Skip to main content

Why we Choose Natural Materials over Plastic

I was at a baby shower recently with my mom when another woman showed up with her grandkids and a small plastic children's computer game. We began talking and she asked if we had a similar toy. Before I could answer, my mom replied "No! She's a weirdo that won't let her kids have plastic!" Now, I don't mean to throw my mother under the bus for an off hand comment, but I think this is a common misconception for people looking at the Montessori community. So, let me explain why we choose natural materials over plastic and when we don't.

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you.

First, I want to say, my children have plenty of plastic toys and materials. There are times, even, when I prefer plastic. One example, is animal figurines. I strive to give my children realistic representations and plastic is simply the best way to do this. Magnatiles and Legos also make my plastic list!

But, in many situations, I do strive to provide natural materials -- like wood, metal, fabric or glass -- when I can. 

What's the deal with no plastic?

I have a few reasons that I prefer natural materials over man-made ones. First, there is the environmental factor. There's BPA concerns and chemical concerns and its effect on our health and the environment. While, this is a concern, it's not a huge worry for me but I am aware of this issue. Maybe it should be something I worry more about, but it's not something I've done a lot of research into.

More important to me are the strictly Montessori concerns. First, I as a Montessori parent, I want to create an environment that is as beautiful as possible. I want to create spaces that show my children that they are valued. Montessori believes that children not only deserve beautiful spaces, they excel in them. Natural products are an important part in making our space beautiful.

Their understated nature and beauty provide something to an environment that cheaper plastic alternatives don't. Some plastic toys can provide the same effect, but they are harder to find. 

Natural materials teach natural consequences. If you drop a plastic cup, you drop a plastic cup. There's no need to be careful. No need to learn to respect the material. However, if you drop a glass cup, you get a very different story. Watching a glass break, or a toy even, teaches a child to be more exact and careful. But, it also teaches children to respect their materials and environment. To take ownership over it and to care for it.

Natural materials connect a person to nature. My children live in the city. Our natural interactions are more limited than others. By touching a wooden toy, they get to feel the warmth of the wood. They feel the grain, they feel the weight. It's just a connection that cold, hard plastic cannot provide.

Nora and Henry are using our Haba Marble Run.

Also, when I hand a child a beautiful natural material, I hand my child my respect and trust. I am showing them they are important enough to give them something real. I'm not giving them some baby-proofed version of a real tool. I'm teaching them to use a real one. I'm trusting in their abilities, I'm respecting their whole self as a very capable person.

I'm also giving them the opportunity to make a mistake. To learn from that mistake. When a plate shatters, there is a lot to be learned. When a toy breaks, there is a lot to be learned. I'm giving them the space and the trust to handle disappointment, mistake and error.

So, that's why we limit plastic in our home. If that makes me weird, I'm cool with that!

What is your plastic policy? Have you seen any difference with your child's interest in non-plastic verses plastic materials? 

If you liked this post check out: Purging the Baby Toys; Montessori at Home, How to Start


Audrey said…
Thank you for this! Just came home from the last of the Christmas shopping (I refuse to brave the stores in December!) and to say my shopping companion Evie (15 months) and I were inundated with plastic toys would be an understatement. I have up until very recently avoided Lego for Ted (3.5 years) as I much prefer our wooden selection of blocks, however have caved for this Christmas as I don't think we can avoid it forever ;) I like that he builds a city and it falls down, his Lego would fall over but not apart, less of a science experiment I think. This is especially important for Evie at this age, as she enjoys watching the tower come down. In the case of other toys, I purchased her a 2nd hand wooden doll cradle over the cheap plastic version as it is more beautiful - but the concession was the doll pram, I couldn't source an affordable wooden version so plastic will have to do. If it helps, I am the weirdo Mum that doesn't give my kids candy - if they get given sweets they know to take one out, then give the rest to me. But sugar is another story altogether...
BSBR said…
Excellent post with awesome pictures and great ideas! Thank you Nicole!
Emily J
Beautiful words in a very interesting post! I totally agree with your vision and your mother's comment sounds so familiar to me! ;) But I keep on following my own path... Thanks for sharing your world with us in your blog.

Popular Posts

The Ultimate Montessori Toy List -- Birth to Five -- UPDATED 2021

When you are interested in Montessori, it can be difficult to know exactly what types of products you should get for your home. Or which types of "Montessori" materials are really worth the price. There are no rules about types of products can use the name Montessori which can add to the confusion. Not to mention, every toy manufacturer slaps the word "educational" on the package for good measure! 2021 UPDATE: Please be patient with links this year, with supply chain issues things are selling out faster and restocking slower. I anticipate some of the specialty toys will not restock once they are gone. Puzzles, in particular, have been difficult to find in stock. So, with this post, I'm going to try to help with this confusion! Here's a list of Montessori-friendly toys and materials for babies, toddlers and preschoolers.  First, let's clarify that there is no such thing as a "Montessori toy." Montessori never created toys, bu

Montessori Toddler: Favorite Toys and Activities 18 to 20 months

I've been putting off this post for a little while because I felt a little disappointed that I didn't have more to share. See, Teddy just isn't that into materials, especially those on the shelf. He tends to return to a couple of favorites over and over again and ignore all other attempts at shelf work. But, really that's my own adult feelings getting in the way of Teddy's own interests, and developmental path.  It's also me subconsciously valuing fine motor skills and stillness as more important than gross motor play and movement. I working hard not to do that, and want to normalize that all toddlers are different. All children have different interests and that concentration doesn't have to mean sitting still for long stretches of time.  This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. With all that said, here are some of Teddy's favorites over the last couple of months. Favorite Montessori Toys 18 to 20 Months I'm listing the toys that have be

Our Family's Montessori Christmas Gift Lists 2021

It's hard to believe another holiday season is upon us again. Every year I enjoy putting together my kids' Christmas gift lists. It's really a good time to observe them, see what they are interested in and what they might be ready for during this coming year. It's one of the few times a year that I purchase new materials for our home so it's always really exciting. IF YOU NEED MORE IDEAS DON'T MISS MY ULTIMATE MONTESSORI TOY LIST OR MY 2021 DEALS PAGE ! When considering these lists, please remember that these were curated based on my own children. Use them for inspiration but they are heavily influenced by what my children are into and interested in. And for my older second plane children, what they have asked for!  Here's a look at our family's Montessori Christmas lists for 2021!  This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you.  Theodore (Toddler) Teddy is just over 2-years-old. Being our fourth baby, he is really hard for me to think of unique