Whether you’re a new parent or several kids deep, you may well have heard of Montessori. As an alternative way of educating children that has been present in the USA since 1912, it moves away from the curriculum to promote more independence.
Prioritizing experimentation and imagination, toys that are made with Montessori values in mind tend to be far more educational, as well as enabling your bundles of joy to work on their fine motor skills and other developmental milestones.
So... what exactly is a Montessori toy, and how do you know if it’s even a good one?
Well, we’ve put together a list of five fantastic options, each praised by parents and kids alike as an excellent example of educational playtime stimulus.
To learn more about the values that comprise Montessori, and the characteristics of Montessori toys you should be looking for, just check out our Buyer’s Guide. We’ve done all of the research for you, and it’s all laid out clearly and concisely, right here.
However, if you find you still have a question or two after that, don’t despair. There’s also a set of FAQs right at the end. Composed of the most frequently asked queries from your fellow customers, you may well find what you’re looking for too.
Time Ticking Away? Here’s Our Top Pick:
OUR TOP PICK
Perfectly encompassing all of the key characteristics to create a perfect Montessori toy, these Cylinder Blocks from Giggles are ideal for color recognition development, as well as enhancing those all important fine motor skills. It’s easily our number one!
Unlike competing versions, these blocks have sockets AND color shapes, for even more versatile learning.
They also come with bonus cards to pair with the knobless cylinder, printed on high-quality stock paper for a long-lasting, childproof finish.
In such a wide variety of shapes and sizes, there are all sorts of weights, textures and feelings to explore, which is one of the key factors in Montessori toys.
Simplistic, without being boring, it should hold a child’s attention for hours on end.
Every edge is smooth and safe for use by your child or toddler, as well as being softer and lighter in weight than traditional wooden toys. This ensures total safety during playtime, and completely eradicates any chance of potential injury.
If you’re looking for a toy that works to build on visual assessment and interpretation skills, without being too obvious in its definition as an “educational” toy, this is absolutely the one to go for.
Your child will never know they’re learning, too!
- Well crafted, with smooth edges and lighter weights for younger users
- Better than competing versions - multiple cylinder blocks AND cards
- Great for enhancing fine motor and visual assessment skills
- Lifetime warranty for total peace of mind
- Multiple small parts - be aware these may be a choking hazard
A classic in the world of Montessori toys from a brand that cares, this take on the Object Permanence box from Giggles also comes with a wooden rainbow stacker, offering you the incredible value of two toys in one purchase!
Once you’ve shown your child how the box works, they’ll be able to explore it over and over again with no need to worry about supervision; with non-toxic acrylic paint made from large, solid wood, there’s no potential for harm here.
Each being small and easily tidied away neatly, they won’t take up too much space in your perfectly organized, child-friendly shelves.
Both are also eye catching, and will certainly draw the attention of children with ease thanks to their bold, bright colors.
Stimulating their sensory skills, the sturdy, well made stacker is also great for learning about colors, sizes and orders, made from sturdy wood for a Montessori-style take on the classic children’s toy that stays away from plastic.
Offering durable, well-made toys with a lifetime warranty, you can be sure that Giggles have the best interests of their customers and more importantly, their children, at heart.
That’s why we’ve featured so many of their products!
- Two for the price of one - save on money AND space!
- Neat and easy to store
- Stimulates fine motor and sensory skills simultaneously
- Vivid colors that easily catch children's attention
- Aimed at a younger audience - doesn’t have as long a lifespan as some other products available
Designed by a Montessori teacher, the Screwdriver Board and Hammer set from Giggles is perfect for teaching practical and fine motor skills.
With simplicity at its core, this is a toy that will occupy for hours, despite being deceptively plain!
Featuring everything required for learning to add and remove various screws, nuts and bolts, including a wrench, screwdriver and Allen key, it’s heavily based in real world scenarios. However, all of the tools are tot-sized and perfect for little hands.
You’ll also find a separate set of little wooden pegs, a mallet and some clay, to practise hammering in nails!
There’s a section for each individual part of the kit, so nothing can get easily lost or quickly messed up when boredom strikes.
All of the pieces have been produced using non-toxic, child friendly materials - be aware, however, that there are several small parts. As such, this toy should only be used under full supervision, until kids can be trusted to play safely without parents.
Thanks to their excellent lifetime warranty, if you have any problems, you’ll be able to contact Giggles directly.
Specifically designed to suit Montessori style learning, all of their products have been made and tested for complete customer satisfaction.
- Real-world tasks to teach real-world skills - learn while you play
- Small, child-sized tools that are perfect mini replicas of the real thing!
- Designed to be easily stored and tidied away without losing any pieces
- Great for kids of different ages to play with together
- Many small parts - could be a choking hazard with younger children
Winner of the 2018 Favorite First Musical Toy award from Cribsie, and with almost 10,000 five star reviews, Habe’s Pound And Tap Bench was the clear choice for our number one Montessori toy. It’s absolutely brilliant!
Both a ball-in-hole style activity and a fully functional wooden xylophone, this not only develops fine motor skills like hand eye coordination, but also encourages musicality. Got a budding Bach at home? There’s only one way to find out.
Non-toxic and made from water based paints, you can get a vibrant rainbow model or a muted red and gold version, but both feature several kinds of wood for your child to touch, smell and interact with.
It’s also very durable, to withstand those pounds!
As it’s a dual purpose toy, it’s certainly appropriate for the Montessori less-is-more approach, giving your child multiple activities to work through.
You could also teach them a few simple musical tunes to follow, which is a great way to bond together.
It’s appropriate for ages one to three, though a couple of months before their first birthday certainly wouldn’t hurt!
Sure, it’s a little pricier than your average baby toy, but it’s definitely worth it for its educational value.
- Two toys in one - clear up some clutter!
- Made from various woods with different textures
- Encourages fine motor skills and musical exploration at a young age
- Durable and completely non-toxic
- According to reviews, balls can easily roll away and get stuck!
Offering over 100 wooden blocks and more than 24 designs to choose from, there are hundreds of possibilities with this Tangram Puzzle Set from 3 Bees & Me, sure to follow your kids right the way through pre-school into second grade!
Unlike other competing products, each puzzle card is full sized, meaning your child can begin by matching the blocks up to the illustrations and eventually progress to memorising and recreating, or even building their own designs!
With a variety of options from triangles and trapezoids to parallelograms and hexagons, there are many new shapes to learn, in a wide variety of colors. Increase their vocabulary on numerous characteristics whilst they play.
Don’t worry about making a mess or losing the smaller parts, as the handy storage bag provided will keep everything safe and secure when not in use.
Whether playing together or working solo, it’s an educational toy that the whole family can enjoy.
Perfectly durable and able to withstand generations of playtime, these wooden blocks are built to last.
Made from 100% BPA and phthalate free materials and lead-free water based paints, they’re also non toxic and won’t harm chewers.
- Full-size, full color pattern cards in 24 different designs
- Multiple shapes with 130 individual pieces to utilize
- Lead-free, non toxic paint on durable wood
- Long lasting - from age 3 right up to 9!
- A couple of customer reviews suggest that in rare cases, blocks can arrive glued together
Best Montessori Toys Buying Guide
What Is Montessori?
Developed by physician Maria Montessori, this system is a method of education for children, which suggests viewing them as being both naturally eager to learn and able to initiate their own learning under the right conditions and guidance.
She declared that there are four distinctive ages or ‘planes’ for human development, which are: birth to 6 years old, 6-12, 12-18 and 18-24 respectively. According to her research, each period needs specific educational approaches and learning styles.
As the process is not trademarked, there are many different programs and practices purported as Montessori. However, the American Montessori Society cites the following rules as being imperative to enacting their scheme:
- Considerably longer periods of uninterrupted work, ideally at least three hours
- Classrooms with multiple age groups (e.g 0-3, 6-9, 9-12, 12-15 etc)
- A certain degree of freedom of movement and activity
- Teacher/educators specially trained in observation of children’s innate abilities, talents, interests and tendencies
- Allowing students to choose their own activities from predetermined choices
- ‘Discovery’ model of learning wherein students can pick up new skills and figure out concepts themselves rather than being instructed
- Learning environment to be sized appropriately for children, easily accessible and thoughtfully organized by subject area
- Instructive materials should be simplistic and made from natural materials like wood as opposed to plastic
In terms of creating an environment of work or play that follows Montessori principles, this prepared area should be organized according to the following:
- Nature featured predominantly both inside and outside
- Order and organization, not mess and disarray
- Sorted and designed so that a child may move and access items independently
- Clean, harmonious, attractive space with room to maneuver
- Limited materials present - only items that support and facilitate education
How To Choose A Montessori Toy - Things To Consider:
Rather than encouraging the more creative side of their imagination, Montessori toys should instead help kids to understand real world situations.
Books, for instance, should be realistic - a tiger in the jungle, living wild, not one who comes for tea!
Likewise, any toys that make strange discordant sounds instead of, say, realistic animal noises, should be avoided. You want their toys to encourage exploration in a logical sense, rather than a random one.
Unless you’ve already had a head start in decluttering, it’s likely your child’s toy chest is full of brightly colored plastic toys with a whole bunch of (lets face it, very annoying) bells and whistles. These are not Montessori friendly.
Think about those puzzles with blocks in different shapes and a matching hole for them to slot into - those encourage a kid to intuitively figure out which block goes where.
Add a bunch of flashing lights or animations and you’re asking for distraction.
Where plastic is very much a synthetic material that doesn’t change in temperature, always the same texture, metal for instance will initially be cold at their touch, warming up the longer it is kept in their grasp.
Similarly, wood can offer a wide range of textures depending on which is used, and natural materials will offer a distinctive weight.
Plastic toys tend to be lightweight no matter if they are differently sized, therefore uninteresting to lift up and put down.
This is more obvious than the above, but ensuring the toy you select is appropriate for your child’s age bracket is imperative.
Too young for them and they’ll become bored very quickly, too old and they’ll get frustrated when it proves too difficult.
Either outcome results in a rejection of the toy - even if you think “they’ll grow into it,” even just one boring experience during play could prevent your child from naturally picking it out to use in the future.
Less Is More
Commercials for toys would have you believe that bigger is better - of course they would say that, given their ads are aimed at kids!
Too much choice can very quickly overwhelm a child, causing them to move between options at a quicker pace.
As a result, they will never concentrate properly on a given toy, completing the tasks it sets out and enjoying the satisfaction of being done.
Three or four highly engaging toys are far better to have than ten to twenty useless plastic ones!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Montessori religious?
No, it is actually a secular approach to education and child rearing.
Rather than teach one specific religion (or any) as the one to believe in, children are taught to respect and appreciate many different religions and cultures.
Rather than enforce a belief system, they are discussed sociologically and in relation to their given cultures. This is intended to teach respect towards all others, which is one of the most important characteristics when following Montessori ideals.
Why are there no plastic toys in Montessori?
Plastic toys are considered to be a help rather than a hindrance in a Montessori style program.
This is primarily because they rarely encourage real-life investigations, but also because as a material, it is usually the same weight and texture.
By sticking to natural materials, it is believed that a child’s curiosity is more easily piqued, given they have a different effect on the five senses. Offering more stimulation and encouraging completion of one task, they keep a hold on attention.
Are stuffed animals Montessori?
More often than not, stuffies are made from manufactured synthetic materials, stepping away from the natural ones recommended by Montessori.
Likewise, they tend to encourage more creative play, as opposed to logical exploration.
On the other hand, they can prove a great comfort to young children, so that doesn’t mean you have to purge your home of every single one.
A couple of stuffed animals in the toy chest definitely won’t counteract your Montessori endeavors!
Similarly, if you can, try to opt for stuffed animals that replicate real life creatures, rather than mythical or anthropomorphic ones. This adheres to the Montessori principle that toys should be as realistic and true to life as possible.