ARTICLE by Natalie Brown

What are Montessori toys?

 |  Reading time: 4 minutes
B_for_Blog | Natural Baby Shower

Are you looking for new and innovative toys for your child? Something that will help them learn and grow in their own unique way? If so, Montessori toys may be the perfect choice for you.

Named after Maria Montessori, an Italian educator who developed the approach, Montessori toys are designed to help children learn through exploration and play. They're typically made of natural materials, which helps foster a love of nature and teaches little ones about the environment. Plus, they're often very interactive, encouraging hands-on learning and creativity. 

If you’re one of many parents who are new to the world of Montessori, we’re on hand to walk you through what constitutes a Montessori toy and help you discover some of the examples you’ll find here at Natural Baby Shower

History of Montessori

Before we look at what constitutes a Montessori toy, you may be asking yourself - where does this all come from?

While Montessori has been somewhat of a recent trend, it was invented many years ago - over 100 in fact! Developed by Maria Montessori in 1907, she opened the first Montessori school in Rome; Casa dei Bambini or Children’s House. Here, Maria's "Montessori Method" found that children who were given freedom, curiosity and self-discipline could learn more naturally. 

Her work attracted many followers from all around Europe with its emphasis not only on physical development but also mental growth through playtime activities such as painting flowers etc. By 1910, Montessori schools could be found throughout Western Europe and were being established around the world to help pave the way for modern education systems.

Features of a Montessori toy

Simple design

One of the most important elements of Montessori is to provide a child with an environment that's both rich in stimulates and encourages engagement. One way to achieve this is by choosing toys that encourage open-minded play, such as The Blossom & Bear Wooden Lacing Toy in Elephant which offers a simple yet timeless design, built to captivate a little one's imagination yet avoid over-stimulating with complex features.

Based on real life

According to Maria Montessori, children need a lot of exposure to help them make the mental leap towards reality. This is because, little ones are naturally drawn towards what is exciting however, after time they learn that there is more which is new or different in reality from what their minds had imagined. Montessori observed this by watching young children interact with real objects such as toys that provided day to day tasks, and became both comforting yet unfamiliar.

We love the Liewood Freddie Barber Set in Blue Multi Mix which encourages pretend play and helps little ones develop social skills. The Freddie set is an excellent addition to any little ones role play toy collection, and a great way to introduce them to real world activities.

Natural materials

There are many reasons why Montessori toys are made from natural materials, but among the most important is the desire for a child to make connections with nature. However, toys made from natural materials are much more enjoyable to explore than plastic ones. Wood and other natural materials have an interesting “taste” for babies while offering various textures that you can't get with a purely synthetic product. Plus, natural materials like wood are both safe and durable, which means it can be used by children from an early age.

The Little Dutch wooden toy range is not only gorgeous but offers a range of toys made sustainably from wood. The Shape Sorter in Little Goose is a creative sorting toy offering Montessori development for children. They can learn to recognise and match shapes and colours while fine-tuning their hand-eye coordination, making it fun and educational at the same time.

Promote cognitive + STEM learning

Montessori toys are great for developing fine motor skills and children's creativity. These toys aim to give little ones the opportunity to experiment with objects that they are holding, while also encouraging independent learning at their own pace!

Montessori-aligned toys offer concrete opportunities for STEM type of learning; for example, dropping a ball inside an opening at the top is an exercise that teaches cause and effect, while different shapes on your little one’s puzzle encourage problem solving skills as well as understanding spatial relationships between objects. Your child's mind is therefore stimulated as they experiment with things around them, developing an understanding of important concepts like physics and math through play.

The Mushie Stacking Rainbow is a perfect example of how little ones can love to sort, stack and play all whilst learning with soft colours and developing their fine motor skills.

More on Montessori

Some toys are more aligned with the Montessori philosophy than others. For example, certain toys may be better suited for younger children who need a higher degree of independence in their play or older ones striving towards greater complexity and skills.

So, if you're trying to build a Montessori environment for your little one at home, or would like some more help on how to choose a particular toy, you can speak with our lovely team of nursery specialists via one-way video call for expert advice and a helping hand!

Shop our Montessori collection>>