Although most children start Montessori education in preschool, between the age of 2 ½ and four years old, some parents make the personal choice to start their children off in Montessori at infancy.
Introducing Montessori to your child’s playroom is actually an excellent idea, as it’s never too early to learn. However, it can be difficult to figure out how to go about educating a child that young.
Luckily, there are many Montessori activities available for young children, even those as young as 1-year-old. For children that young, education is best received through the use of toys, often called “materials” in Montessori.
Whether you’re starting your own child’s Montessori education or are interested in supporting your friend and want to give them a suitable Montessori toy, you have a lot of options to choose from.
Today, we explain how to go about starting your baby off with Montessori education and explore the best Montessori toys for 1-year-olds to ensure that your child starts with healthy learning as early as possible.
Benefits of Montessori for 1-year-olds
For many, it’s hard to see the benefits of Montessori education for a child so young. After all, Montessori education relies on self-directed education from the child’s perspective, and how much can a child so young direct themselves?
Well, sometimes we don’t give children enough credit. Infancy is when a child is first learning about the world around them, so it’s a great time to start having them direct their own learning.
Some benefits of Montessori for 1-year-olds include:
- Building trust.
- Developing personality.
- Sensory learning.
- Developing routines.
- Language acquisition.
Each child is unique, and as you start using Montessori education with your 1-year-old, you’ll find that they may benefit in many other ways. Using toys will help both of you discover the benefits of Montessori for your child.
Let’s take a look at what makes Montessori toys unique.
What Makes a Toy a Montessori Toy?
Whether you’re trying to find the perfect toy for your friend’s child or thinking of getting your own child started on their educational path, to find the right Montessori toy for a 1-year-old, you have to understand what makes a toy a Montessori toy.
You can’t exactly go to any department store and find a Montessori section in the toy department. There are not always official toys labeled Montessori, but some toys are more aligned with the learning philosophy than others.
Any Montessori inspired toy will have several qualities that differentiate it from other toys.
- Independence: The foundation of Montessori education is having your child direct their own learning. A Montessori toy should be a toy that your child can explore and eventually figure out on their own.
- Simplicity: Montessori toys are simpler than other toys. Since the goal of these toys is for your child to learn and develop a natural desire for knowledge, you don’t want any distractions that aren’t conducive to that goal to get in the way. Montessori toys aren’t overly decorative with random components. Instead, each component serves a purpose to your child’s engagement.
- Functionality: Montessori toys are functional to reflect the real world. These toys are meant to engage your child and require their participation and action to use them, and these actions are reflective of their daily experiences.
- Focus: Montessori toys will generally see your child focusing on one skill at a time. Too many features can be overwhelming and will prevent the deeper learning that Montessori philosophy is all about. Montessori toys don’t have to be single-use, they just have to allow your child to focus on one skill at a time.
Keeping these key qualities in mind makes it much easier to find quality Montessori toys for the 1-year-old in your life.
Now that you know the toys that fit within Montessori education, we can explore some toys suitable for 1-year-olds.
Best Montessori Toys For 1-Year-Old
The best way to introduce 1-year-olds to Montessori education is through toys that fit the philosophy. Although most people associate Montessori with pre or grade school, many toys are suitable for babies and safe for a 1-year-old to play with.
Whether this is a gift for your child or someone else’s little one, finding the right Montessori toy is not as difficult as you may think. Here are some of the best Montessori toys to get 1-year-olds started on their education.
Stacking is a classic Montessori activity and the perfect first activity for your 1-year-old child, or as soon as they can sit up by themselves. Stacking helps your child develop concentration and coordination. It also helps with motor skills, spatial perception, balance, and more.
This stacking toy from Boxiki will allow your child to experience stacking at several different levels. At one year old, you can start them off with a simple single peg block. As they get the hang of it, watch them intuitively start exploring the other stacking options, working their way up to the four pegs. This is a great first Montessori toy for your 1-year-old and an excellent way to start their education.
Sensory play can be an important part of a child’s early development. It teaches babies skills integral such as:
- Gross motor skills.
- Spatial awareness.
- How to grasp with their hands.
Soft, sensory balls are one of the safest toys for babies to play with. Not only do they teach your child to grasp with their little hands by showing them how to hold a ball, but they can help develop many other skills depending on what type you get.
These crocheted sensory balls encourage sensory engagement and enhance tactile development. Watch your baby roll, bounce, and track the ball to improve their visual sensory development, logic and reasoning skills, and of course, their hand-eye coordination.
Object Permanence Toys
Understanding object permanence is another important skill that your child should develop at around one year old. Babies often don’t go for toys once you take them away because they do not yet understand that an object continues to exist even when it’s out of sight.
Not only will understanding object permanence help your baby develop fine motor skills, but it will also help them develop hand-eye coordination.
Start helping your baby understand object permanence with this object permanence box and tray from Adena Montessori. This box comes with three balls for your child to play with. This toy box helps your child develop hand-eye coordination and basic logic skills.
The goal is to encourage curiosity and send signals to the brain that a goal was achieved. The colors also prove essential to your child’s cognitive development in providing visual stimulation and helping them recognize colors.
The Adena Montessori box and tray materials are safe, and the balls are big enough that your baby won’t swallow them.
If you want, you can also build your own object permanence box for your child. All you need to do is find a box, find a ball or other small object, and cut a hole in the box big enough for the object to go through.
Upon first thought, you may think that puzzles are too complicated for a 1-year-old, but in fact, this is the perfect age to get your baby started on solving simple shape puzzles.
The benefits of puzzle-solving for a 1-year-old include:
- Hand-eye coordination.
- Visual perception.
- Understanding the concept of shapes.
When starting your 1-year-old with puzzles, play with them. Let your child be the one to complete the puzzle, but as they work on it, give them the names of the shapes or objects and describe the colors. This will enhance their overall experience and give them more to learn while solving the puzzle.
This shape puzzle with jumbo knobs from Elite Montessori is the perfect first puzzle for a 1-year-old. This toy allows your child to start with a single shape puzzle and then work their way up to a multiple shape puzzle. Since the shapes in the puzzle are not isolated, the increased difficulty is a great challenge for your baby.
It is important to use sound early in your baby’s development. Understanding sounds helps your baby’s auditory sensory development and is a step towards developing language skills.
Introducing music at an early age is a great way to involve sound in your baby’s education. Musical toys can help:
- Boost cognitive skills
- Help express creativity
- Help develop fine and gross motor skills
This Edushape Baby Drum toy is not only great for auditory sensory development, but it helps your baby build motor skills, practice their hand-eye coordination, and enhances their tactile senses through the drumming motion.
This drum is an especially great idea if your baby’s already started banging on everything in sight. This toy will help them focus their drumming and understand the purpose. You can even get two of these drums to enhance your baby’s experience.
Ball trackers provide young children with an excellent opportunity to practice counting, physical movement, and of course, tracking.
One of the greatest reasons the ball tracker could be significantly instrumental in your child’s development is that it encourages children to cross the midline (bilateral integration skills). Young children who have not quite yet mastered using both hands and both sides of their bodies comfortably will be able to do so with the ball tracker. Plus, it will help them learn about and get a sense of motion. Their eye muscles will become strengthened as they practice tracking the balls down the tracks and into the collection tray.
Check out our full article on the best tracking toys.
Additional Tips for Choosing Montessori Toys for 1-Year-Old
Here are some extra tips to help you choose the right Montessori toys for 1-year-olds.
- Choose natural materials over plastic, and not just for environmental reasons. Natural materials will tell your baby more information about their world than plastic can. Wood and metal are both better choices for toys, as wood provides texture, and metal provides a change in temperature as your baby holds it in their hands.
- Safety should be your number one concern, so make sure that whatever toy you choose is suitable for their age and isn’t a choking hazard.
Montessori toys invite children to develop their own concept of the world. Believe it or not, 1-year-olds are not too young to start this process.
If you’re shopping for a niece or nephew, you’ll be happy to know that finding the right Montessori toy does not have to be too difficult. As long as you understand the basic concepts of Montessori philosophy, you’ll find that you have many toys from which to choose.
Give your 1-year-old some credit and get their Montessori education started today with some of these suggested Montessori toys.