13 Best Montessori Toys for Babies All Ages 2021
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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 a 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 Toys?
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 of 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.
High contrast Montessori ball for brain eye connection
The soft Montessori ball is thoughtfully designed to be easy for babies to grasp and move. Moving a ball from one hand to the other is an important skill that your baby will develop — one that requires dexterity and enhanced coordination across his body. We recommend organic cotton for safe mouthing.
Ideas for play:
- Practice eye tracking with babies 0 – 8 weeks by slowly moving the high contrast ball in front of your baby’s view.
- During tummy time, have your baby reach for, grasp, grip, squeeze, and mouth the ball.
- Roll the ball back and forth in front of him to begin learning about how spheres move.
- At the end of month 6, your baby may be able to find objects that you partially hide under a blanket, pillow, or furniture. You can start to play hide-and-seek with the ball.
Classic wood rattle for tracking sounds Montessori Toys
Sometime in month 4, your baby will start to look for and track the sources of sounds he hears. He’ll recognize the sound of his rattle, for instance, even when there are other noises in the background. Understanding that objects (and people!) can make sounds is an early lesson in cause and effect. This classic rattle is made with sustainably harvested wood and safe non-toxic water-based paint.
Ideas for play:
- Shake the rattle near your baby’s face; keep rattling while moving it past his eyes until he notices the rattle’s making a sound and starts tracking the sound with his eyes.
- For an early lesson in math shake the rattle in a rhythm—e.g., Shake, shake, pause; shake, shake, pause—and then vary the pattern. He’ll soon be able to tell the difference between the number of shakes he’s hearing.
- Help your baby shake the rattle and learn that two shakes feels different from three—this helps him start building associations between numbers, sounds, and movement.
Hand-to-hand transfer discs for both sides of the brain
Passing an object between two hands is a step baby work toward for months—getting it right involves coordination across the center of his body. Skilled hand-to-hand transfer won’t happen until sometime between months 5 and 7. It’s the basis for later motions such as dressing himself, eating with utensils, holding crayons, and running. These joined discs are a Montessori classic: they help babies practice manipulating an object in one hand and eventually passing it to the other.
Ideas for play:
- At first, your baby may grasp other things (like rings or rattles) while struggling with the discs, since holding them requires him to build up new fine motor skills.
- Holding the discs by month 4 is a major accomplishment for any baby—don’t worry if it takes some practice!
Rolling bell to encourage rolling and scooting Montessori Toys
When your baby plays with this classic Montessori rolling bell, he discovers new ways to coordinate his senses: the feel of the wood when he’s grasping it, the sound it makes when you or he rolls or shakes it, and how it moves when it’s rolling along.
Ideas for play:
- Roll the bell just out of reach during tummy time to encourage him to reach and scoot.
- Use the bell to encourage him to roll over.
- Lay him on his back and place the bell just out of reach.
- Make the bell ring.
- Watch as he pulls his legs up and starts to roll over to the side where the noise just came from—and eventually all the way over onto his belly.
Classic first puzzle for fine motor and problem-solving Montessori Toys
The first circle puzzle helps your baby develop fine motor and problem-solving skills—his hands and eyes work together when he removes the puzzle piece. He’s also working on shape recognition at the same time. The circle shape is the best for first learners. We love this puzzle because it is made with sustainably harvested wood and has a baby friend inside.
Ideas for play:
- Long before your baby learns how to put the puzzle piece in, he can pull it out.
- Have your baby practice grasping the knob and pulling the piece out and then show him how it fits back in.
- Let him explore the two parts of the puzzle by mouthing them and banging them together—banging objects together requires your baby to use both sides of the body at once, which is a very important skill.
- You can cut out and adhere pictures of family members or pets for a surprise inside.
Montessori cup to promote speech development
Offering real-world glasses, cups, and pitchers to babies is a long-standing Montessori tradition. Speech pathologists agree – they prefer babies to use open cups when possible, as they help babies build the muscles in the mouth that are used to form sounds (and also lessen drooling).
Ideas for play:
- Introduce the cup to your baby once he’s eating finger foods.
- Start with water, and model drinking from the cup for your baby.
- At first, your baby may just pour the water out, or drop the cup on the floor—he’s learning about pouring, containing, and gravity by doing this (remember that the next time he drops something messy!).
- Keep introducing the cup with a small amount of water at mealtimes and eventually he will begin to enjoy drinking from it.
The object permanence box – learning out of sight doesn’t mean gone forever Montessori Toys
Between months 6 and 9, your baby can remember objects from one appearance to the next. A ball dropped inside the box is only gone for a moment—which helps your baby learn that when objects can’t be seen, it doesn’t mean they’re necessarily gone forever. This concept is called ‘object permanence’.
Ideas for play:
- First, show your baby how the box works by holding the ball and then dropping it through the hole.
- Help him try—if the ball misses the hole, see if he reaches to try to get it.
- Resist getting the ball for him immediately—he will develop his gross motor strength by reaching across his body while sitting.
- He’s practicing grasping and releasing on purpose as he tries to drop the ball in the box (a skill he will continue to develop throughout his first year).
- If your baby doesn’t seem interested at first, try again later— babies learn to love the box at different times.
Treasure basket for new real world discoveries
This Montessori classic encourages your baby to explore and make new discoveries independently. Your baby craves touching, handling, and mouthing new and different things (especially objects from real life). You’ll soon find out that there’s an endless stream of objects inside your home and outdoors that are often more interesting to him than actual toys.
Ideas for play:
- Place a few everyday objects in the basket
- Change the objects regularly to keep the basket interesting for your baby
- Think about categorizing types of objects—round things, square things, fuzzy things, things that jingle—to help him build associations
- Feathers, rocks (large enough that she can’t fit them in his mouth), pine cones, seashells
- Ribbons, pieces of fabric, large buttons
- A baby toothbrush, a makeup brush, a clean paint brush
- All sorts of balls! We especially love natural wool felt ones
- Note: Be sure to watch your baby so that small or crushable items are not mouthed. Also, pay attention when babies are around objects with handles, e.g., utensils such as whisks, brushes, and wooden spoons
Montessori Toys Egg cup for building concentration and coordination
The wood cup and egg will help your baby learn to use both sides of his body at the same time—a skill that’s important for things like getting dressed. He needs lots and lots of practice using both hands at once to build the speed of communication between his brain’s hemispheres. As simple as it is, the egg cup is physically fascinating to babies.
Ideas for play:
- In the beginning, your baby will probably just enjoy banging the egg and cup together—this is also a way to use both sides of the body at once!
- See if he can dump the egg out of the cup at first— eventually he’ll work out how to put the egg in.
- Show your baby how to set the egg in the cup and then take it out again.
- Have your baby hold the egg in one hand, and the cup in the other, and encourage him to put them together.
- Have him try to repeat your action—if he doesn’t, help guide his hands while standing or sitting behind him.
Pincer puzzle for fine motor skills Montessori Toys
Between months 10 and 12, your baby learns to grasp small objects with his thumb and index finger—this is called the pincer grasp. This puzzle is designed to help him practice and reinforce this motion.
Ideas for play:
- Once you notice your baby trying to pick up small objects with two fingers like puffs or cereal, offer him the pincer puzzle.
- Guide his hand and explain how to remove the wood cylinder from the block, and how to put in back in.
Once he’s playing with the puzzle confidently, set the block further away from the cylinder as a new challenge—one that works gross and fine motor skills at the same time.
Sliding top box for problem solving and hand and finger strength
While your baby plays with the sliding top box, he’s building hand and finger strength as well as developing his hand-eye coordination. He’s also working on problem-solving skills—figuring out how to move the lid to find the ball inside.
Is Montessori Toys good for infants?
A Montessori environment for very young children gives your infant or toddler the freedom to safely explore and learn through discovery. The setting is calm, inviting, and homelike, with soft rugs, a rocking chair, books arrayed on low shelves, and toys in baskets.
What are Montessori toys?
A Montessori toy is one that stimulates learning by encouraging kids to experiment. It should be a toy that they can hold and touch, as learning to manipulate objects is key in helping children develop their fine motor skills. … As an example, a box of Legos could be considered a Montessori toy.
Are Montessori toys better?
Toys made of wood, wool, cotton, metal, ceramic, and even rock are Montessori staples since they connect children to nature and are generally safer to mouth. Plus, “different textures, temperatures, and weights help children refine their senses and give them more to learn about when holding a toy,” Holm says.
When should babies start playing with toys?
Age-appropriate toys for babies include mobiles, rattles, busy boxes, and anything they can begin to grasp, swipe at, pull, kick, squeeze, or shake. 6-8 months: Older babies can hold small toys. They are learning about cause and effect and they will repeat activities over and over in order to master them.
Why are Montessori toys different?
Montessori toys are made of natural materials
Wood provides a variety of textures. And both metal and wood have an interesting “taste” for the baby. Plastic, on the other hand, is always the same temperature, and either has no taste, or has an artificial feel in their mouths.
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