The Montessori method was developed in the early 1900s by an Italian scholar and scientist named Dr. Maria Montessori. She created schools for children in Italy that fostered “rigorous, self-motivated growth for children and adolescents in all areas of their development—cognitive, emotional, social, and physical,” according to the American Montessori Society. When Dr. Montessori’s method started gaining popularity, it wasn’t long before her new teachings were spread across the world, allowing Montessori schools to pop up everywhere.
The method includes letting children interact in the world independently at a young age, focusing on exploration and multi-sensory learning. One way to encourage this type of learning is with Montessori-style toys! These toys are often simple and less “eye-catching” than your classic toys, but they allow for more independent creativity instead of just entertainment. In fact, in a school setting, these hands-on Montessori-style toys are referred to as “work,” according to Christina Miller, principal and owner of Millhopper Montessori School.
“Children 18 months to 2 ½ are in a different developmental state and the materials are designed for exploration,” Miller said. “Also, in this stage of development, children are needing to build independence and concentration. Allowing them long uninterrupted periods of time to pursue areas of interest is important as well as creating activities that allow them to explore through their five senses and develop small and large muscle control.”
Here are a few Montessori-style toys that you can introduce to your toddler:
Some of the best Montessori-style toys can be found right in your backyard! Rocks, leaves and sticks can all be used as building materials for towers or castles, or they can play a part in your kiddo’s make-believe scenarios. Let your child’s imagination run wild while connecting with their natural surroundings.
Simple wooden blocks can be a great toy for your little ones. They can be colored, plain wood or even painted with the alphabet.
To encourage a clear view of real-world actions and tasks, let your kiddo play with child-sized tools and equipment. This could be a miniature kitchen set, garage set, cleaning kit (mop, broom, vacuum) or doctor set (stethoscope, Band-Aids).
Instruments like shakers, maracas, small drums or tambourines are all great interactive toys. “Besides building fine and gross motor skills by picking up and shaking the musical instruments, studies have shown that musical instruments create more pathways in the brain and speed up brain development,” according to MontessoriMethod.com.
Sensory bins can be made at home from many things you have in the house. Fill a bin with sand and other toys like rocks, dry pasta, pompom balls and yarn. Let your kiddo play with the items in the bin, feeling the different textures and taking in all the sensations. Answer any of their questions as they come up, and always supervise children playing with small objects.