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Montessori Friendly Alternatives to Popular Toddler Gifts

I recently came across this list of popular toddler toys while searching for a birthday gift for a friend's child. I just wanted to see what types of things other people considered for their toddlers. I wasn't all that surprised to find that the most popular choices are not Montessori friendly choices. But, in many cases there are Montessori friendly options that are similar to these "popular" toys. 

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And, I wanted to prove it! I randomly picked 10 of these most gifted toddler toys, and found a comparable Montessori friendly option. Yes, the Montessori friendly version is usually different! And, because Montessori has a reputation for being more expensive, I tried to keep it within a few dollars of the same price as the more mainstream toy. 

Here's what I found:

Montessori friendly toy alternatives to popular toddler gifts - for the same or similar price.

The traditional option isn't Montessori friendly for a couple reasons. One it is limited in purpose and not related at all to self care tasks, an important part of bath time for toddlers. It's also not realistic. A simple set of stacking cups is a great alternative. They provide practical experiences like pouring, scooping and filling. Plus they are open ended allowing for a child's own creativity to drive the play. 

The first isn't a Montessori option because it is a passive toy - using batteries instead of motion to create music. The music box, on the other hand, gives the child the opportunity to create a connection between his/her movements and the sound. 

Here, the first one isn't horrible. It's just a bit busy and limiting for open ended exploration. The second option has a bit more open space for play. 

Montessori friendly toy alternatives to popular toddler gifts - for the same or similar price.

The first here is very clearly not Montessori friendly. It has way too much going on, trying to "teach" academic concepts while somehow loosely connecting sports. No movement is actually required, a child could just hit buttons for the "reward" of music or interaction. The soccer net, on the other hand, actually encourages movement and coordination - something most toddlers love! It can be paired with your child's favorite ball, either for throwing or kicking. 

This is also a passive toy, with buttons for sound, lights, and noise. It's also very busy trying to teach a bunch or unrelated concepts at once. The screw block, which not a real tool, helps to isolate the screwing motion that will lead to success with a small, but real, tool. 

Toddlers are attracted to real, purposeful, practical work. They need practical opportunities to carry out real tasks. This first toy robs them of that opportunity and replaces it with a busy, talking tea pot with eyes. Try instead the small jug a toddler could REALLY serve his/her friends, family, or self a drink, providing actual satisfaction.

Montessori friendly toy alternatives to popular toddler gifts - for the same or similar price.

These O Ball cars aren't the worst, but they aren't the best either. They aren't realistic and for a toddler, seem a bit baby-ish. A real replica allows for the same sort of open ended play but also for real language exploration opportunities. 

Again, lots of passive and "learning" elements, and just way too much going on in the first option. While the Montessori friendly option is a bit more expensive here, it is more open ended and a child would be interested in it for a longer period of time. IKEA also has a great push toy option, which is more comparable in price. 

The traditional option is passive, creating electronic sounds and lights without movement. A real drum, on the other hand, allows a child to create the connection to really playing an instrument, as well as producing high quality sounds. 

Once again, a passive toy. The batteries don't allow for a child to explore cause and effect, but does the work. It also includes elements of fantasy, in addition to electronic sounds with the push of a button. The wooden roller, on the other hand, requires a child to place the ball exactly and let's gravity do the work. It's simpler and isolates the activity to tracking and placing the ball. 

Montessori friendly toy alternatives to popular toddler gifts - for the same or similar price.

Do you have any of these? Or any other Montessori friendly options for these choices?


M. said…
This is a brilliant idea for a post. Please consider more like this in the future, perhaps with different ages or themes. Thank you!
Amanda L.F. said…
Great ideas. Thanks for all your thoughts about this!
whitkae said…
I agree, this is fantastic & very helpful to show family members not completely on board with Montessori in terms of gift giving
Whitney said…
Ditto. I love it! And maybe even a post on helping family members understand your desire to use a Montessori approach to parenting.
M. said…
I would love to see a list of ideas for quiet time activities. My daughter is on the verge of giving up her nap and I am determined to enforce quiet time without a screen. Montessori friendly options for this purpose for age almost-4 would be so appreciated. Thank you.

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