Skip to main content

Montessori Friendly Alternatives to Popular Young Preschool Gifts

There is a myth about Montessori that all Montessori friendly need to be expensive and wooden. A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about Montessori alternatives to popular toddler toys to try to show that that's not true! When I wrote that post a lot of people asked me to make posts for older children as well! 

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. 

So, I recently came across this list of Best seller preschool toys and thought it was time for another post! There are plenty of Montessori friendly alternatives to traditional toys that aren't that different in price. Now, I think this list uses some liberties with the word "preschool" and includes some toddler and infant materials. So I picked through the list to find those most reasonable for young preschoolers - ages 3 and young 4. Some of these materials would still be appropriate for older children, including the art. You just have to know your child. 

Here's what I found: 
Here are some Montessori friendly alternatives to popular preschool gifts that cost the same or similar amount!


The traditional magnets aren't Montessori friendly for a couple of reasons. One they are so busy! They are patterned and they are multiple colors per letter. This makes it really difficult to isolate the concept of letter. Also, they are all capital letters. In Montessori children learn lower case letters first. A simple set of letters is a great alternative. These stick to two colors one for consonants and one for vowels. 

Now, markers aren't the worst choice in the world and many Montessori home environments (including my own) use them. But, they aren't always the most Montessori friendly option. They don't provide sensory feedback to a child and work the same whether or not a child is using the correct amount of pressure or correct grip. A better alternative is a nice set of color pencils. These can be used not only for creative expression but are great for early writing. 


The traditional option isn't Montessori friendly because it is adult-led and contains fantasy. Here an adult (the company designing this pad) has told the child how to be creative by providing the framework in the book. The content is also based on fantasy which is avoided under age 6 in Montessori. Honestly, a blank pad of paper is the best! A child can do so much with it and truly be creative. 
Here are some Montessori friendly alternatives to popular preschool gifts that cost the same or similar amount!

Here the traditional game is pretty passive. The child really isn't doing anything in order to actively engage. The fish are also pretty cartoonish and overall it's just not engaging. Shopping List, on the other hand, is very engaging. A child is using a variety of skills. This game can also be slightly modified to be played cooperatively. I will say it is still cartoonish, but at least rooted in reality. (And has been a personal favorite at our house for years) 


This one is going to be controversial. I know many Montessori families use this particular set for real purposes, and from that point of view it isn't horrible. But, I think the same goals can be accomplished with real tools for about the same price. And, I'm always a fan, where possible, to give the children real tools. Now, I don't really think the pretend set is a problem if it actually works, I've heard mixed reviews on some of the pieces. 


The cartoon animals aren't the best choice for a couple of reasons. One they again are busy with a variety of colors being used on the magnets. They are also cartoon images, and while based on reality, they aren't the best we can give a child (even for this price). The real images are better representatives of the animals and overall isolate the animals in a cleaner way with the one color background. 

Here are some Montessori friendly alternatives to popular preschool gifts that cost the same or similar amount!

Here this change might seem little but is the difference between adult led play and child led exploration. The train set is much more limiting and an adult is telling the child (through the instructions) how the blocks should be used. Now, I do think there is some beauty in a child learning to follow instructions to build Lego, but personally I like the simple examples that come with the open ended blocks. That way a child can still be creative with the blocks in a much more open ended way. 


Now, this one has NOTHING to do with pretend play! Both encourage pretend play which is totally appropriate for this age at home. But the Little People set is just far less realistic. The figures are disproportionate and overall less real. The Playmobil is more realistic and includes a lot of fantastic detail. I also enjoy that the people are diverse. 


Again, this isn't about pretend play, but quality of pretend play. Paw Patrol is not only commercialized but it is fantasy and overall not Montessori friendly. Providing real dog figures to play with fills this same purpose, in a way that is grounded in reality. It occurred to me as I'm writing this that maybe children are attracted to the "workers" that these dogs represent, and simple people figurines would also fill that interest. 



This one is about the pretend play! Here providing pretend food to play with, isn't as desirable because children crave real work where possible. It is very possible for preschool children to be working in a real kitchen helping to prepare meals and snacks! So providing a nice set of tools for real work is a much more Montessori friendly gift! 


Here are some Montessori friendly alternatives to popular preschool gifts that cost the same or similar amount!

Do you have these choices, or any other Montessori friendly alternative to these traditional toys?
---

Comments

Unknown said…
Fantastic article, I couldn't agree more, and great to see alternatives too! I don't think you mentioned it, but it also really shows the casual gendering of products, e.g. the fairy drawing pad, the pink house for a girl, etc. Another reason the Montessori option is great...less gender typical. Now I'm off to buy those magnets...
M. said…
Awesome list!!! Thank you!
Unknown said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said…
Ha. My bad. Didn’t even let ok that closely. (You mention the duplo set, not mega...oh well!). Again. Thanks for the post.
I see your blog regularly. Your blog is very useful for us.
If you are screaming out “water table,” you’ve come to the most elite essay water table.... Click here

Popular Posts

The Ultimate Montessori Toy List -- Birth to Five -- UPDATED 2020

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! 2020 UPDATE: This list is updated for another year! Enjoy a variety of Montessori friendly finds from both major retailers and smaller shops!  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, but only works for classroom settings. While there are many works that I recommend for home school use, you won't find these

Sensitive Periods from Birth to 6 - A Chart and Guide

Dr. Maria Montessori spent her life observing, studying, and writing about children. During her lifetime of work she discovered that young children move through a series of special times when they are particularly attracted to specific developmental needs and interests. She called these times, sensitive periods. During the sensitive period, children learn skills related to the sensitive period with ease. They don't tire of that work, but seek it, crave it and need it. When the sensitive period passes, this intense desire is gone, never to return.  That doesn't mean the skill is lost forever once the sensitive period is over. Instead, it just means that it will take a more conscious effort to learn. As Dr. Montessori explains,  This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. "A child learns to adjust himself and make acquisitions in his sensitive periods. These are like a beam that lights interiorly a battery that furnishes energy. It is this sensibility which enables

Working from Home with Kids - A Montessori Schedule

One part of my life that I haven't talked a ton about here on The Kavanaugh Report is how I'm a work-from-home parent. Eight years ago I started to work at home while parenting full time. For the first several years, I worked as a legal writer while maintaining this space on the side. When Gus was born, I moved into working on sharing our Montessori life full time. It has blossomed into a full time career sharing content here, teaching courses, and now the podcast! Through it all, my kids have been home with me.  This all seems more relevant to so many of us now that Covid-19 has closed schools and forced parents to stay at home and work while caring for children. I'm not going to lie - it's tough. It's hard to balance work and kids, especially when children are used to a completely different routine. But, it's not impossible! And, it can even be enjoyable.  As I talk about in my podcast Shelf Help , we block our days into 3 hours groups. It helps