Last updated: 04/15/2020

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Maria Montessori developed her famous educational method over a hundred years ago now, and it is still very much in fashion today. Since play is one of the activities that most encourage our children’s learning during their first years of life, why not integrate this renowned approach in it as well? This is why Montessori toys have become so popular.

We’re sure you have heard of this educational method before, but you may be wondering why these toys are so useful. It’s quite simple: they are designed to adapt to the growth of your child and help them have fun in a didactic way. What more could you ask for?

Key Facts

  • Montessori toys can now be found in many homes around the world. This is because they focus on promoting children’s development while being as fun as you’d expect a toy to be.
  • With these playthings, your children can be in contact with nature from their birth and experience the different stages of growth while having a great time.
  • You will have to evaluate a series of key aspects before choosing the right Montessori toy for your little one. These include the recommended age and educational objective of the toy, as well as its design and safety.

Our Selection: The Best Montessori Toys on the U.S. Market

We know just how difficult it can be to choose a new toy for your children! You always want to get what’s best for them, and there are so many options on the market that it can quickly turn into a real headache. In the following section, we have selected some of the best Montessori toys currently available out there to make your life easier.

Best Montessori Toy for Developing Creativity

This wooden rainbow by Lewo consists of seven different arched building blocks, each with one color of the rainbow. This set is ideal for children to start experimenting with shapes, colors, and natural materials. What’s more, these open-ended toys are exactly what you need if you want to foster your little one’s creativity and freethinking while providing endless hours of fun. This toy is designed for children aged 3 years and over.

Best Montessori Toy for Developing Logical Thinking

This wooden sphere puzzle, on the other hand, will allow your child to think in a more structured way and promote logical thinking. Inspired by burr puzzles, which have been around for at least a couple hundred years, it works by being taken apart. The child then has to assemble it, exercising brain-solving abilities and coordination. This challenging Montessori toy is recommended for kids aged 5 years and over.

Best Montessori Toy: Amazon’s Choice

This is one of the very first Montessori toys your little one will be able to experiment with since it is tailored to children between the ages of 8 and 18 months. It consists of a box with two holes through which your baby can put a wooden ball included in the set. This teaches a fundamental concept in the cognitive development of children: object permanence.

Most Versatile Montessori Toy

Last but not least, the Toddler Busy Board by Kenley is a patent-pending sensory board made up of a variety of ties, buckles, and buttons. It offers hands-on learning and exposes them to different textures, as well as increasing difficulty levels in opening the elements. This contributes to developing children’s motor skills and hand-eye coordination. This Montessori toy is recommended for toddlers aged 3 years and above.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Montessori Toys

It’s completely normal for parents to have a thousand doubts before they introduce a new toy into their children’s lives, so don’t worry if that’s how you feel. In the following section, we have answered the most frequently asked questions regarding Montessori toys. That way, you can buy one for your little one in total confidence!

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Montessori toys are generally made of wood, glass, or cotton.
(Source: Oksana Kuzmina: 43203267/ 123rf.com)

What are Montessori toys exactly?

These educational playthings are explicitly created to promote child development while still being fun. Maria Montessori herself used her experience as an educator to design them. All of them are made from natural elements such as wood, cotton, or glass. They are basically fun toys that also stimulate learning.

The fundamental difference with most other products on the market is that they do not have plastic, lights, or electronic movements. This is because these toys leave less room for imagination. The simple and natural design of Montessori materials encourages exploration and experimenting. The less a toy does, the more the child will do.

What are the principles of the Montessori method?

This pedagogy is based on numerous theories surrounding the child’s mind and the way it develops and learns. We won’t go into great detail, but it is interesting for you to have an idea of what the basic educational principles are. We have summed them up in the following table:

Principles of the Montessori method
Adapting the learning environment Maria found it fundamental to prepare the space in which the child plays and learns based on their age. It had to contain the right materials, be clean and tidy, attractive, and with natural elements.
Learning through discovery This is based on the fact that people of all ages learn best through direct contact, practice, experience, and self-discovery.
Having adequate and specific materials The materials were of vital importance since she designed the toys herself. They are natural, often wooden toys with pigments.
Free choice Children can choose to play with any material or game.
Collaborative play The relationship between peers is essential, especially when playing and learning.
Uninterrupted time slots This promotes concentration and improves self-learning.
Classrooms by age ranges This depends on the needs of each period.
Role of the teacher They must be guides and supervisors – never obstacle – for children.

What kinds of Montessori toys are there?

This is another very common question among parents looking for a new product for their children, and it goes a step further when talking about Montessori toys. This is because the type you choose will determine which ability your child will develop while playing with it:

Type of toy Learning
Unstructured toys Creativity and divergent thinking
Artistic expression toys Self-expression and creativity
Scientific research toys Understanding mutual relationships
Real-life toys Coordination and skill in different tasks
Logic-oriented toys Fine motor skills, visual acuity, and association
Musical toys Critical thinking, cognitive and language skills
Fine motor toys Visual and hand coordination
Outdoor toys Physical activity and contact with nature
Board games Memory, intellectual and emotional development
Sensory toys Stimulation of the senses
Symbolic games Expression, socialization, and empathy

As you can see, there is a wide range of Montessori toys with great benefits for your child. You can naturally find various models tailored to each age range and stage of development within each type. That way, these toys can grow with your children and allow them to learn while having fun.

What are the required characteristics of a Montessori toy?

The recent popularity of these products has led many manufacturers to advertise theirs as Montessori toys, although they don’t necessarily meet specific key criteria. This has naturally led to increasing concern among parents, and we want you to know which characteristics these toys should present. We have listed them for you below:

  • They should be easy to handle and promote manipulation. Children must be able to experiment, and therefore learn, with the toys.
  • They are naturally entertaining, but also didactic so that our little ones have fun. That way, they will learn more efficiently.
  • Montessori toys are fundamentally based on trial and error, which means that constant repetition encourages learning.
  • They must be made from child-friendly materials (wood, metal, or glass).
  • They should adapt perfectly to each stage of development through which the child is going and contribute to their psychic and social growth.

You might think that these five criteria are quite obvious, but the reality is that the majority of the toys our children play with won’t offer any of them. Stop for a second and analyze each product, and you will quickly notice whether or not it is indeed a Montessori toy.

From what age can Montessori toys be used?

Toy manufacturers always indicate an age range for each one of their products, and we encourage you to respect this recommendation. If your little one uses a toy designed for younger children, they risk getting bored and losing interest in it. If they are too young, on the other hand, they may not understand and will become frustrated.

This is why it is essential that you stick to these indications. If you have decided that you want your child to start playing with Montessori toys from birth, don’t worry! There are models for everyone. These toys are particularly exciting and constructive because your kid can grow with them.

Can children with disabilities have Montessori toys?

Of course! The Montessori method integrates a wide variety of materials aimed at children with mental, visual, hearing, and motor disabilities, as well as autism, among others. This means that they favor the inclusion of all children so that they can play together.

These toys are perfectly adapted to every child’s needs and, therefore, usable by anyone. Ultimately, the most important thing is that the child feels comfortable with the toy, enjoys it, and grows with it.

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The Montessori method can be applied from the moment our child is born.
(Source: Oksana Kuzmina: 122596785/ 123rf.com)

How do I get the most out of Montessori toys?

  • Always explain the toy – its purpose and operation – to the child before they start using it.
  • In the beginning, play with your child to create interest, before letting them discover the toy on their own.
  • The shelves on which the Montessori toys are placed must be within reach. That way, children can take them to play any time they want.

Knowledge, interest, and autonomy are the three pillars necessary for your child to benefit from all the advantages that Montessori toys have to offer. If little ones know how to use these toys and imitate their parents after having seen them play, they will learn on their own without any problem.

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The Montessori method was originally developed for use in schools, but it is now increasingly popular in homes.
(Source: Serghei Zadvornii: 44061204/ 123rf.com)

Are there standards for Montessori toys?

While this isn’t actually exclusive to Montessori toys, any children’s toy has to comply with a series of regulations in order to be completely safe. In this specific case, the international standard on toy safety is the UNE-EN 71-8:2019. In fact, it is more specifically tailored to activity games for domestic use.

Buyer’s Guide

The moment of truth has arrived, and you will now be faced with dozens of Montessori toys from which you have to pick the one you feel is most suitable for your child. Luckily for you, there are still various criteria that you can take into account to help you make the right decision. We have detailed them in the section below:

Age

As we discussed earlier, each toy is suitable for a certain age. You should follow these recommendations, as they will help your child make the most of the toy. If they are too old for it, they will quickly end up bored. Each age range has its own educational and learning needs, and it is fundamental that you stick to them.

If this is one of the very first aspects that you have to evaluate, make sure that the age recommendation is in accordance with current regulations (UNE-EN 71-8:1995) regarding the graphic symbol for age warning labeling. This is the best way for you to know that you have chosen an adequate toy.

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The simple and natural design of Montessori materials encourages exploration and practice.
(Source: Mark Bowden: 79573688/ 123rf.com)

Educational Goal

In addition to being entertaining for children, each Montessori toy tackles a specific need and promotes an area of development. They can be designed for reasoning, mathematical, artistic, language, or physical concepts. That is why it is so vital that you think about the educational goal you want before choosing the toy.

Experts recommend having several toys that promote the development of different capacities and abilities at the same time. As we all know, children tend to have a fairly short concentration span on the same item, and they must have some variety in their toys.

Materials

They are another fundamental aspect of the Montessori methodology. The manufacturing materials should come from the natural environment, be reusable and eco-friendly. This means that you will be getting rid of anything with plastic and electronic elements such as batteries.

The fact that the materials comply with these characteristics isn’t only beneficial for your child’s health and the environment. It also promotes a more traditional way of playing, far from the screens to which the majority of children are now accustomed. In fact, it may also contribute to their ecological awareness.

Design

Keep in mind that play remains at the very center of the Montessori method, which is why you need the toy you buy to provide hours of fun to your little one. In that regard, you have to pay attention to the design of the model you choose. It will have to be attractive to the child; bright colors, different textures, and a variety of shapes are always a great bet.

The more exciting your children find the toy, the more time they will want to spend playing with it. Remember that free and independent play is also crucial in this methodology, so you should opt for a product whose design requires little assembling or adult assistance to enjoy.

Safety

Any toy you buy should be completely safe for your children. To start with, the quality of the manufacturing materials, as well as their finish, should be adequate. Montessori toys feature child-friendly natural elements and non-toxic pigments designed specifically for use by our little ones.

The toy you buy must naturally comply with the appropriate regulations and meet all safety standards. This is the last criterion we discuss, but it is far from being the least important; the quality of play and the physical integrity of your child depends on this.

Summary

We all know that children learn as they play. Products like Montessori toys are specifically designed to blend play and didactics in a way that piques the interest of little ones. This main principle is what makes these toys so popular today.

More and more parents are turning to Montessori toys because of the numerous benefits they offer children from their first months of life onward. Made from natural materials, they promote different areas of learning while providing endless fun to your little one!

Did you find our guide on Montessori toys helpful? If so, feel free to share it on your social media. You can also leave us a comment in the section below!

(Source of featured image: Famveldman: 60416751/ 123rf.com)

Why you can trust me?

William Dixon Professional Educator
William loves kids of all ages and is a professional educator. During his professional career he has learned a lot about education and toys. Now he loves to blog about it and hopes to help young parents. It is important to Wiliam that he stays up to date, therefore he regularly informs himself about current topics in the field of education.