it over my baby’s head or my own and let him pull it off. It’s been one of his favorite games since he was 9 months old, and is so easy to put into a carry-on when traveling.
I will say, even with the intention of not having too many toys, babies develop so quickly that one toy that is awesome might be a distant memory a few weeks later. Mercari can be a great place to look for secondhand toys, as can Facebook Marketplace, or to sell the toys once you’re done. The nice thing about Montessori toys that are built out of wood and other organic materials is they’re often built to last, and can be enjoyed by many babies.
We’re absolutely sold on Montessori toys, and will continue the subscription. It’s fun for all of us when it’s new toy time, and I know I’ll love watching him learn and grow with them as a toddler, too.
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