Montessori Gifts for Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers

With the festive season fast approaching, I have updated my Montessori-friendly gift guide. I hope you find it useful!

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, and a few are just classic toys which any child would love.

I have categorised these items by type rather than age (apart from infant). 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).

I haven’t included books in this list – it would be too long if I listed all our favourites. Needless to say, books make a fantastic gift for any age child. Some of our favourite non-fiction books can be found here, and I’m confident that most young children would enjoy finding one of these under their tree!

INFANT

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.

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, which Frida played with for a long time, and one which I have gifted many babies. One of our all time favourite toys, and very reasonably priced.

Nesting cups. A great gift for a younger baby or toddler, and can be used for imaginative play as they get older. Again, this is one of my go-to gifts when buying for a new baby. Frida still plays with hers daily at two and a half!

Rattle. How beautiful is this rattle? It would make a lovely gift for a young baby.

Soft ball. A beautiful felted ball to engage the senses, this would be used for years.

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GRIMMS WOODEN TOYS

We really love Grimms wooden toys in our home!

Open-ended, ethically made, and beautifully tactile, these toys are really very special. They make such wonderful gifts, and can be used in endless ways.

Some of my favourites include the large rainbow, the semi-circles, the stacking boxes, the dolls and doll’s furniture (including the gorgeous mobile home), and the many different stackers (we have the cave and waves).  They also sell stunning building sets, blocks, cars, peg dolls… I could go on.


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) which has served her well. Dolls are so important for boys and girls alike and I think young children are really drawn to them.

Doll sling. A wonderful gift for a child who already owns a doll!

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, for dressing up… These 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. She plays with them day in, day out, and I often buy them for gifts. We also love the trees, and this year I have bought Frida some play grass and a wooden well.

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. These would make an incredible gift for an older toddler or child. Frida has a simple Grimms doll house frame, which I love as it’s versatile (doubling up as a cafe or stable) and easy for little hands to navigate.

Farm house or stable. Ditto – an amazing gift to go with wooden or Schleich animals.

Plan Toys vegetable garden set. The loveliest toy to go alongside small dolls and animals!

Toy kitchen (IKEA / Myriad). A classic toy for toddlers and young children, again available to suit every budget. There is a debate within Montessori families about the use of toy kitchens, some eschewing them altogether, some preferring to use them alongside real crockery and food, and some using them for imaginative play whilst ensuring the child gets plenty of access to real food preparation. We fall in the latter camp.

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.

Frida loves using natural materials in her imaginative play, including precious stones, conkers, pieces of wood, stones, shells… A collection of natural “loose parts” gifted in a bag or basket would be the most wonderful gift for an older toddler or preschooler.

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 (shapesfarm animals / wild animals / vehicles). Good for older babies and toddlers.

Shape sorter / shape sorterimbucare 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 loved playing with the animals.

Two piece / multiple piece puzzles. Great for younger toddlers who are just starting to learn about how puzzles work.

Jigsaw puzzles. There are so many to love! We especially like the Ravensburger frame puzzles.

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?!

Bird Bingo. A Montessori family classic! We have learnt so much from ours. There is also a Bug Bingo as well as cat and dog versions.

Where’s My Piglet? A beautiful matching game with adult and baby animals to match. When children are older this can be played as a memory game. 

ART MATERIALS

Stockmar 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 for young toddlers, although those looking for something more natural might prefer finger paints like these natural ones.

For older toddlers and preschoolers I cannot get enough of these Stockmar opaque paints. The colours are amazing and they are such good quality.

Colouring pencils.. We adore Lyra pencils – their quality is second to none. For a cheaper option IKEA do great cheap, chubby ones too – pick some up if you are making a trip!

Modelling clay. I love this Okonorm clay as it doesn’t dry out at all, and the colours are gorgeous despite being natural.

Colour paddles. Great for all ages, to use as a sensory item through to learning about colour mixing.

PRACTICAL LIFE

Cleaning set. A set which children can use to really clean alongside their parents

Clothes pegs. A slightly odd gift idea perhaps, but children love clothes pegs! If you want to push the boat out Grimms do beautiful ones. Frida also loves using her own clothes horse.

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.

Crinkle cutter. The perfect stocking filler! Frida uses hers all the time, and has done for a long time now. It’s a great “first knife” and enables young children to contribute to cooking in a meaningful way.

MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS

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 two and a half Frida is still 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).

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. Frida was bought one last year and it has just been brilliant. I cannot recommend it enough.

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.

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 two and a half she still uses it all the time.

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I hope that this list 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!

None of the items I have mentioned have been sponsored, although this post does contain some affiliate links at no cost to you. 

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40 practical life activities for toddlers

Frida is 21 months, and does very little in the way of working with traditional Montessori materials at the moment. She’s outgrown her infant materials, and is still too young for most materials geared towards the 3-6 plane of development. What she does do a lot of, though, is practical life, which I believe to be the real focus of the toddler years. By involving Frida in practical life – real life, purposeful activity – her confidence and independence visibly grows. 

I thought I would share some ideas with you for how to incorporate more of these moments into every day life. These are all wonderful opportunities to slow down, allow your child to learn, and show them that you value them as a capable and helpful member of the household. And whilst practical life is integral to any Montessori family, you don’t have to know anything about Montessori to do these activities! In fact I bet you’re already doing lots of these things every day.

Note: These are all “real-life” activities, as opposed to activities set up on trays such as pouring beans or scooping rice or grating soap. Whilst I have nothing against those activities I have found with Frida that she likes her work to be purposeful and to have meaningful results!

Care of self

Choosing clothes. We have been encouraging Frida to choose her clothes from a young age and have recently set up her wardrobe to maximise her independence. 

Nose wiping. We are in the process of teaching Frida to do this independently, using Nicole at the Kavanaugh Report’s method. 

Putting on a cardigan and/or coat. Show them the Montessori coat flip and you will never look back!

Getting dressed. Every child will learn at different speeds but at 21 months Frida is putting on pants and trousers (with little help), is getting more confident with tights, still struggles a bit with socks and shoes, and helps to pull on her tops and dresses. Providing your child with some time to practice when they are not rushed is key.

Getting undressed. Much easier than getting dressed, as anyone who has tried to keep socks on a baby will know! 

Hair brushing. Frida’s hair has always been quite long so getting her involved with and used to hair brushing has been important for us. 

Washing hands. Most toddlers I have met love doing this. 

Face wiping. After lunch or a snack I offer Frida a damp flannel. She also washes her face in the bath.

Tooth brushing. Although I brush Frida’s teeth for her (it’s important for it to be done thoroughly) she enjoys brushing them herself once I’m done. 

Applying sun-cream. Not so relevant for our family now in January, but Frida does like to be involved in putting her moisturiser on after her bath (we use Waitrose Bottom Butter as a body cream, it’s just olive oil, vanilla, and chamomile). 

Toilet learning. Montessorians tend to believe that children enter a sensitive period for toilet learning between 12-18 months. We started Frida’s learning journey at ten months and at 21 months we are done with the basics – we have very few accidents and she is dry at night. The next step will be Frida telling us every time she needs to use the loo rather than us prompting her, which will come with time. You can read about our journey here. 

Using a nail-brush. Particularly useful after a muddy ramble around the park when your child has dirt under their nails. 

Doing up side-release buckles and using zips on bags. Frida loves clipping buckles together, and has been interested in zips for a while now. Great for fine motor skills too. 

In the kitchen

Pouring water or milk from a jug. Spills are a great opportunity to practice wiping.

Baking. This involves a range of different skills including mixing, transferring, glazing, and kneading. If you don’t bake much, scones are a great starter for both of you!

Using a cookie cutter. It’s also fun to practice with playdough.

Washing dishes. If you are nervous about smashing start with pans or cutlery. 

Mashing. You can start small with bananas and a fork, and move on to vegetables and a potato masher. 

Assembling smoothies. Choosing, chopping, and adding fruit and veg, pouring milk or water, scooping yoghurt or nut butters, adding nuts and seeds. 

Chopping fruit and vegetables using a crinkle cutter. 

Peeling. Bananas, tangerines, and eggs are all great for under-twos. 

Learning to crack eggs. This needs very hands-on parental support! 

Grating cheese. The hard thing for me is preventing Frida from eating it all as she goes!

Spreading condiments on bread or crackers.

Helping to load / unload the dishwasher. The cutlery is a great place to start (just remove any sharp knives first). 

Helping to set the table. We don’t do this with Frida yet as our table is too high for her to reach, though I’d like to think creatively about how I can empower her to help with this soon. 

Care of their environment

Mopping. Cleaning + water play = everyone is happy!

Sweeping. Frida has a Melissa and Doug child-size cleaning set with a broom, mop, duster, dustpan and brush. It’s the perfect size for a toddler. 

Dusting. This is especially helpful if your toddler has low shelves for toys and materials, as they can collect dust easily! 

Helping to load / unload / hang / take down the laundry. 

Sorting dry laundry. You can also turn this into a matching activity, for example pairing socks, or finding all the underwear. 

Tidying up after themselves. We have encouraged Frida to do this from a young age. It’s helpful that all of her toys / materials / clothes / books have a set place, so she knows where everything goes. 

Wiping the table or work surface with a damp cloth after their art and craft / cooking / meal. If your child has a blackboard they can also wash this down regularly. 

Watering and dusting indoor plants. A lovely way of teaching children gentleness, concentration, and control. 

Watering outdoor plants. With a hose or watering can. 

Sowing seeds and growing plants. We will start germinating some seeds soon indoors – I need to get organised! 

Out and about 

Sticking stamps on letters and posting them. I have never met a toddler who doesn’t love to post. This is a lovely extension to art activities as your toddler can post one of their pieces to a friend or relative. 

Ordering in a cafe or restaurant. If your toddler would like to, encourage them to order their drink, snack or meal from the barista or waiter! A lovely way to build confidence. 

Food shopping. Involve your toddler – let them choose some food, for example which pasta shape to buy or what sort of apples. Let them put things in the basket or trolley, and talk about what food you will cook. They may even enjoy to carry something home. 

Care of animals

Topping up pet food and water dishes. Decant pet food into larger containers and let them top up your pet’s bowl. We are going to start doing this with Frida.

Grooming. If you have a pet which needs grooming, your toddler can be involved. 

Phew! 

I hope this has given you some ideas, and show that Montessori parenting doesn’t have to be complicated, or involve lots of fancy furniture or expensive materials. 

What are your favourite practical life activities? 

The start of the birthday celebrations

I was in early labour for four days before Frida was born, so it makes sense that we should be celebrating her birthday over the course of a week!

To kick things off we threw an afternoon tea for a few family members. I baked a haphazard lemon cake, which went wrong in many different ways because I refuse to consult recipes, and assembled a few decorations; some flower garlands, a banner, and photos of Frida when she was tiny as place settings. 

We all squashed around our too-small table and drank tea, and champagne from paper cups.It was such a lovely afternoon and Frida was thoroughly spoilt by her family. I feel so lucky that Frida is surrounded by a wonderful family who love her.

A few photos below:   

    
    
    
     

  

Gross motor skills: standing 

Over the last week Frida has suddenly “got” standing unaided. Previously if she was standing up and we let go of her, she would stand for 10-30 seconds, then panic when she realised and promptly sit down. 

  
Now however she will intentionally let go of whatever she is holding, and will do everything she can to balance if she starts to wobble. It’s such a joy to watch her!

  

She is also climbing the stairs (eek) and generally seems really aware of and interested by her body. When prompted she knows her nose, mouth, head, hands, and feet. It will be interesting to see when she decides to walk! 

DIY chalk board wall 

I have been wanting to put a toddler size chalk board wall up for a while, but like all the other DIY our house desperately needs doing I managed to put it off. However with Frida’s first birthday just days away I suddenly felt the motivation to get it done. 

Our house is not very big (under 1000sqft) so I am keen to try and make our space as multi-functional as possible. I have written before about my attempt to make our dining room more baby and toddler friendly, and it made sense to put the chalk board wall in there as this is the room where Frida will do arts and crafts. It is also bright and sunny with doors onto the garden, and the hole which goes through to the kitchen means I can keep an eye on activities whilst I cook or do chores. 

 
Here is the finished result! It was so quick to do:

  1. Give the wall where you are planning to paint a wipe down, and use masking tape to create a border.
  2. Apply two coats of chalk board paint using vertical brush strokes, allowing the paint to dry completely between costs.
  3. When dry, rub the entire chalk board with a piece of chalk and then rub it off; this “seasons” the paint and makes it easier to draw on. 

  
I just need to add a small ledge or pot to keep the chalk and duster at child-height, and I would also like to put some low art above her shelves. Any justification for a trip to IKEA…

 
I’m really pleased with how it looks and I think it makes the space look more appealing and child-focused. I am looking forward to Frida showing an interest in drawing on it!   

Montessori discovery basket: silver and gold 

There is usually a “treasure basket” of mixed objects to be found on one of Frida’s shelves. I tend to try and stick to objects of a certain theme, to encourage her to draw associations between the similar properties. 

This week I have pulled together a very simple silver and gold basket.   In it I have included: 

  • A small sensory jar of “gold” liquid (yellow food dye and gold glitter glue mixed with water) 
  • A jar of silver sugar balls
  • A gold bauble
  • A silver spoon
  • A gold chocolate box 
  • A silver kiddush cup

So far it’s been a hit and Frida has enjoyed exploring its contents.   

  

 

Frida’s first haircut

I had tried everything. Every clip, hair band, Alice band, hair grip; Frida pulled each of them out of her hair with growing speed. Her hair was getting SO long to the point that it no longer felt fair to do nothing about it.  

So I decided that the time had come to finally cut her a fringe. I waited until she fell asleep in bed and then pounced with a pair of scissors I, ahem, found in the kitchen drawer.  


 Ta-dah! 

She has seemed pretty happy about it; it must be nice for her to no longer have to look out onto the world through a curtain of hair! I now feel horribly guilty that I didn’t do this weeks ago.