Young baby playing with a pikler triangle

What are Montessori toys for babies?

There are rows and rows of aisles at the big department stores of bright, colourful chunks of plastic with all the bells and whistles. Eek! I said it. Because sometimes that’s just what they are… although the aisle headers tell a different story and are usually just labelled ‘TOYS’.  And sure they are entertaining for babies. With all those colours, lights, and sounds it’s almost like entering a trance. But that’s just it. They are there for entertainment. And that’s not to say they are all bad. We have our fair share of plastic in our house. But they have a time and a place. Like when your baby is screaming in the car seat and you are trying to concentrate on the road. Or perhaps you just need 10 minutes to have a shower and wash your hair whilst the baby plays peacefully in the porta cot. But when it comes to supporting our babies in their development and mastering new skills, that is where Montessori materials can be all the difference.

Now full disclaimer before you get any further into my first blog post: I am not a Montessori trained educator. Far from it. I studied commerce at uni! But I am a mum to 3 beautiful children that fell in love with Montessori when my twins were just tiny little newborn blobs. That was 2.5 years ago, and ever since, I’ve continued to adapt my home and raise my children in accordance with Montessori principles. I have a passion for early childhood development and so over the years have continued to read books about child development and Montessori in my own time. Through this blog, I aim to share my learnings with other parents who are perhaps just starting their Montessori journey and learning about it, or perhaps still deciding whether it's right for their family. The information in this blog is both anecdotal as well as research I have gathered mostly from 2 of my favourite Montessori books – The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies and The Montessori Baby by Simone Davies and Junnifa Uzodike. If you’d like a more in-depth dive into Montessori after reading my blog, I highly recommend The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies as a great starting point.

Ok so back to the actual blog…

You’ve heard it a million times before but every baby truly is different. Take it from me! I had twins – born 2 minutes apart, same parents, same diet, same upbringing, 2 completely different personalities, interests, and skills; all of which began or started to develop shortly after birth. So as much as I’d love to give you a simple list of “here is what Montessori materials your baby needs right now”, it takes a little more on your part! It’s up to you as the parent or caregiver to ultimately do what you probably don’t want to and take a step back. Observe your child. Follow their lead and support their developmental needs as they grow from a tiny ball of cuddles to curious toddlers.

Ok, so what does all this mumbo jumbo of ‘observing our child’ and ‘following their lead’ mean? How do we observe our children? Well, we can ask ourselves… What skill are they working on right now? What interests them right now? My 9-month-old Ayla is currently working on standing. She is determined to pull herself up and cruise along furniture at every opportunity.

The next question we can ask ourselves is how do I support her in this goal? Ayla is learning to pull up and stand. So what better way to help her do this than to let her? Of course, I’m still keeping a close watch but I give her the independence she requires to master the skill herself. All we have to do as parents and caregivers is to prepare the environment for her and ensure her safety. So what did I do to help her master the skill of standing? Well, in our lounge room we have a giant foam mat that spans under all the furniture to break her fall when she gets wobbly (which she ultimately will in this learning stage). We also have a pikler triangle which she gravitated towards in those first few weeks of pulling up due to the various bar heights (not sure what I’m talking about? – see picture at the top of the blog)

And that’s it. Montessori is supposed to be simple. Simple materials to help babies master the skill they are focused on right now. All we have to do as parents is follow our child’s lead and support them in their goal… sometimes with the use of specialized products. Sometimes just from things laying around the house.

 

So how do Montessori toys differ from traditional toys?

Montessori toys usually target one skill. Take the ‘Egg in Cup’ toy for example (which is coming to our store soon!).

The simple goal of this toy is for the baby to learn to remove the egg and place it back in the cup. That’s it. There are no distractions. No flashing lights. No button that tells you how to say a colour, number and object in 3 different languages is all overwhelming for a small child! All there is a focus on that one goal. And although it may seem boring to an adult, babies tend to love this toy as they keep practicing this skill over and over again until they master it.

 

Can Montessori Toys be plastic? Or do they have to be wooden?

Although typically Montessori toys are wooden, that’s not to say that plastic is all bad. Plenty of plastic toys can be Montessori. But there are a few reasons why we prefer wood. Firstly, its beauty. Wood is a natural material that babies and adults alike are naturally drawn to. It looks and feels pleasant to touch. In that first year of life, babies are exploring all their senses and so it is important to capture this interest in a toy which we can do with the material. Wood is also more durable and so often wooden toys are still in great condition when purchased second-hand. They also make for beautiful toys to hold on to and pass on through siblings in a family and even generations.

 

Can Montessori toys be colourful?

Yes and no. They can be colourful if that colour has a purpose.  I can explain it best through the following links with example pictures - Alphabet Puzzle and Montessori Alphabet Puzzle. We often see various versions of the Alphabet Puzzle claiming to be ‘Montessori’. Probably because it's wooden and aims to be educational. But let’s take a look at it. There is so much going on. We have letters, numbers, shapes, and symbols all on one board. How confusing for a child who is just learning this all for the first time! But in terms of colours, there is no meaning behind them (aside from a pretty rainbow order). There is nothing in common between the yellow 7, heart, h, I and v. Then we take a look at the Montessori Alphabet Puzzle. They have also used colour but in a more purposeful way. Red represents the consonants and blue represents the vowels. There is also only one area of language that this toy covers – the alphabet.

 

So that’s it. The first blog is done. Hopefully, this clears up a few questions about Montessori toys for the newbies just starting out their Montessori journey… although I’m sure there are many more! And hey, I’m still learning too, but I plan to continue to unpack your questions through my blog. If you have questions or topics you’d like me to answer, comment below. Please subscribe to our newsletter at the bottom of the page, we will send updates for new blog posts, products and promotions.

 

Chrissy @ Love Little Moon

 

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