I have been meaning to write this post for so long, and with the festive season fast approaching (eeeek!) I thought I should actually get to it rather than leaving it too late for this year.
Below are a selection of toys I feel pretty sure would be welcomed by any family with an interest in the Montessori ethos – or actually, any family at all! They are well made, beautiful, mostly made of natural materials, and invite open-ended creative play. A few are classic Montessori, a few are Waldorf-inspired, a lot are Grimms (!) and a few are just classic toys which any child would love.
I have categorised these items not by type rather than age (apart from newborn). This is because our children are all different, and tend to pay no attention to age restrictions on toys – a 13 month old and a 28 month old might well both enjoy the same item, albeit perhaps using it in a slightly different way (that’s the beauty of open-ended toys).
You will notice that I haven’t included books – I considered it, but quickly realised that this list would simply be too long if I listed all our favourites. Needless to say, books are very popular in our home, and would make a fantastic gift for any age child.
Rainbow bead grasper. Such a beautiful toy for babies – a sensory delight.
Mobile. There are just so many mobiles out there that I didn’t have time to go through them all! A simple design which could be hung anywhere would be a winner though. We have a beautiful paper swan mobile which Frida still likes to look at.
Interlocking disks. A Montessori classic material for babies. Really well made and a treasure for any keepsake box.
Soft baby. At 7cm these are ideal for babies who are just beginning to grasp.
Pop-up toy. A classic toy, this still gets used every day in our home! One of our all time favourite toys, and very reasonably priced. Every baby should have one!
Rattle. How beautiful is this rattle? I have a baby nephew due in the next month or so and he will definitely be receiving this at Christmas.
Natural pacifier. If you know a baby who uses a pacifier, this natural one could be a nice gift.
Soft ball. A beautiful felted ball to engage the senses, this would be used for years. I love this so much I’m considering buying one for Frida now.
GRIMMS WOODEN TOYS
Rainbow (12 piece). The iconic Grimms toy, and wonderfully open-ended.
Nesting cups. A great gift for a younger baby or toddler, and can be used for imaginative play as they get older.
Seven friends in cups. One of my favourite Grimms items, and Frida’s favourite. Great for imaginative play and colour matching.
Conical tower stacker. Fine motor, sense and order, colour, size – this beautiful stacker has it all, and is one of my go-to gifts.
Ammonite puzzle. Perhaps the other iconic Grimms toy. Younger children can use the pieces as blocks or as a room decoration, and older children can tackle the puzzle. I also love this Mandala puzzle.
Cave / stacking house. These look beautiful in a room and are brilliant for imaginative play. A bear cave? A fairy house? A hiding place for a rabbit? These types of toys are good for teaching about size and order in a natural way too.
Building sets – One Thousand and One Nights, Romanesque, Four Elements… any child would be very, very lucky to receive one of these sets.
Gnomes. These would be really lovely stocking fillers, and make a perfect gift for any age.
Fraction puzzle. Great for older toddlers.
FOSTERING IMAGINATIVE PLAY
Dolls (Anatomically correct plastic baby / Waldorf-style dolls). Frida has a very simple plastic baby doll with a soft body (similar here) and it is probably her most used toy. Dolls are so important for boys and girls alike and I think young children are really drawn to them.
Blocks (simple blocks here / beautiful natural ones here). A staple for every household.
Play silks. These are such a beautiful, open-ended material. In our home they are used as doll slings, as backgrounds for playing, as decorative materials, for hiding and playing peek-a-boo… These would make a lovely gift for a child of any age!
Wooden animals and figures (Holztiger / Ostheimer). Frida’s Holztiger wooden animals have been such a joy, for her and for us to use with her. Beautifully made, pleasant to handle, and perfect for open ended play for years to come.
Schleich animals. I am sure these are found in every Montessori home! Anatomically correct, versatile, resilient, these are amazing and make fantastic gifts. Frida has some farm animals in adult / baby pairs (great for matching activities for younger toddlers) and some sea animals which she uses in the bath.
Vehicles (cars / fire truck / fork lift / horse on wheels / aeroplane). I love simple vehicles (we have the Grimms cars and a Plan truck), but I’m sure most would go down well with toddlers.
Dolls house. I have been really lusting over some beautiful doll’s houses for Frida! These would make an incredible gift for an older toddler or child.
Farm house or stable. Ditto – an amazing gift to go with wooden or Schleich animals.
Toy kitchen (IKEA / Myriad). A classic toy for toddlers and young children, again available to suit every budget. You can also buy beautiful wooden or cloth food, play pots and pans, cutlery…
Tea set. A nice gift for children who are starting to initiate imaginary play.
Train set. A classic gift but a great one! Again, you’ll be able to find one to suit every budget. We have a cheap IKEA one for now. Setting the track up is like a puzzle in its own right too.
PUZZLES AND GAMES
Object permanence box. A wonderful, classic Montessori, gift for a baby. You can see Frida using hers here when she was 10 months.
Simple peg puzzles (shapes / three circles / circle). Classic Montessori and brilliant for older babies as an introduction to puzzles. I loved using the three circles puzzle with Frida when she was younger, and it was a good way to introduce her to size.
More complex peg puzzles (shapes / farm animals / wild animals / vehicles). Good for older babies and toddlers.
Shape sorter / shape sorter / imbucare box. Young children love posting, and shape sorting is great for their hand / eye coordination. The animal shape sorter I linked to would be good for older babies – Frida was bought a second hand one and loves playing with the animals.
Two-piece / multiple-piece puzzles. We are just about to buy Frida some of two-piece puzzles as I think she is ready for them. Multiple-piece puzzles would be good for older toddlers.
Magnetic fishing game. A lovely game which encourages coordination and fine motor skills. We have a cheap one my mum bought for Frida but I’ve linked to a similar one and there’s another here.
Animal dominoes. Animal matching, plus putting things in and taking them out of their box. What’s not to love?!
Stockmar block crayons. I love these so much. They smell divine as they are made from beeswax, their colours are beautiful, and they are a great shape for little hands to grasp. Putting them in and taking them out of a tin is an activity in itself! They come in sets of 8, 12 and 16.
Paint. I especially like these GALT squeeze and brush paint pens, although those looking for something more natural might prefer finger paints like these natural ones.
Coloured pencils. These would be great for little hands. IKEA do brilliant cheap, chubby ones too – pick some up if you are making a trip!
Pantone colour cards / Pantone colour puzzle book. Not strictly an art material but these look like a lovely way of learning about colours.
Colour paddles. Great for all ages, to use as a sensory item through to learning about colour mixing.
CleaninCleaning set.g set. A set which children can use to really clean alongside their parents
Clothes pegs. Do I really think any child *needs* beautiful Grimms wooden clothes pegs for practical life activities? No. But these are undeniably lovely, and could also be used to peg play silks for imaginative play. They also sell a more traditional style of peg too.
Apron. A lovely idea for little ones who enjoy baking (this might be better for older toddlers as infants will probably find it easier to use a full-sleeve bib or art coverall).
Gardening set. Even children who don’t have access to a garden will enjoy these tools as they can be used in a sand pit, or in a local wood, or to help pot up plants on a balcony. We have this set and they are perfectly suitable as well as reasonably priced.
Puddle suit. A brilliantly practical gift for any age child. Even babies who cannot crawl yet can use a waterproof suit for sitting outdoors and exploring the earth with their hands. Frida currently uses a yellow Regatta suit but I’m sure you can find them at every price range and in every colour.
Glockenspiel. These come at all price points and in all colours and styles. Frida’s was a gift and I love that it is a “proper” adult one rather than a toy one – having a better quality of material makes a big different for instruments as the sound is so much clearer.
Hand held bells. Perfect for all ages. These are a more natural looking option.
Tambourine. Great for making lots of noise!
Shakers and maracas. A great gift for little ones who have just started grasping.
There are more beautiful instruments on the Myriad website here, any of which would be a perfect gift.
FINE MOTOR SKILLS
Grimms threading bead set. This set is fairly expensive for what it is, so you could probably make your own set using cheaper materials, however I think it would make a beautiful gift.
Bee hive set. A truly lovely toy which encourages fine motor skills, colour matching, and imaginative play.
Grimms rainbow sorting bowls. These are also quite expensive so you could probably make your own set using cheaper materials. Again though, a really beautiful gift which I am sure would be treasured.
Stickers. At 18 months Frida is really into stickers, and the peeling makes for a great fine motor activity (for a younger child I would peel the backing off to make it a bit easier to begin with). I am eyeing up these lovely seasonal stickers for Frida at the moment.
Letter work book. This is a great gift for older toddlers who might be starting to show an interest in letter work. This is a lovely book with textured letters to encourage tracing.
GROSS MOTOR SKILLS
Sheepskin rug. Perfect for a new baby to lie on next to a mirror, observing their movements. Great for an older baby who is sitting, and a lovely addition to a chair or floor in a toddler bedroom.
Crawl-through tunnel. Brilliant for infants who are just starting to crawl, for playing peek-a-boo, and for imaginative play. Can be used indoors or outdoors.
“First” slide. Frida has a very small slide which she was bought for her first birthday (similar to the one linked to though not the same) and it was a great gift – small enough that she could play on it without us hovering over her, and for her to feel a sense of accomplishment. It was also small enough that if we wanted to it could easily have been brought inside our home.
Wobbel board. We are really considering buying one of these for Frida – I love the range of options for gross motor and imaginative play. Myriad also sell a similar Curvy Board here.
Balancing beam. Great for developing a sense of balance and coordination. I can also imagine this being used as a road for play vehicles.
Micro-scooter. This 3-in-1 version is suitable from around the age of one (dependent on motor skills obviously) and will last for years to come. Frida was bought this for her first birthday and it’s been a fantastic present.
Baby walker. Great for tentative walkers who like something to hold on to whilst they toddle. Again these tend to be available at every price range.
Hammer bench. Frida didn’t have one of these but I often see them recommended for babies.
Rocking horse. These can be as expensive as your budget will stretch to, though I have linked to an IKEA rocking moose as this is what we have and Frida loves it! At 18 months she can get on and off unassisted, and really enjoys it – excellent value for money.
Gym mat. Useful for an infant who is wobbly when sitting, and great for older toddlers who are starting to use their body creatively with jumping and rolling.
I should probably point out here that none of the things I have mentioned have been sponsored, or affiliate, or anything like that.
I hope that has given you – and your family members! – some inspiration for birthdays and celebrations, as well as some ideas for toys your infant or toddler may enjoy.
Do you agree with the list? Think I’ve missed something? If you end up being inspired let me know how you get on!