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21 Amazing Montessori Toys for Babies and Toddlers

No need to wait until your child is in school to introduce the benefits of the Montessori method—baby’s playroom is the perfect place to start.
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By Holly Pevzner, Contributing Writer
Updated February 16, 2023
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You’ve probably heard the term “Montessori” tossed around in connection with preschool or kindergarten, so if you have a baby or toddler, you might have dismissed it as something to look into down the line. But the truth is, the Montessori method isn’t just an approach to academic learning, it can help guide baby’s development right from the get-go. “The method actually starts at birth and continues through elementary school and on into adolescence,” says Kathryn Holm, MEd, a Montessori educator based in Seattle. An easy way to start applying the Montessori method at home? Stocking your child’s playroom with age-appropriate Montessori toys. Below, learn about the origins of Montessori toys and how they translate to modern-day play, then shop the best Montessori toys for babies and toddlers.

What Is the Montessori Method?

Developed by Maria Montessori, MD, in 1897, the Montessori Method is a child-centered approach to education and development that embraces hands-on, multi-sensory activities that kids can engage in at their own pace.

Based on Montessori’s observations of how children naturally learn, the method encourages parents and teachers to create a space full of developmentally appropriate toys and games, and then let kids choose for themselves which ones they want to play with. “Learning is internally driven,” says Angeline Lillard, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and best-selling author of Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius. “To practice the Montessori method, we simply need to provide the proper environments without obstacles.” That means items in a Montessori-style room should be made up of furniture and playthings that are within your little one’s reach. Your role? Observe and gently guide your child as they learn, without directing their play. “The goal is to lovingly usher children toward independence,” Holm explains.

The Montessori method also emphasizes learning through all of the senses, not just by listening and observing—so touching, tasting, smelling and generally being out in nature are considered just as important as hearing a parent read a story. And the payoffs can be big: A 2017 study found that preschoolers who were enrolled in Montessori programs had better academic achievement, social understanding and executive function skills (like paying attention and managing time) than those who weren’t. They also simply enjoyed learning more than non-Montessori kids.

What Are Montessori Toys?

The playroom is the perfect place to introduce your child to the Montessori method. But when stocking the shelves, how do you know what qualifies as a Montessori toy? Here’s what to look for:

  • Natural materials. Toys made of wood, wool, cotton, metal, ceramic and even rock are Montessori staples, since they connect children to nature and are generally safer for curious mouths. Plus, “different textures, temperatures and weights help children refine their senses and give them more to learn about when holding a toy,” Holm says.

  • No bells and whistles. Montessori toys are designed to encourage kids to explore and discover independently. So instead of going for tricked-out toys that move and make sounds on their own, opt for passive toys that require your child to physically manipulate them and incorporate them into their pretend play.

  • Realistic playthings. Montessori toys tend to be lifelike and rooted in reality, providing a great learning opportunity about the world around us. “Infants and young children don’t have a framework for what’s real and what’s fake,” Holm explains. “To them, a unicorn is just as likely to exist as a rhinoceros, because how would they know any different? It’s very confusing for them when we teach them about something and then say it’s not real.” Choosing between a stuffed dragon or elephant? Go with the animal that you and your child can later see and learn about in the zoo.

  • One-task learning toys. Look for teaching toys that hone one skill at a time. Montessori toys should also have what’s called a built-in “control of error,” meaning kids will know if they’ve completed the task correctly.

  • Toys with a purpose. Montessori toys can also be child-size items that allow kids to independently engage in job-like activities, like raking leaves. “Purpose draws a child in,” Holm says. “It makes them feel like a competent and important part of their world.”

With so many adorable Montessori toys now on the market, it can be tempting to cram your child’s nursery with a slew of playthings. Don’t—or at least, don’t have them out all at once. “Part of the Montessori method is to only give children a few choices at a time, so as not to overwhelm their young minds,” Lillard says. When faced with a looming pile of toys to choose from, it can be hard for kids to hone their concentration skills and ability to see an activity through to the end. Instead, curate a Montessori shelf or a sweet toy chest that features a few toys for your child to explore.

Montessori Toys for Babies

Babies grow and develop at an astounding pace, so make sure the Montessori toys you offer are right for your child’s age and stage. “Continue to rotate age-appropriate toys,” Holm says. “This will help your child achieve what they are trying to learn.” Here, some of our favorite Montessori toys for babies.

Wooden rolling rattle

Lovevery Montessori Rolling Rattle
Image: Target
Buying Options
Target|$14.99

Many of the standard classics make for perfect Montessori toys. Case in point: This wooden rolling rattle. Its colors, sounds and motion encourage gross motor movement in babies who are itching to crawl. Keeping with the Montessori style of learning, make sure you offer this rattle to your child when they’re developmentally ready—non-crawlers would get discouraged if their rattle were to roll away!

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Age rating: 0 to 6 months

Pastel stacking tower

The pastel Montessori toy is great for one-year-olds. The stacking tower helps young ones work on their fine motor skills and cause-and-effect know-how as they place the rings on the post. Plus, it introduces your child to the concept of relative size as they sort and stack from big to little.

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Age rating: 0 to 6 months

Wooden grasping activity toy

Who said Montessori wooden toys couldn’t be bright and colorful? With its thin, smooth, lightweight wooden dowels and elastic cords, the Skwish is pretty much the perfect clutch toy for baby’s budding motor skills. Little ones love to smoosh the toy down and watch it pop up, slide the beads back and forth and listen to the toy’s gentle rattling sound. It’s made of sustainable wood and has a nontoxic, water-based finish, making it safe for baby’s mouth.

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Age rating: 12 months+

Simple bell shaker

Montessori Bell Shaker Baby Rattle
Image: AnchoredGoose | Etsy
Buying Options
Etsy|$9.50

This simple rattle is a great first foray into musical toys. “For small babies, you want a rattle that’s thin, encouraging an intentional whole-hand grasp,” Holm says. You also want one that’s lightweight and fits perfectly in teeny hands, so your child can make some music all by themselves. Each time your little one jingles the rattle, they’ll learn about cause and effect. Bonus: The wood and metal are spot-on Montessori materials.

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Age rating: 0 to 2 months

Textured sensory ball

Lovevery Montessori Sensory Ball
Image: Target
Buying Options
Target|$10.99

Don’t underestimate the simplicity of this simple sensory ball—it’s sure to be a playtime go-to for a variety of reasons. First off, the soft nubs are easy for baby to chew and hold onto. Next, it won’t roll away and frustrate little ones who can’t quite crawl yet—plus, it squeaks when squeezed, demonstrating cause and effect. Finally, it’s just one color. “This helps for language development,” Holm says. “For instance, you can say to your baby ‘I have the red ball. You're holding the green ball.’”

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Age rating: 0 to 6 months

Minimalist play gym

Poppyseed Play Wooden Baby Gym + White Toys
Image: Nordstrom

Baby play gyms are often busy—too loud, too busy, too bright. But this minimalist wooden design is just right. It excites baby’s senses and stimulates hand-eye coordination without overwhelming them. Little ones love the feel of the wooden toys and the sound they make when they clink together. Plus, you can slide one hanging toy in at a time and rotate them daily—very Montessori.

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Age rating: 0 to 12 months

Pikler triangle

Does your little one love to discover new heights? Then a pikler triangle is a must-have for their playroom. Montessori climbing toys can often be used for years to come; this chic option, for instance, can be played with by 6-month-old babies to 4-year-old preschoolers. Your little one won’t even notice how much their gross motor and balancing skills are improving as they explore. Better yet, when playtime is over, this design folds for easy storage.

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Age rating: 6 months to 4 years

Wooden blocks

My First Blocks with Tray
Image: Monti Kids
Buying Options
Monti Kids|$37.95

This classic toy is perfect for exposing older infants to math and spatial skills for the first time. The wooden set consists of blocks in various shapes and sizes for endless building possibilities. What’s more, it comes with a tray that can be used as a stable base for your little one’s creations and a convenient storage solution when playtime is over.

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Age rating: 10 months+

Object permanence box

Elite Montessori Object Permanence Box
Image: Amazon
Buying Options
Amazon|$18.47

This is one of the more classic Montessori toys for babies. It’s designed to encourage motor skills and hand-eye coordination—plus, it’s a super-fun way to learn about cause and effect. The ball disappears—and there it is again! Baby will come back to this engaging Montessori toy time and time again.

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Age rating: 8 to 18 months

Stage-based play kits

Lovevery The Play Kits
Image: Lovevery

It’s easy to see why Lovevery’s play kits have been a Best of Baby award winner multiple years in a row. Each box is packed with age-appropriate Montessori toys that are sure to stimulate your child from their days as a newborn through to toddlerhood—plus, it comes with a helpful parent guide packed with expert tips. Play kits can be bought individually or you can subscribe to receive a selection of new toys every two months.

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Age rating: 0 months to 3 years

Montessori Toys for Toddlers

Looking for the best Montessori toys for your tot? Remember to always offer developmentally appropriate playthings: A one-year-old needs very different stimulation from their toys than a 3-year-old. Here, a roundup of some of the best Montessori toys for one-year-olds and older toddlers.

Sensory activity toy

Silicone Pull String Activity Toy
Image: Amazon
Buying Options
Amazon|$17.85

The best Montessori toys for one-year-olds are those that keep them engaged by stimulating more than one sense at a time. This pull-string activity toy is designed to do just that; it’s made up of a variety of textures, colors and shapes for your child to explore. Better yet, it can easily be attached to high chairs, car seats or stroller handles—plus, its portable design makes this a perfect travel toy.

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Age rating: 18 months+

Multicolored stacker

Wooden Rainbow Stacker
Image: Mori
Buying Options
Mori|$30

Montessori toys for one-year-olds come in all shapes and sizes—just like this adorable stacker. Your child will love creating their very own rainbow by assembling the wooden arches, and they can be flipped over to build new scenes and inspire more imaginative play. What’s more, how cute would this stacker look on your child’s Montessori shelf?

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Age rating: 12 months+

Animal stacking toy

PlanToys Wooden Lacing Sheep
Image: Amazon
Buying Options
Amazon|$25

Searching for a top-notch Montessori toy for 3-year-olds? Look no further than this sweet sheep. It may look like an average animal toy, but don’t be fooled—it’s made up of corresponding wooden circles that connect to a rainbow-tinted “spine.” To put the sheep together, simply match the colors on the circles to those on the spine—your child won’t even notice that they’re developing their problem-solving and logical-thinking skills as they play.

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Age rating: 3 years+

Push and pull toy

PlanToys Push & Pull Puppy
Image: The Tot

Gift your little one their very own puppy with this Montessori wooden toy. The sweet dog’s head will wobble and click-clack as your child pulls them along—plus, if you have a pet at home, they’ll love being able to take their mini version on walks! For your peace of mind and your child’s safety, this adorable canine is finished with non-toxic, water-based paint.

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Age rating: 12 months+

Shape stacker toy

Early Spatial Awareness Stacker
Image: Monti Kids
Buying Options
Monti Kids|$30.95

This Montessori toy for toddlers will help your child visualize patterns and recognize shapes. The wooden playset consists of a base with three pegs and blocks of various shapes for your little one to mix and match during playtime. And if your kiddo has sticky hands or is exploring this toy with their tastebuds, simply wipe the pieces clean between uses.

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Age rating: 19 months+

Punch and drop box

Plan Toys x pbk Punch Drop
Image: Pottery Barn Kids
Buying Options
Pottery Barn Kids|$49

For really little ones, simply take the hammer away and let baby explore with his hands. “Pushing the ball through the holes is great for strengthening baby’s hands. This activity fosters hand-eye coordination too,” Holm says. Once baby is about a year old, feel free to hand the hammer back over. Bonus: This toy is made from solid rubber wood.

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Age rating: 12 months+

Colorful silk scarves

Sarah's Silks Enchanted Playsilk Scarf
Image: Amazon
Buying Options
Amazon|$22

Little ones love to explore the soft, smooth texture of silk, making these scarves some of the best Montessori toys for all ages. You can hang these from a play gym for baby to visually track and reach for, use them in a rousing game of peekaboo or add them to a small basket of various fabrics for your inquisitive child to explore.

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Age rating: All ages

Pint-size table and chairs set

LALO The Play Kit
Image: LALO
Buying Options
LALO|$270

When it comes to the Montessori method, a child’s furniture is as important as their playthings. An easy-to-access table and chair set—that’s not cluttered with design elements, like the alphabet or chalkboards—will give your toddler space to experiment and boost their sense of independence. Plus, parents will love that this scaled-down table, made from sustainable beechwood and paired with matching chairs, is anything but an eyesore. For 10 percent off your order, use discount code THEBUMP10 at checkout.

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Age rating: 12 months+

Shape sorting toy with drawers

Yaani Montessori 2-in-1 Shape Sorter
Image: Amazon

This Montessori toy for one-year-olds will help your tot learn to sort shapes in no time. It features several wooden shapes and three drawers to teach little ones about colors and object permanence while they practice hand-eye coordination.

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Age rating: 12 months+

Barn playset with animals

Melissa & Doug Fold and Go Wooden Barn
Image: Amazon

While these plastic figurines may seem far from ideal Montessori toys for toddlers, they’re actually in keeping with the Montessori preference for giving children lifelike playthings to spark learning opportunities. “With a realistic-looking horse, you can name all of the body parts, pointing out little details like their hoofs, eyes and ears,” Holm says. “If you had a wooden horse with soft lines and little detail, you’d be limited.” This fold-and-go set has everything your little one needs to create a fun-filled farm scene.

Buy Now

Age rating: 3 years+

Multipurpose easel

Marble Run + Art Easel
Image: KiwiCo
Buying Options
Kiwi Co|$129.95

On the hunt for a Montessori toy for three-year-olds that will stimulate your curious kiddo for years to come? Look no further than this multipurpose easel. On one side, your child can express their creativity with a reversible chalkboard and whiteboard; on the opposite side, they can experiment with engineering as they design a speedy marble run. Reviewers even say that this set is fun for the whole family to play with together!

Buy Now

Age rating: 3 years+

About the experts:

Kathryn Holm, MeD, is a 0-3 Montessori educator based in Seattle. She earned her teaching degree from Loyola University Maryland.

Angeline Lillard, PhD, is a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and best-selling author of Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius. Her research focuses on social and cognitive development, Montessori education and children’s play.

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