The Montessori philosophy is based on encouraging children to explore the world around them. Play is a key part of that exploration, as children learn by touching and playing with objects. As a result, it’s important for you as a parent to look for toys that will help your child learn and grow outside the classroom.
What is a Montessori Toy?
A Montessori toy is one that stimulates learning by encouraging kids to experiment. It should be a toy that they can hold and touch, as learning to manipulate objects is key in helping children develop their fine motor skills. The toy should also give them the opportunity to work independently at their own pace and use their creativity.
As an example, a box of Legos could be considered a Montessori toy. Children learn how to build structures and vehicles by piecing together different blocks, and they are challenged to use their imagination to create through trial and error. On the other hand, we would not consider a specific Lego set a Montessori toy because it makes children follow specific directions to create only one possible outcome.
To help you discover other toys that will help your children learn, we’ve put together a list of 12 Montessori toys we recommend for children in preschool and kindergarten. These toys can help to better prepare children for a lifetime of learning.
12 Montessori Toys To Inspire Learning:
1. Stockmar Beeswax Block Crayons (Ages 3+)
These unique, translucent beeswax crayons make it possible for children to play with color combinations. Unlike traditional crayons where the first color is covered when another color is applied over it, the Stockmar beeswax crayons layer to create a wide range of colors and tones. The larger, blocky size of these crayons also makes them easy for little hands to grasp and less likely to become a choking hazard.
2. Phonetic Reading Blocks for the Beginning Reader (Ages 3+)
Phonetic Reading Blocks are perfect for parents who want their children to build confidence as readers. With five vowels and 13 consonants, the blocks twist to create a 80 phonetic words for young readers to practice. Kids simply rotate the blocks to create new words. Each word rhymes with the others, making it easier for kids to guess the pronunciation of words they’ve never seen before. The set also comes with definitions so children can learn the meanings of new words as they play.
3. Abacus (Ages 12 months+)
Hands-on tools, such as the abacus, are a classic way to help kids children learn math skills and color/pattern recognition. Many children, especially kinesthetic learners, need more than mathematical equations written out on the chalkboard. The visual, activity-based learning of an abacus makes it easier for children to grasp addition and subtraction. Learners can physically slide the beads to count them and see how they correspond to the built-in equations printed on the wood.
4. Multiplication Board (Ages 3+)
Another excellent, hands-on mathematical tool, this multiplication board helps children visualize multiplication concepts as they place corresponding numbers on the board. Each block has two numbers on the top side and kids can flip them over to see the answer. Make it even more challenging by removing all the blocks and encouraging kids to put them back in the right order.
5. Peg Board Set (Ages 3+)
This Montessori toy is designed to help children develop their fine motor skills, count and sort, and better recognize patterns. The oversized pegs that come with this set are large enough to be easily grasped by tiny fingers and can be stacked on top of each other to build towers—an excellent hand-eye and wrist coordination challenge.
6. Pipe and Joint Construction Building Interlocking Set (Ages 3+)
Let your kid’s imagination run wild with this fun pipe and joint construction set, which comes with 30 interlocking, jumbo-sized pieces that are perfect for tiny hands. With a combination of interlocking tubes and wheels, children can build to their hearts' content. You can get kids started creating different structures with the included Idea Set or remain true to the Montessori method by letting children discover and build based on their own imaginations.
7. PlayMais BASIC Modeling Kit (Ages 3+)
The PlayMais BASIC Modeling kit is another excellent toy to encourage creativity. This kit comes with 300 multi-colored pieces that can stick to each other (and many other surfaces) by simply getting them a little damp. Made from biodegradable corn starch, the pieces that come with this kit can be re-shaped, cut, and molded into just about any shape imaginable. Kids can try to follow illustrated instructions to create models of animals, or use their imagination to build anything they wish.
8. Scientific Explorer: My First Mind-Blowing Science Kit (Ages 4-8)
This kit is a fun way to introduce young children to the Scientific Method by helping conduct basic experiments at home. The Scientific Explorer Science Kit comes with 20 pieces that let kids practice using scientific tools like test tubes and measuring cups to create reactions with safe chemicals such as baking soda, corn starch, color tablets, vegetable oil, and more. The kit comes with step-by-step instructions so kids as young as four can conduct their own experiments with adult supervision.
9. The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game (Ages 3 - 7)
An easy-to-learn board game, the Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game teaches kids aged three and up strategic thinking and color matching. A Parents Choice Award winner, the game is quick and fun, so it will keep young kids interested while helping them learn social skills like turn-taking. The game also helps kids develop pre-handwriting skills as they practice their hand-eye coordination by using tongs to pick up acorns.
10. Wood Stirring Drum (Ages 3+)
If your child is always turning whatever they touch into an instrument, a wood stirring drum is ideal for encouraging their musical side. The cylinder of the drum is made with eight wooden tongues that each have a different pitch when struck (like a xylophone). Children play the drum by striking each wooden tongue in a circular motion just like they’re stirring food in a pot. Kids can have fun making musical sounds randomly as they stir, or practice their hand-eye coordination by trying to hit specific tones.
11. Crystal Mining Kit (Ages 24 months- 10 years)
The Montessori method is all about encouraging kids to explore through hands-on activities. This mining kit is a fun way for kids to learn about crystals. It comes with eight different crystals kids can excavate from a soft plaster shell, along with a magnifying glass so they can closely examine the differences between each crystal upon discovering them.
12. Elenco Snap Circuits Jr. (Ages 7+)
Designed for children ages seven and up, this circuit kit gives kids the ability to create 101 different electronic circuit projects. A great toy for the hands-on Montessori approach, kids can use this color-coded kit to create such projects as musical doorbells, flying saucers, and even police lights and sirens. While playing, they'll learn about electric switches, integrated circuits, digital circuits, fuses, and so much more.
While this is by no means a comprehensive list of all the Montessori toys available for preschool and kindergarten students, it is a good place to start for parents looking to add some educational toys to their household. Let us know which ones your children love and what other Montessori toys you would recommend to other parents in the comments section below.