The Montessori philosophy was started in the early 1900s by Italian physician Maria Montessori. Her idea was that children are capable of being independent, and if they are allowed to do things at their own pace, they'll thrive and grow up to be creative thinkers and well-rounded adults. When I think of Montessori, I think of wooden toys and lots of hands-on activities, with no screen time, blinking lights, or annoying loud, plastic toys. If this sounds great to you, you may be wondering about the toys every Montessori mom has in her home to get started with your baby.
I'm not claiming to be 100 percent on board with the Montessori lifestyle — e.g., I will not let my kid sleep on a mattress on the floor in his room — but I'm definitely dabbling in it by doing a lot of research about the philosophy, and being very particular about the types of toys I want my 9-month-old son to play and grow with.
All Montessori toys inspire the philosophies above and encourage free play and using their hands to entertain themselves. These toys are awesome because they involve a lot of wood and they're quiet, but more importantly, they allow my son to use his imagination, and they create open-ended play. The kid-sized furniture is also great, so kids can learn practical life skills and do things themselves like grownups do — just fun sized. I also love the fact that the Montessori philosophy suggests creating a "prepared environment" that inspires your child to "develop freely," according to the American Montessori Society website. My son's room is set up as a "prepared environment" where he can crawl to shelves on his level (the floor) and pick out which toy he wants to play with, giving him flexibility and independence — within reason.
So we have quite a few toys on this list, including Melissa & Doug stuff, play silks, wooden musical instruments, and even some sensory bins as we try to stick to the Montessori philosophy of anything that inspires the child to use their imagination and learn to do things themselves. Since another aspect of the Montessori philosophy is to have a minimal amount of toys out at once so your child can focus on the task at hand in an ordered environment, a "Montessori Mom™" probably doesn't have every single one of these on this list, but I bet at least a couple of these would most definitely be found in their house.
1. Wooden Puzzles
2. Kid-Sized Furniture
3. Sensory Baskets
4. Musical Instruments
5. Wooden Moveable Alphabet
6. Counting Cans
7. Food Groups Wooden Play Food
8. Wood Pretend Kitchen
9. Wooden Rainbow Stacker Puzzle
Rainbow Stacker Puzzle
There is so much more that meets the eye to this toy. Your child can stack the pieces as shown, or create "modern art sculptures" with the pieces because they come apart in different sections. They can stack them up high, use the pieces as furniture for doll houses or action figures — they can really use their imagination with this toy.
10. Classic Skwish Toy
My son has this toy and he loves to explore it by putting it in his mouth of course. He also loves that when he puts his hand on top and pushes down, it "squishes" flat. It also makes a soothing noise when you move it around as the balls on the inside move back and forth on the pegs.
11. Wooden Cars Play Set
Wooden Car Set
Melissa & Doug
We got these cars for my son's first Christmas and he's already obsessed with them (he's 9 months old). They're really durable and I know they'll grow with him because for now he just kinda pushes them on the floor and chews on them. When he's older, he can use his imagination for races, etc. Plus, the cool wooden tray they come in can be fun for your kid, too. Jack already enjoys taking things in and out of it. Ah, to be easily amused again.
12. Object Permanence Toy
Object Permanence with Tray
Kids love peek-a-boo because they're learning about object permanence, the fact that when something disappears, it can actually still be there. If you're tired of playing peek-a-boo, this toy helps with those skills in the same fun way. They'll also be working on hand-eye coordination by trying to get the ball in the hole.
13. Wooden Sandbox Play Table
Wooden Sandbox Play Table
A lot of kids really love sand, but parents hate how messy it is and how it seems to get everywhere when they're sitting in a sand box. This table solves the messy problem for the most part, and is a great way to have some sensory play for younger kids. Older kids will love to build things out of the sand.
14. Play Silks
For now, my son just likes to rub these on his face, and we like to use them to play object permanence games with him by putting a toy under it and lifting it back up. Older kids can use these to do anything their imaginations can think of, whether it's by creating outfits and costumes with them, using them for a dance and music, or covering up their stuffed animals and baby dolls.
15. Shape-Sorting Cube
16. Geometric Stacker Toy
Melissa & Doug Geometric Stacker Toddler Toy
Melissa & Doug
My son loves this stacker toy, mainly to explore the smoothness of the wood and chewing on it, but I think he'll like it even more as he gets older when he can stack the colors and try to get them in the right order from biggest to smallest. Good hand-eye coordination skills can be learned here, and they can play with the pieces individually on the floor by making faces, shapes, etc.