Montessori-Inspired Toys That Grow With Your Child
Looking for toys that provide the right level of challenge and opportunity for creativity to keep children engaged for years? Us too! In this article Montessori teacher and writer, Christina Clemer, chats about what to look for in Montessori-inspired toys and shares her favorite picks from The Tot.
We’ve all done it…
We’ve found a toy we just know our child will love, only to watch them quickly tire of the novelty and return to their old favorites.
Regardless of flashing lights, silly noises and literal bells and whistles, it can actually be quite hard to tell which toys will only be good for 30 minutes of fun and which will spark creativity and lead to hours of independent play for years to come.
As an early learning educator who has had a lot of experience with a wide range of Montessori-inspired toys, I like to look for ones that grow with your child. While they may seem straightforward and plain, they actually offer a whole lot more than meets the eye!
Need a little bit of guidance understanding Montessori-inspired toys? In this article, I’ll go over:
- Questions to ask when considering a toy
- The best Montessori toys for early learning
- Chemicals to avoid in kids toys
Scroll down to learn more!
Questions to ask when considering a toy
In an effort to save your toy chest (and the earth’s landfills) from overflowing, consider the following questions about every toy you’re thinking of purchasing:
- Does the toy delight and entice the child to play and explore?
- Is it made using high-quality materials and craftsmanship?
- Does it allow for self-directed play with the opportunity for problem solving and self-correction?
- Does it allow for creative and open-ended play?
- Does it allow the child to engage in a meaningful activity?
- Does it present opportunities for repetition, refinement and reflection?
The more you answer yes, the better!
The best Montessori-inspired toys for early learning
At The Tot, we spend a lot of time working with Early Learning Educators like myself to find the best educational toys for kids.
Scroll down to see my favorite tried and trusted Montessori-inspired toy picks!
Handmade in Australia of sustainably sourced solid pine wood, the Play & Learn Set from Zephyr’s Nest includes double sided alphabet tiles (upper and lowercase), counting coins 1-10, double sided tracing board (upper and lowercase letters), as well as a drawstring Calico bag for easy travel and storage.
Fantastic for homeschooling lessons, kids can also use it to make-believe ‘Classroom’ or use it to help collect and classify little wonders from the backyard! Age recommendation: 3 years +
Open ended play allows kids to use their imaginations, problem-solve and essentially – make their own rules and outcomes!
I love these kits from Let Them Play because they’re particularly great for honing fine motor skills. Age recommendation: 3 years +
One tenet of Montessori is that if you give children quality materials, they will take care of them. This set of scented modeling dough just begs to be cared for, from the lovely packaging to beautiful colors and smells.
Recommended for kids age 2 and up. the Dough Parlour Collector Set provides a rich sensory experience and is 100% non-toxic, just in case your tot gets carried away.
Another great way to facilitate open-ended play is by providing your tot with these cute wooden scenes from Let Them Play! Handmade in Australia of sustainably sourced New Zealand pine plywood, your tot will love using them to create their own stories and adventures! Age recommendation: 3 years +
You know all about Lego, right? Well Once Kids has taken the classic game and turned it into an eco-friendly endeavor! Available in both cherry wood and bamboo, these sets come with markers so kids can get creative and crafty!
Suitable from 4 years of age, the possibilities for play and construction will become more advanced every year.
Available in more quantities
Available in more quantities
Play kitchens and food toys have been around for decades and for good reason!
Fantastic for encouraging independence, life skills and good manners, sets like the Tender Leaf Toys Wooden Breakfast Tray can be use from 3 years and up.
At 3, your child may play independently with the set, but by the time they reach 5 or 6, they’ll love having it for make-believe games when friends are over.
I love this wooden ice cream cart from Tender Leaf Toys because it’s simple enough for a 3-year-old, but engaging enough for a 5 or 6-year-old to run a serious make-believe store! The cleverly designed scoop even picks up the ice cream and tops the cones.
You may notice a theme of open-ended role play toys! That’s because when there are no set rules, the possibility for play is endless.
The below sets from Make Me Iconic are wonderful for helping kids learn about their bodies, health and personal hygiene. Recommended from 3 years of age, they’ll be played with for years and probably even passed down to your grandkids!
Block play is one of the best ways to help both your child’s cognitive and physical development. Take it even further by giving them these mega hollow blocks by Guidecraft!
Notice the sloped blocks? These can act as a ramp, which means integrating other toys will be even more exciting. Recommended for 3 years and up, you’ll love seeing how your tot will go from stacking to arranging to showcasing to fort-building over the years.
The Guidecraft Powerclix Frame uses magnets to enable kids to create exciting and unique structures. Suitable from age 4, this 74 piece set will allow your child to create both 2D and 3D structures.
Over the years, you can encourage them to create a jungle gym for tiny toys, a secret layer, a sorting station for nature objects or obstacle course for figurines! I particularly love this toy option because it comes with a booklet of ideas and activities!
Kids love construction toys because they demonstrate cause and effect. How cool is this wrecking ball truck from Guidecraft?
Suitable for ages 3 and up, the rotating crane and removable trailer means this toy can do A LOT of things. From exciting a young engineer to acting as a vessel to move toys out of the playroom, it’s a winner for both boys and girls.
While a block set may seem simple, I promise kids will get lost building complex structures!
Recommended for ages 2 and up, the Guidecraft Wooden Unit Blocks Set A has 28 pieces made from smooth-sanded, FSC-certified rubberwood that allows children to plan, predict and problem-solve for years to come.
(Try knocking a tower over with the wrecking ball truck!)
Available in more quantities
Teaching your tot about shapes and primary colors will be extra exciting with the Guidcraft Wooden Rainbow Pyramid.
Suitable from 2 and up, as you child gets older, you can try holding them up to a window and then stacking to discuss how light travels. You could also categorize them into shapes and colors!
Want more ideas? Just ask your tot and see what they imagine!
There is something so captivating about wagons for young children. Perhaps it’s because it allows them to build their muscles as they push and pull things around or perhaps it’s because they’re usually the ones being pushed in a stroller and they enjoy the change in roles. Whatever the reason, young kids love wagons and this one from Tender Leaf Toys is full of a classic block set that encourages all kinds of open-ended play and building fun. Age recommendation: 18 months +
It can be hard to find quiet, screen-free entertainment, especially for car and plane trips, but the Lunii Storyteller provides just that. Recommended for kids 3 to 8, this simple audio device is designed so that even very young children can use it independently.
The best part: kids choose the hero, setting, second character and object of their story and then voile: story time!
Toys like the wooden Hape All Seasons House are so beneficial for children because they promote one of the most important kinds of pretend play. They allow children to act out scenarios from their own life, which is a powerful way for children to process their experiences. These Sunny Doll Family sets would be the perfect compliment to the house! Age recommendation: 3 years +
Chemicals to avoid in kids’ toys
At The Tot, we only use and recommend products that have passed The Tot Safety Test. This means we’ve reviewed third-party testing, examined ingredients lists and asked in-depth questions about a product’s composition to ensure they’re free of all the chemicals we avoid.
When you don’t know what your child’s toy, you can run the risk of exposing them to potentially harmful ingredients such as BPA, BPS, Phthalates, PVC, Formaldehyde, Lead and other Heavy Metals. This is particularly worrying for babies and toddlers who inevitably put these items in their mouths. Many of these chemicals have been linked to prostate cancer, breast cancer, female infertility, obesity, endocrine disruption, behavioral problems, and even irreversible brain damage.
At The Tot, we make sure that every single product we use and recommend passes The Tot Safety Test. This means that we’ve reviewed its third-party testing, certifications and asked in-depth questions about a product’s composition.
- There are so many little things you can do to help empower your child with the independence and self-confidence that Montessori offers. See our article on How to create a Montessori home for your toddler for more ideas.
- Thinking of sending your child to a Montessori school? See our article to find out more about the Montessori method of education.