Evaluating Montessori Toys: Criteria for Parents and Educators

Did you know that the first Montessori materials were everyday objects transformed into educational tools? These objects were common things such as wooden cylinders, geometric shapes, and movable alphabets.

Dr. Maria Montessori believed that these purposeful, hands-on activities nurtured a child's intellectual, social, and emotional development.

Children playing with wooden Montessori blocks.

Today, the Montessori method is still popular among parents and educators. The fact that there are over 5.000 Montessori schools in the US showcases that this method is working. In that light, let’s take a close look at Montessori toys.

Understanding Montessori Principles

Behind Montessori toys, the whole philosophy of education is based on a couple of key aspects. Let’s see the basic Montessori principles:

1. Children are leading the way: Montessori education places the child at the center, allowing their interests and natural curiosity to guide the learning process. Our little ones are always looking to explore new stuff and learn, no matter if they’re figuring out how to put a ball in a correspondent hole or how to tie their shoes.

2. Freedom is important: In Montessori, freedom is about providing children with the right to make choices. However, you have to set some limits. This is a great way to teach them about responsibility and self-discipline. For example, when going outside, give them a few outfits to choose from. It’s still their choice, but they won’t be leaving your house in slippers if you’re taking a walk during winter.

3. Montessori toys and materials: Montessori toys are designed with education in mind. They match where your kids are in their learning journey, helping them have fun, explore, and learn new skills through age-appropriate play.

4. A special environment for learning: The Montessori environment should be structured to encourage self-directed learning, independence, and a sense of order. Children love it when they have everything lined up and in order. They feel safe and comfortable playing in an area that’s familiar.

5. Parents and teachers: Rather than dictating the learning process, teachers and parents should observe and provide support when needed. So, there’s no need to intervene unless your child needs help.

These core principles of Montessori education are all related to the materials you choose for your child. Therefore, choosing the right Montessori toys is important for the overall development and success in learning.

Little girl playing wooden geometric shapes in classroom.

Criteria for Evaluating Montessori Toys

Are you set on getting some Montessori toys? That's great, but how do you know which one is best for your kid?

Well, here’s the deal. Montessori toys are usually open-ended in nature, making them perfect for all children. But no matter the philosophy behind them, it’s still important to know how to evaluate Montessori toys.

Here’s what to look out for:

Age Appropriateness

Montessori toys by age are specially designed for each learning group. This means that toddlers will most likely enjoy activities and toys that involve hands-on exploration, while preschoolers like to play with toys that spark creativity.

Children playing with educational materials in the Montessori classroom.

Anyhow, we’ll divide this part into age groups and see which toys are best for each group.

  • For babies: exploring the senses

Babies are like little sponges; they learn something new every day. So, what’s best for them? Easy, babies love simple and soft toys. These toys encourage tactile exploration and visual engagement.

Some good examples are the Montessori Baby Soft Book and the Montessori Baby Stacking Cups.

  • For toddlers: building independence

Being a toddler is not easy; we all should know that. Toddlers love a good challenge! In that light, choosing puzzles will encourage problem-solving while providing a sense of accomplishment.

Apart from puzzles, it’s a good idea to get your toddler a Montessori Vegetable Set, as this toy teaches them about veggies and fruit. Their little hands will be all over this toy, trying to figure out what goes where and how come veggies are so fun.

  • For preschoolers: fostering curiosity

Montessori toys for preschoolers and kindergarteners often incorporate basic math and language concepts. This includes counting beads, letter blocks, and word-building games. But don’t think of them as serious learners only looking to soak up knowledge and learn new skills. Preschoolers enjoy having fun as much as toddlers do.

But, the main difference is in the challenge. Therefore, you should challenge preschoolers more, as they’re ready for it. Toys like the Montessori Domino Run and the Montessori Smart Board are perfect for this age group. 

Open-Ended and Multi-Purpose

Open-ended toys let kids play however they want. There are no strict rules, just endless possibilities. Kids can get creative and use their imaginations since there's no right or wrong way to play with these toys.

Montessori classroom with wooden furniture, toys, and educational materials.

It's all about freedom and fun, but behind all that freedom lies a concept of exploration and learning. For example, your child is playing with a pot. One moment, that pot is a tool for cooking their favorite food, and the other moment, it becomes a hat or a bathtub for their toys.

The best part about the open-ended nature of Montessori toys is that there are endless possibilities. Most importantly, children love that.

Sensorial Exploration

While exploring the world around them, kids use their senses, such as touching, tasting, smelling, seeing, moving, and hearing. They use these senses to understand how things work and to learn more. Doing activities that involve the senses helps kids get better at understanding and reacting to what they see, hear, and feel.

Therefore, Montessori toys put a special accent on sensory exploration. They are designed to engage children in sensory play. For example, the Montessori Musical Marble Run allows your child to explore the world of music. Namely, as the marble ball goes through the circles, it sings a beautiful song.

Toddler playing with sand in a wooden box.

The best part is that your child will enjoy marble run for a long time as this toy improves attention span and concentration. Just imagine them stacking the pieces together to build a track for the ball to sing some tunes.

Observing and Responding to Individual Child's Needs

Since Montessori toys are designed to promote independent exploration, the part where parents engage with children is also important. Parents and educators should take the role of keen observers in their child's learning journey. It’s as simple as it sounds.

Everything you need to do is to let your child be a child. After all, children’s only profession is to play. So, here are a couple of ideas:

1. Watch and learn: Observe your child closely. What makes them light up with excitement? What challenges do they find interesting? Paying attention helps you understand their interests and learning styles. Therefore, you can choose toys that suit their playstyle perfectly.

2. Flexibility: Recognize that each child is different. What works for one might not work for another. Be flexible in your teaching or parenting style, and always make sure that the child feels included.

3. Encourage independence: As we already said, let your child take the lead. Give them opportunities to make choices and decisions.

4. Be a supportive guide: Your role is to guide them, not play with them. Offer support when needed, answer questions, and provide gentle nudges. Be there to fill in the gaps with words, concepts, or a helping hand.

5. Adapt and grow together: Learning is a two-way street; you’ll be surprised to see how much you can learn from your kid. Be open to adapting your approach based on your child's needs. Growing together creates a supportive learning environment.


Knowing which Montessori toy is best for your child is one thing, but knowing the idea behind these toys is more important. Even though we all want the best for our kids, it’s crucial to understand which toy offers the best benefits for your child’s development.

From open-ended play to sensory adventures, Montessori toys spark imagination and curiosity. Therefore, start with something you think best fits your child’s education needs. We’re happy to help if you need anything. Let’s dive into the Montessori toys together.

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