Raising a child according to the Montessori principles is not a new concept, but it is certainly growing in popularity among modern parents. Minimalist, Montessori-inspired nurseries are trending and small-class, child-focused preschools are in high demand. Developed by Italian educator Maria Montessori in the late 1800’s, the then-groundbreaking philosophy which is now widely accepted and beloved across the globe has many components. The underlying message, though, is that children are given autonomy to explore and discover their own environment and that they learn through life-inspired, self-guided play. 

As your toddler says “goodbye” to teethers and “hello” to big-kid toys, they are at a key point in their physical growth and brain development. Embrace their curiosity as you inspire them to learn, develop, and discover in a home filled with Montessori-style toys. From age 1 through 4, your little one is mostly working on sensory development (textures, space); fine and gross motor development (from their pincer grasp to whole-body balance); and early language and mathematical learning. To round out their days, they also should focus on art, music, and basic explorations of science. 

You know your toddler is a sponge, so help them soak up all the best things with a broad range of Montessori-inspired toys. Today what constitutes a Montessori toy draws from the learning philosophy’s principles, but leaves room for interpretation. Reach for natural materials like wood, metal, clay, and cotton as often as possible and focus on toys that are child-manipulated rather than battery-operated, and include a mix of neutral and rainbow colored items. Toddlers in a Montessori playroom or nursery thrive when they have free access to their various items on low shelving units that they can reach. You also will want to set up their space with a simple table and chair for crafting, letters practice, and play. 

In addition to the best store-bought Montessori toys around, you can also make a treasure box for them of found objects to help with sensory and fine motor development. Here are some of our other favorite Montessori inspired toys for toddlers.

Stacking Montessori Toys for Toddlers 

Rainbow stacking Montessori toy for toddlers

Image: Bella Luna Toys

Stacking, especially of rainbow-colored objects, remains important from infancy throughout the toddler years. These toys enhance color and shape recognition and reasoning while strengthening pincer grasp and other fine motor skills. Invest in stacking rings, cups, and nesting dolls for hours of educational play. 

Sorting Montessori Toys for Toddlers

 Montessori sorting toy for toddlers

Image: The Tot

Like stacking, sorting is key to Montessori learning as your toddler grows. Sorting gives your young child a sense of control and practice creating order out of chaos, fundamental to their process of learning their place in our big world. This practice also provides early mathematical thinking for your 1- to 4-year-old. 

Climber & Barre Montessori Toys for Toddlers

Toddler playing on Montessori climbing toys  

Image: Etsy/WoodandRoomUA

Your busy little one is into everything, which can be exhausting for parents. But the climbing, stretching, hanging, and wild dance moves are all essential to their gross motor skills development. Create indoor spaces where this important active learning can happen with a Pikler triangle, ballet barre, and other wood installations designed to entice them to get up and move. 

Balance Boards, Beams & Bikes for Toddlers

Toddler playing on wooden Montessori balance board 

Image: Lily & River

Working on their balance is another form of active toddler play in line with the Montessori method. Unlike triangles, slides, and barres, these easy-to-store wooden gross-motor toys don’t take up much space and can be put away easily after playtime. Not only is your toddler having fun and learning about their physical capabilities with these toys, but they are also getting a jumpstart to sports from surfing and cycling to snowboarding and cheerleading with very early balance practice.  

Building Materials for Toddlers

Toddler playing with wooden building blocks 

Image: Lakeshore Learning

Creating towers and towns and knocking them down is pretty much the best thing ever to a toddler. Support their curiosity and make building time fun with an assortment of wooden, natural silicone, rock, and other beautiful sets from traditional blocks to textured geometric shapes. Magnetic tiles are also packed with Montessori inspired goodness, including cause-and-effect and the start of scientific thinking.  

Adult-Inspired Play Kits for Toddlers

Wooden Montessori tool kit for toddlers 

Image: Amazon 

One of the important principles of the Montessori method is that children should be given the tools to learn how adults interact in their worlds. The most basic acts like cooking, cleaning, and repairing household items are inspirational to your little one from the start. These toys and sets—like pots and pans, a mop and broom, or tool kit—also create a natural activity for your child to engage in and model your behavior while you are doing the actual chore. 

Alphabet Tracing Montessori Toy for Toddlers

 Wooden Montessori alphabet tracing kit

Image: Amazon 

Rather than drilling the ABC’s and quizzing your kiddo, make at-home learning fun with tracing sets that allow tykes to practice their letters without the pressure of seeing how it turns out on the page. This way your child is not judging their writing; they’re just enjoying making the shapes and getting acquainted with them. In addition to giving them a head-start on preschool letter recognition, this activity also strengthens fine motor skills and encourages concentration. 

Montessori Number Learning Sets for Toddlers

 Wooden Montessori number set toy

Image: The Tot 

Math is fun in a Montessori classroom, and numbers should be the same way at home. In the Montessori method, numbers and early math are represented by visuals—shapes, colors, actual amounts of objects that can be added and taken away from each other, etc. Don’t push your child to interact with their number learning set in a specific way. Instead, take their lead on discovering numbers and basic math with them together.  

Busy Boards & Cubes for Toddlers

 Montessori toddler busy board

Image: Amazon

These clever, all-in-one learning toys give your toddler the best of the Montessori fundamentals in one exciting place—and make cleanup easier for you. From lacing to sorting, to zipping, cranking, and beyond, there are so many interactive and fun ways to explore and play with busy boards, cubes, and books. Because these toys can contain lots of small pieces, it is important to purchase from a reputable company that is safety tested and compliant. 

Lacing & Sewing Montessori Toddler Toys

Montessori lacing and sewing toy for toddlers 

Image: Crate & Kids  

Imperative to a child’s fine-motor learning is the pincer grasp that will serve them well for writing and many other tasks in life. Montessori lacing and sewing toys for toddlers are a great way to incorporate this skill and an ideal activity choice for quiet time or car trips.  

Hammer Box Montessori Toy for Toddlers

Wooden hammer box toy for toddlers 

Image: Scandi Born 

You already know that your toddler likes to bang on things. Rather than letting them destroy your countertops and floors, provide a hammering box with pegs, balls, or similar items that disappear or retreat when banged with a mallet and then can be easily replaced. Many of these toys also enhance shape and color recognition. 

Montessori Puzzles & Peg Sets for Toddlers

 Wooden toddler puzzle with shapes and numbers

Image: Toy Story Store 

Active little minds love organizing, relocating, and otherwise interacting with Montessori-inspired peg sets and grippy puzzles. Making your own can also be a fun craft to enjoy together with your child. 

Hand Puppets & Simple Dolls for Toddlers

 Knit sock puppet toy for toddlers

Image: The Little Market

Simple puppets and dolls are sweet toys to keep on hand for rainy days or any time your toddler is inspired to engage in pretend play. A basic wooden dollhouse and simple creatures or peg dolls are also great from age 12 months up. As they act out all sorts of imaginary situations, they are learning and growing each day. 

Ramp Montessori Toddler Toy 

Wooden car ramp toy for toddlers 

Image: Amazon

Object permanence, cause-and-effect, and fine motor development are all at play when your little one sends a tiny toy careening down their play ramp. These are some of the simplest yet most important Montessori toys for toddlers. As a bonus, they are super-cute to look at! 

Toddler Musical Instrument Toys 

 Toddler musical instrument set

Image: Project Montessori

Making music is a big part of the Montessori day. Drums, cymbals, triangles, bells, and little wooden guitars are just some of the special tools you can stock up in their music boxes to inspire creativity and fun right at home. Early music practice isn’t just about music; it teaches problem-solving, helps with their fine and gross motor skills, and is a beautiful example of interacting within our world.

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