I am sharing Montessori toys that you can buy in the UK here as I know it is a challenge to find them in the EU. I found this out when I first started to set up a Montessori prepared environment for my son. Finally, after extensive research, I managed to curate some good yet affordable Montessori toys for the home.
Over the current years, Montessori pedagogy, founded by Maria Montessori, has earned quite some recognition. It has gotten a lot of following from young mothers, and also in the online community nowadays. I am one of them.
I believe that the popularity stems from the fact that the Montessori approach aligns with our current modern way of thinking.
Montessori toys focus on being practical and useful for learning and refining a specific skill. Our focus here is to find toys and materials that can act as a key to aid their understanding of the real world. It also helps the child to distinguish order and make sense of the world.
I am sharing here some Montessori inspired toys, that are aligned to the Montessori approach yet affordable, and fun to play at home.
Montessori wooden toys
I love wooden toys for their inherent quality. They are often robust, sturdy and also durable.
Wooden toys usually do not come with distracting technologies like blinking light and blinking sounds. On the other hand, it offers the natural tactile sensation that a child will appreciate.
Wooden toys are also environmentally friendly as wood is an organic and compostable material.
These are some of the reasons why there are many Montessori wooden toys to be found. Most of the toys are that are Montessori inspired, and the Montessori materials are often made of wood.
You will find that most of the toys listed below by age are also mainly wooden toys that can be found in the UK.
Montessori baby toys
Montessori toys for babies below 1 year old are not varied but good enough to keep our little one engaged and exploring along with their ability.
At this stage, I recommend getting Montessori wooden toys that are natural and simple. Babies at this stage also love to explore their toys with their mouth and tongue. Therefore, being non-toxic is an essential criterion while selecting toys.
Wooden rattle with bell
Any kind of wooden rattle with a little bell will surely be a hit. My lucky son got an heirloom from Oma, which reminds me of a rattle one can find in Tibet!
This one I found comes close to the one we have, which I found in the UK. It aligns well with the Montessori approach, having only natural wood colour.
Wooden board book
This little wooden board book is a must. Thanks to the robust wood material, it can withstand any mouthing and throw from the baby. Having only one kind of animal per page also helps the baby to concentrate.
At this stage, my son enjoys the animal sounds that I made accompanying each animal! The one we have is an old Selecta wooden book from Grandma. Unfortunately, it is not for sale anymore in the UK; I am still on a lookout for another one
Mirror and rail or a Pikler triangle
In a Montessori prepared environment for the baby, there is often a horizontal mirror on the wall. A mat/mattress is set in front of it for the baby to lay on.
For older babies, a rail will be installed on the mirror too for them to pull themselves up. As I discovered Montessori later, I did not set this up, but it would have been a fine idea indeed.
Also, a Pikler may be a good idea to invest about now to use as a wooden baby gym. Later the baby can also use it pull him/herself up.
Montessori toys for 6 months old
Wooden Ball Hammering Toy
Babies at this age may only be pushing the balls through the hole with their palm. Later on, they will start putting them back as well.
Once they are older, around 12 months old, you can add the hammer. At this point, the babies have better control of their hands and arm plus hand-eye coordination.
Pegbox / Pop up toy
We have a popular Galt Pop Up toy that also encourages inserting pegs into the hole. It comes with a spring when pushed, and older toddlers will find it fun when they discover this.
I find this a very affordable and fun variation of the traditional Montessori peg toy. This toy is also sold in the UK.
A pegbox builds on baby’s skills to do more kind of pegging and stacking in the future. It can also be used later to learn colour sorting, closer to 2 years old.
Wooden ball tracker / Marble run
A wooden ball tracker is one of the best gifts you can think of to give someone. My son got it for his first birthday from his grandparents. For younger ones, you may look at getting a smaller version of the ball tracker.
My son has started playing with his cousin’s marble run at around 10 months. He uses it to pull himself up to the knee or even uses it to balance himself, while he tries to put the ball onto the track. Lots of body coordination there!
Besides, the babies like to watch when older kids or the parent rolls the various items down. This also helps in their eye coordination and concentration.
Basket of balls
At this stage, the baby loves to chase after any rolling things, enter balls. An older baby also loves to grasp them and throw them.
A basket with all types of the ball will be well-loved here. We have a basket of various balls always until now, and my son plays it in many ways. Throwing these balls around happily and then chase after them is a great gross motor skill activity.
Haba wooden discovery balls
These discovery balls are a nice addition to the basket of balls. Haba is one of my favourite brand and luckily it is available in the UK.
Besides, they are also great for babies who are exploring texture, colour and sounds. The baby will use it to explore all their senses – touch, see and hear.
Their fine motor skills will also be challenged here when they pick it up and examine it texturally.
Wooden stacking toy
Almost every child will have a stacking toy of sorts, and rightly so. This classic toy is perfect for practising hand-eye coordination. At this young age, the baby may still put the pieces into their mouth, so it is advisable to look for a non-toxic wooden stacking toy.
It took a while before my son successfully stacked one of the pieces back onto its base, but the pure satisfaction you see when he did it was magic.
The child can also use it to discern sizes and for colour sorting later on. For young toddlers, look for one with a rocking base to aid them.
Montessori toys for 1 year old
Push car or walking wagon
At the beginning stage of learning to walk, a push car or walking wagon is practical for a child to use independently. The child may use it at first to pull himself up, later he/she learns to take a few steps with it.
My son started using it even before 1 year old but he only really had fun with it later. He cruised along the couches and walls and used the push car to connect places.
An older child will later use it to transfer things or dolls around the house.
My son loves his Schleich animals. The reason so many of us in the Montessori community choose Schleich animals figurines is because of they are very life like and true to form. Montessori encourages to use things that is real or at least modeling the real thing rather than fantasy based items.
The Schleich animals are one of the first toys that I have introduced to my son as he turns 1 year old. At first, he loves to bring them around with him while trying to name the animals. Then he uses them with his Haba Farm.
These are also useful for introducing vocabulary. I draw inspiration from the Montessori method of 3 part lessons to teach my son the names of the animals.
- First period – name the word/concept. For example, this is a horse, that is a car!
- Second period – asked to recognize the vocabulary. For example, where is the horse? Bring me the cow, please.
- Third period – ask the child to name the object. We carry out this period only when we are sure the child knows it. Admittedly, sometimes I ask him to name something without thinking, but luckily it did not deter my son from trying!
We also use picture books or cards for matching when we are going through the second period. My son loves to bring the right animal and match it to the printed version.
Wooden chunky puzzles
Puzzles are one of the favourite items in Montessori. The puzzles in Montessori materials are in geometric forms and focus on learning a single skill – putting the piece back into the right shape.
While those are great, I found that puzzles with big wooden blocks are also useful too. These are the ones my son managed to put back together first. Melissa and Doug have good ones as the picture is also shown below the puzzle piece to aid younger kids.
Vehicles, cars, trains
At this age, they get excited about the big vehicles when they are out and about. A miniature version for them at home will delight them to no end. My son brings his little digger around the house all the time. But please be aware of small parts, and he is always playing under supervision.
A child can learn the names of these vehicles while they push, park and line them up.
Plantoys wooden drum
This beautiful wooden drum makes four different beautiful tones when knocked on. The drumstick also comes with a rubber top, which gives the hit a gentle spring.
It is also not too loud, which is vital for younger babies. We, the parents also enjoy hitting the drum as well.
My 20 months old son is currently into music, and this drum has become a favourite of his. He will turn on a piece of music and hit the drum along with it sometimes. It is amusing to watch!
Montessori toys for 18 Months and up
This coin box is not exactly a toy, but it is handy for a child to practice dropping in coins. The child can also use it to learn how to open a lock with the key.
I removed the plastic divider inside, and my son loves to repeatedly drop coins into the box because of the beautiful satisfactory sounds it makes. He still struggles with the keys, but it is a nice challenge which he has not given up on yet!
Wooden shape sorter
The shape sorter is one toy that my son struggles with from the start. Montessori materials isolate each shape for every sorter to allow the child to build up the challenge themselves and to self correct where needed.
I wanted to get a shape sorter with single shapes, but they were too expensive. So I got a wooden cube one and tape to hide the rest. It is one of the DIY ideas from the Montessori community. Even with that, my son still struggles with it until at least 20 months old, by when he manages to drop in 3 different shapes at one go.
In the end, it is all about following the child, and they will practice when they feel the need and want. At this time, he is also into the containment schema, which is probably why. I am excited to introduce him to more shapes soon.
Wooden nesting / stacking boxes
These wooden nesting or stacking boxes are one of the most versatile toys. This is one of the Montessori toys for toddlers that I recommend to get. It is also advisable to get wooden ones because they are sturdy and feel natural to touch and carry.
My son first started by only taking out the boxes one by one. Then he began to stack a few of them later on, though not in any order. Around 18 months he began to stack them up by sizes! The self-correcting quality of this toy is also beneficial for the child to learn independently.
This toy not only urges them to learn about sizes but also challenges their movements. Picking up the boxes and placing it delicately on top of one another is a skill not to be underestimated.
Wooden peg / knob puzzles
At this age of 1 year, a few pieces of puzzles with large knobs or big wooden pieces are suitable. It still frustrates my son sometimes, but he always returns to try again.
For home, it is encouraged to get puzzles that are lifelike, so that we keep close to the Montessori approach. But since it is not always easy to find them, or they may be costly, I do have some puzzles that are not lifelike but models near to it.
At an earlier stage, a five pieces knob puzzle will be challenging enough, and you can build up to nine pieces one later as their fine motor skills advances. Puzzles are excellent to help brain development too!
Threading is an excellent toy to challenge a child’s fine motor skills. It also allows them to learn a multi-step activity.
For young toddlers, it is good to start with a string with a piece of wood/plastic at the end to make it easier.
Wooden rings on coloured dowel
There are many kinds of stacking toys like this one, but those that are aligned to the Montessori approach is often simpler. You will find each stack with a single colour and shape. This helps the child to self-correct and to discover the colours all by themselves.
It may be challenging to find toys complying to this Montessori material in the UK, but I found this Melissa & Doug sorting board comes somewhat close. They can also double for learning to count or for shape sorting when the child is older.
Wooden color sorting toy
Around this stage, you will find your child starting to discern colour and enjoys sorting them. This colour sorting toy is not only beautiful but allows young toddlers to use it easily.
To start with, you can introduce the primary colours first and build up to more later as they gain the skill.
Wooden nuts and bolts
The nuts and bolts teach an essential life skill. Model slowly without saying anything when you show them how to do it.
I find my son trying to twist open every kind of containers, and these are useful for him to continue practising this internal need of his.
It is often advised to keep strict Montessori materials to the classroom, especially if your child is going to a Montessori Daycare or Kindergarten, to keep them interested. But if you are homeschooling, then you may also look into getting the Montessori materials into your home.
Some of the materials are worth getting at home, especially when your child do not have access yet to a Montessori playschool.
Egg in the cup
The egg in the cup toy will be your baby’s very first stacking toy! They will discover how to put the egg onto the cup, marvelling at this phenomena.
Of course, it starts by the baby toppling it over, mouthing the egg or the cup. But at some point, the baby will know how to balance the egg onto the cup and then keep repeating it.
Object permanence box
The object permanence box is one of the most popular Montessori baby toys. It teaches a fundamental concept called object permanence.
This concept is entirely new to the baby. It is a concept that when something is out of sight, it does not mean that it is gone. The baby squeals in delight whenever the ball appears again.
At the same time it also challenges the baby to practice their grasping and hand-eye coordination.
An object permanence box may be an expensive investment as it goes for most Montessori materials in the UK. I got this idea from another Montessori mother to get the one with the drawer and remove the drawer for younger babies. It works just as well, and later on, a 1 year old can use it for practising opening and closing drawers. Win-win!
For small children, these single shape puzzles are best for a start. You can introduce to the baby one shape at a time.
I started by introducing the one big circle puzzle to my son, and it took a while before he got the idea of putting it back in place. After that, I progress to introduce the square puzzle and then finally, the triangle.
For further progression, after they have master the single shapes, a board of several geometric shapes will keep the child at the right challenge.
A horizontal stacker is the next level toy after the traditional stacker. It is less well known outside of Montessori but revel within the community.
This toy helps the child in one very important skill – crossing the midline. It is said that crossing the midline also helps towards early writing development.
An additional challenge to this one is the serpentine horizontal dowel. It is fun to try not to touch the metal bar at all, but it is mainly for older toddlers.
Toys that complement Montessori
Wooden building blocks
Wooden building blocks are another open-ended toys that have been around for ages.
At about 1 year, my son first only picks it up and chew on it. He also enjoys knocking down the towers that I built. Later closer to 18 months, he learned to stack them and made some small constructions.
Much later towards 2, children will start to be creative with the blocks.
A Pikler triangle is a play material created by Dr Emmi Pikler and it has gotten some attention from the Montessorians. This is because it is aligned with the Montessori approach of allowing independent learning of a child.
The Pikler triangle gives the children a safe place to climb. It allows them to learn how to combine the skills to climb safely whenever they want to. With this, they are also less likely to get hurt when climbing higher things later.
My son took a while to climb all the way up and over, and I never try to push him. After we add on the slide for him, it has seen increased in usage and fun.
The concept of Pikler triangle is that the child will use it following their own ability and creativity. Therefore, there should not be any safety issues but we always have the Pikler in the living room where I can keep a corner of an eye on my son.
The colourful wooden rainbow is one of Grimms’s most popular toy to date. It is because it is such a wonderful open-ended toy that kids of all ages can enjoy.
Open-ended play is mostly credited to the Reggio pedagogy, but it does have a place in the Montessori homes. One cannot go wrong with the open-ended play, which fosters creativity and allows the child to explore and use the materials or toys in any way they want to.
The Grimms rainbow has found its way to be one of the top items for open-ended play. It can be used in so many creative ways, and you can find all these ideas online easily.
They are so very lovely to add to the play area, and children enjoy beautiful things too!
The Montessori theory is often reduced to a simple approach to “follow the child”. I liked these three simple words, and they mean a lot, in my opinion. But of course, there is so much more to the Montessori theory than just this.
Key principles of Montessori
- Independence – “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” – Maria Montessori.
- Observation – observe without any preconceived notions and learn about what the child needs.
- Following the child – Follow the child, they will show you what they need to do, to develop in themselves and what area they need to be challenged. The aim of the children who persevere in their work with an object is certainly not to “learn”; they are drawn to it by the needs of their inner life, which must be recognized and developed by its means.” – Maria Montessori
- Correcting the child – There is one thing she (the teacher) must never do, and that is, to interfere by praising a child’s work, or punishing him if it is wrong, or even by correcting his mistakes – Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind.
- Prepared environment – “The teacher’s first duty is to watch over the environment, and this takes precedence over all the rest. Its influence is indirect, but unless it is well done, there will be no effective and permanent results of any kind, physical, intellectual or spiritual.” – Maria Montessori.
- Absorbent mind – Children under the age of three, do not need to have lessons to learn, they absorb everything in the environment by experiencing it, being part of it. It is therefore important that the environment set up is good, nice and positive since this is what the child will absorb whether he chooses to or not. – dailymontessori.com
Montessori toy shelves
One of the first things I implement in the Montessori prepared environment is the toy shelf. I love the idea of keeping the number of toys down and only offering appropriate ones based on the child’s interest and ability.
The way Montessori toys are presented in trays and isolation also makes sense to me. I am not so, but this Montessori concept has helped me to be more organized for my son. Toddlers have a great need for organization, and this is one way that he knows what to expect each time.
I got an Ikea low shelf for the living room when my son was eight months old, and he crawled straight to it at the first go. He also uses it to pull himself up to grab and play with various toys. Now at 20 months old, these shelves are still his go-to the area to look for activity to do or toys to play.