Holiday gifts at two and a half 

I really enjoy picking out gifts for Frida. She is into so many different things at the moment, choices feel potentially limitless. This year I’ve gone for things which I hope will bring her joy through deep play, just as her other toys do. 

Our family celebrates both Christmas and Chanukah, so we will be giving her gifts for both festivals. For Christmas, we will be giving Frida one toy and one book under the tree, and a stocking containing some smaller toys. For Chanukah, she will recieve a gift every night for the eight days (though these will also be from family, and not all will be big). 

Christmas stocking. In Frida’s stocking she will find:

I loved putting together her stocking and hope that she enjoys it!

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Ostheimer well. This will be Frida’s “tree gift” this year. One of our beloved local gardens has an old well in it, so when I first saw this well many months ago I knew it would make the perfect Christmas gift for her. I am really looking forward to seeing how she uses it in her play.

The Story Orchestra: The Nutcracker. I can’t wait for Frida to find this under the tree! This is the second Story Orchestra book; the first (Four Seasons, with music from Vivaldi) has been one of Frida’s constant favourites. The beautiful illustrations and snippets of classical music make for the most enchanting books, and I think she will love this as much as Four Seasons.

Maileg matchbox mice (we went for the “Christmas Mum and Dad Mice” and the “Little Sister Mouse“. Frida will be getting these for her Chanukah gift, along with some chocolate coins as tradition dictates. I have been umming and ahhing about buying these for Frida for a while; they are quite different to the toys we usually buy – and not very Montessori! – but I just know that she will love them.

Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos. Frida, unsurprisingly, has for a long time been interested in Frida Kahlo. She has a good grasp of her life story, and often when we talk about her she asks me about the pets that Frida Kahlo had. I was therefore so delighted to find this book – it looks absolutely perfect! I am really looking forward to Frida opening this for Chanukah so that I have an excuse to read it too.

You may have noticed that we’re not giving Frida many books, considering how much I talk about them! The simple reason is that I tend to buy and give Frida books throughout the year (as I do for myself, ahem). However most of the other children I am buying for will be getting beautiful books rather than toys. 

What are you looking forward to gifting your child this year? 

I have a couple more wintry posts planned over the next few weeks on how we will be celebrating Christmas as a secular family, and some tips for a greener Christmas. Have you seen my Montessori-friendly gift guide, my list of things to make and do this winter, my Waldorf star tutorial, and my list of winter books we are enjoying

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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. 

In praise of good quality art materials: Stockmar and Lyra review (+ discount code) 

Art is an important part of our daily rhythm at the moment, with Frida choosing to work with her paints, pencils, crayons and modelling clay most days – sometimes more than once. She has free access to paints, water, pencils, crayons, paper, and felt tips (you can see our current set up here), and tends to work with them either before breakfast, after lunch, or before supper. 

I am a firm believer in giving children the best possible quality art materials we can afford. If you have ever used poor quality art materials, you will know why! Cheap crayons which snap, brittle colouring pencils which leave a weak colour, box paints which are watery and pale. How can we expect our children to develop a love of art when their materials are so often second-rate and frustrating? I believe that giving children good-quality art materials sends them a clear message: that their art work is important and deserving.

I realise that good quality art materials are not always cheap, but perhaps gifting them at special occasions, or asking friends and family to do the same, would be a way to slowly build up a selection of great-quality materials. These have the benefit of often lasting much longer, making them more cost-effective in the long run.

With this in mind, I was so delighted to receive some new, quality, art materials in the post from One Hundred Toys for Frida and I to review!

Stockmar Opaque Colour Box Paints

I feel rather cheeky in reviewing the Stockmar Opaque Colour Box Paints, as if we weren’t sent them to review I would definitely have bought them myself.

We are big fans of Stockmar products, and own both the block wax crayons and the stick wax crayons (Stockmar crayons are worth buying if only for their gorgeous honey smell, let alone the wonderful colours, texture, ergonomic shape, the fact they last for ever… I could go on!) as well as some concentrated watercolours. I have talked about Stockmar before, but I really do love the brand, and the high-quality Waldorf-inspired art materials they produce for children. I was therefore very excited for Frida to try out the Opaque Paints!

We have not been disappointed. These paints are so richly pigmented that the gentlest paintbrush stroke on the paints translates into rich colour on paper – perfect for a two year old who is still learning how to use water colours. I have tried out other “children’s palettes” before and been so disappointed with the weak colours. These are excellent quality, and need so little water that I am sure they will last a long time (making them good value too). I think there is obviously a reason that these paints seem to often be found in Montessori and homeschooling family homes!

The set comes with a paintbrush, some white paint, and a mixing tray. Frida has been really enjoying mixing up some lighter colours using these.

I love watercolours for young children as they are such a wonderful practical life activity! There are so many steps; filling the water, fetching an apron, fetching paper, rinsing the brush after each use, emptying out the dirty water and cleaning the brush after use, wiping up any spills… There are also numerous benefits in terms of fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and building up little hand muscles in preparation for writing one day.

Now that we’ve tried these, I feel like every home should have a box of them. I can’t imagine a better set of watercolours for young children, and once again am really impressed by the quality and beauty of Stockmar products. If you have family or friends who are beginning to ask questions about holiday gifts, these would make a wonderful suggestion.

Lyra Ferby pencils

We were also sent some Lyra Ferby pencils to try out. I love that these are short, providing much more balance for little fingers, and have a triangular shape which makes it easier to hold them. Frida is still working on her pencil grip, and these pencils make the perfect “starter” pencils when moving on from crayons. The colour range is excellent (Frida was so drawn to the white pencil, and for a few days did a lot of white-on-white drawing) and the colours themselves are bright and highly pigmented.

Lyra also do longer crayons, and I love the look of this skin-tones set which has been designed to reflect the diversity of skin-tone children see all around them. Once Frida is drawing figures I will absolutely be buying her a set.

Frida was previously using IKEA pencils, which are around the same size but less ergonomically shaped. These are, unsurprisingly, much cheaper, although seeing the two used side by side I think it’s clear which ones are the better quality as the pigmentation in the Lyra pencils is much stronger, giving a brighter colour with less effort (this is important I think when you are two!) and a wider colour range.

We were also sent a little Lyra pencil sharpener. It seems like a pretty unexciting object, but Frida has been really taken with it, and is trying very hard to learn how to sharpen. Pencil sharpening is such a satisfying practical life and fine motor skill activity. I love how it is shaped to fit little fingers. I really recommend it as a first pencil sharpener.

A quick note on age: Frida is 28 months and really enjoying using these art materials. I think the age you could introduce them depends a lot on your child – some 18 month-olds would love these, whereas some 36 month-olds may still not have much of an interest in painting or drawing. Follow your child! For gifts, I would probably gift the wax crayons from the first birthday onwards, and then pencils and paints from the second birthday onwards.

I love gifting art materials – both for my own daughter, and for other children in our life. I have already bought Stockmar crayons in the past to give as birthday presents (the parents have assured me these have gone down well with their little ones), and I will absolutely be buying some of the Stockmar paints and Lyra pencils to gift for birthdays and Christmas presents, as Frida and I have both been very impressed by them. They are high quality materials which are so well designed for young artists, and I cannot sing their praises highly enough.

One Hundred Toys are kindly offering you lovely readers a 10% discount to use in their online store with the code: FRIDA101

They have so many other beautiful craft items and toys on their site; do have a look!

The Stockmar paints, Lyra Ferby pencils, and pencil sharpener were gifted to me from One Hundred Toys to review, but this review is my own honest opinion (and Frida’s!) I only ever recommend things which we have tried and genuinely loved – and would buy again. 

I also love the One Hundred Toys blog which you can read here: https://www.onehundredtoys.com/blogs/news 

“I like them so much!” Ostheimer review + discount code 

Frida’s most beloved toys are without any doubt her collection of wooden animal figures. These are played with all day, every day, with the rest of her toys mere accessories for her animals, acting as homes or caves or oceans or food, and I have watched as her imaginative play, storytelling skills, and vocabulary have flourished whilst she plays. With this in mind, I have been wanting to try out Ostheimer figures for a while now – their animal figures are natural, ethical, and absolutely stunning.

I was delighted, therefore, when One Hundred Toys offered us the chance to review some Ostheimer figures. The lovely Alexis made up a beautiful selection for Frida to play with, sending her the hunter, a wolf, a goose, a fox, a fawn, a rabbit with its ears up, and a running rabbit.

Ostheimer toys are all individually carved from native German hardwoods such as maple and ash, and then painted by hand, giving every figure a unique look and feel – no two are identical. These beautiful figures are then dipped in an all-natural walnut oil, giving them a soft finish. They feel wonderful, very tactile and pleasing for little hands.

In an age where machine-made, identical, disposable plastic toys seem to rule, I think that these toys are so special. Ostheimer toys will be especially appealing for parents inspired by a Montessori or Steiner approach, where there is a strong focus on providing a beautiful environment for our children, featuring natural materials where possible – in fact, one of the core Montessori principles for creating a prepared environment is beauty.

Being wooden, these toys won’t break or run out of batteries, so will last for years and can then be handed down to others, avoiding landfill. They also encourage children to use their imaginations and play creatively – there are so many uses for them! Even very young children can enjoy the sensory experience of holding a wooden figure (especially as these are safe to mouth as they don’t use harsh chemicals or dangerous paint) or enjoy a puppet show by their parent or caregiver. This is a lovely introductory article to puppet play the Steiner way and I have certainly seen Frida transfixed by the simple puppet shows at our parent child group. I also love this blog post on using animal figures in play.

When I gave Frida her new toys, she immediately started to play with them, incorporating other toys and launching into a complex story of animals being friends and running away from each other and sharing their homes. I took this as a very good sign! After a little while I asked her what she thought about the figures, and she replied “I like my new toys SO MUCH!”

She has been playing with them non-stop since they arrived, the hunter being at times a postman, a farmer, and a daddy (and also brilliantly fulfilling the role of hunter in Peter and the Wolf, Frida’s favourite piece of music). The rabbits in particular have rarely left her side, and we have had a lot of fun building different habitats and backdrops for the figures together.

If you’re just starting to think about buying some natural, open ended toys for your child, or perhaps you’re being asked by relatives what to buy for birthday or Christmas gifts, my recommendation would be to start with a few animal and human figures such as these Ostheimer ones (you could start with animals your child already knows and loves), a couple of playsilks, and some wooden blocks. Just these few toys would open up so many play opportunities and give room for young imaginations to take pride of place!

Ostheimer vs Holztiger 

The rest of Frida’s animal figures have all been Holztiger, so I was interested in seeing how they compared.

Below is a size-comparison with some Holztiger figures. The smaller ones are Ostheimer, which I actually prefer for little hands (and for storage purposes!); I’ve noticed Frida is really drawn to her smaller animals.

I think the style difference is quite visible too. The Ostheimer feel more natural to the touch – you can really feel the wood grain. Ostheimer figures are a bit more expensive that Holztiger (example the Holztiger wolf retails around £7 whilst the Ostheimer wolf is around £10) but if money were no object I would certainly have chosen to collect Ostheimer for Frida instead as I think there is something quite magical about them.

The two brands work together beautifully and going forward I will definitely be looking at buying more Ostheimer for Frida. On my wish-list for her is this beautiful rabbit hutch which I can see her playing with for hours on end, along with this magical wishing well (currently out of stock but I will be keeping a close eye on its return – something for Christmas I think). They are truly special toys which make wonderful gifts will take pride of place in any child’s home, and I really recommend them – as does Frida.

One Hundred Toys have kindly offered new customers 10% off their first order with the code: FRIDA100

They have so many other wonderful toys and craft items on their site; do have a look!

The Ostheimer figures were gifted to me from One Hundred Toys to review, but this review  is my own honest opinion (and Frida’s!). I only ever recommend things which we have tried and loved. 

I also love the One Hundred Toys blog which you can read here: https://www.onehundredtoys.com/blogs/news 

What’s under our tree? 

For Christmas / Chanukah (we are not religious but will be celebrating both as my family celebrates Christmas and my husband’s celebrates Chanukah), we have bought Frida:

  • Four books
  • Two wooden animals 
  • A Schleich horse family 
  • A felt playmat 
  • Some simple figures 
  • Stickers 

Frida will be 20 months at the time. We had also ordered her a balance bike, but it looks like it won’t be here in time for Christmas (insert annoyed face emoticon here) so she’ll have to wait for it, which is no bad thing as we’re worried about her being a bit overwhelmed by all the new things. 

She will be getting a stocking on Christmas morning, which you can read about here

We haven’t decided yet if we’re going to give her everything at once, or if we’ll spread her gifts out over the eight days of Chanukah, which happens to start on Christmas Eve this year. 

For a closer look at the items we bought, keep reading! 

Panda & polar bear book + Holztiger panda and polar bear 

I thought this would make a fun story set. Frida’s Holztiger collection is growing and I think she will get use out of them for years to come. 

Brilliant birds

Frida already has “Wild Animals” (sometimes published as British Animals) and “Animals” in the same series. I feel confident that she will love this book – it’s so big and packed with wonderful drawings.

Schleich horse family 

Frida adores her Schleich farm animals, especially her sheep family – she really enjoys that there is a daddy, mummy, and baby. I thought these would make a happy addition to her collection, and my guess is that this will be her favourite gift. 

The story orchestra 

We don’t tend to buy electronic toys, but this book is the one exception to the rule. It has a short clip from Vivaldi’s four seasons on each, beautifully illustrated, page. 

Felt play mat

This is much smaller than perhaps it looks – around 30cm long. Frida is really getting into imaginative play, and I hope this will make a nice backdrop for her animals and figures.

199 things under the sea

Yes, another animal book! This looks brilliant for expanding her vocabulary (and mine)! 

Simple figures

As Frida enters into more and more imaginary play, we thought these would make a sweet addition to her toy rotation, and to her seasonal displays. They are small so perfect for taking with us when we go on a journey.

Stickers

Frida enjoys stickers, and I liked that these have a seasonal theme. 

So that’s it! I’m almost finished wrapping too (everything is being wrapped in newspaper – easy to tear and no waste!). I’m really looking forward to the festive season this year, as I think Frida is old enough to kind of get it, and my sister in law is getting married a few days after Christmas, so I think the whole week is going to feel very lovely. 

The ultimate Montessori gift guide: infants and toddlers

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.

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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.

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NEWBORN

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 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?!

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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, 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.

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PRACTICAL LIFE

Cleaning 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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