There is no such thing as a "Montessori toy" officially, but there are some toys that fit specifically with the Montessori philosophy of learning. Toys in a Montessori setting stimulate children's curiosity through repetition and purpose, as well as reflecting their everyday experiences.
To introduce Montessori learning into your child's playroom, provide carefully selected toys based on the following characteristics.
Features of Montessori toys
1. It has no electronics or flash
Just as a child's body has empty calories, a child's brain has superficial input. Battery-powered toys with lights and key action may be appealing at first, but when the toy does all the work, your child misses the meaningful connection between the action and its natural consequences.
For example, a 3-year-old child presses the shortcut button on the toy, a yellow pig jumps out, the lights flash, and the music starts. The child's brain builds a network of neural associations based on this sequence. But the establishment of this neural network is not good for the long-term development of the child. It is neither open-ended nor reflective of how the world really works.
In contrast, an open-ended toy like the Wooden Coffee Maker Set invites your child to further develop skills by making coffee based on real-world hands-on work. Do they think they can put two packets of sugar at the same time? Where should I start first? These and other questions encourage them to think independently, develop independent problem-solving skills, investigate further and develop new skills.
2. It is made of natural materials
Your child learns by using multiple senses at the same time, which is how the brain translates a world of possibilities into concrete skills. Natural materials like sticky rubber, smooth polished wood can all be used to explore differences in texture, temperature and weight. This sensory rich learning experience is at the heart of Montessori philosophy.
3. It focuses on one skill at a time
Montessori toys help your child focus on mastering one skill at a time by reducing unnecessary distractions. Just as too many toys can be overwhelming, too many features on one toy can hinder deeper learning.
That doesn't mean you should only be looking for disposable toys. Instead, choose toys with multiple possibilities that you can use one at a time. For example, you can present a realistic pull animal toy in three different ways:
- First, show the little trail animal alone to introduce a new vocabulary: "This is a rabbit."
- Then, when your child has mastered the vocabulary, play My Spy with the little drag line animals and ask your child, "Where's the rabbit?"
- Later, use them as a matching game by comparing them with other drag line toys.
4. It encourages independence
Montessori is all about allowing children to contribute to taking care of themselves and their environment through real-life, age-appropriate tools or child-sized alternatives. The goal is always to develop your child's role as a capable member of the family and beyond.
You probably already have many of these tools in your home, like a small blender, and a kid's apron to wear when your kids cook with you. Other examples include Tiny Land Play Kitchen Sets for cooking, pitchers for pouring, and Montessori kitchens with cutlery to teach them how to cook.
Focus on possibility, not perfection
Toys may have specific uses that you can show your child, but the intended use of an item is only the beginning of its learning possibilities. Don't be surprised if your kids find a whole new way to play 🙃