I was first exposed to the word Montessori in my early twenties. I worked for a large bookstore chain roughly an hour away from the single-stoplight town where I spent the majority of my life. One of my co-workers, a smart, kind, talented, well-adjusted girl named Elizabeth, told me she had gone to a Montessori elementary school.
I graduated with a class of 35 students and had never even heard the word Montessori before that day. To this day, my mind goes right back to Elizabeth when I hear it, and if you have small children, you see or hear it anytime you’re looking at toys with developmental benefits.
If you’re considering going the strictly Montessori route with your child, you may be curious about the benefits. Is it worth it? What’s makes it so expensive? What does Montessori even mean?! I asked myself all these questions and put my research chops to the test. I also tried it with my son to see how it went.
Here’s what I learned and the conclusion that I’ve drawn…
The montessori experience
Montessori toys are a product of the Montessori education system created by Dr. Maria Montessori. If you are a fan of the “all inclusive,” you will no doubt appreciate this child-focused approach to learning.
Montessori schools nurture the “cognitive, emotional, social, and physical” areas of child development.1 The key is self-motivation. The learning process is guided but self-paced, and kids are in classrooms with students of varying ages.
This concept was then taken from the private school sector and turned into a commercial toy venture. Now, people that cannot afford to send their children to private Montessori schools can bring the experience into their homes.
How does this translate in montessori toys?
What makes a toy Montessori? First and foremost, they should stimulate learning. In essence children learn to use the object in a way that develops fine motor skills.
Do they have to be wooden? Realistically, no, they do not have to be made of wood. In theory, Legos are Montessori, but there is a reason for the use of natural materials beyond the pleasing aesthetic. Using natural materials is obviously healthier, but it also has developmental benefits. Wooden toys provide a sensory experience that plastic does not.
Wooden Montessori toys are also better for the environment. If you are environmentally conscious, this is the best option for your family. Also, we all know that babies put EVERYTHING straight into their mouths. Toys made of natural materials are non-toxic.
Montessori toys you find for home are the same toys you would find in a Montessori classroom. They promote the same cognitive, emotional, and physical development.
why are montessori toys so expensive?
Everyone knows that top quality costs more. High priced Montessori toys are built to last. Most are made with sustainably harvested wood, nontoxic paint, safe plastics, and organic cotton. In terms of quality, they typically are the best.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that less can be more. Montessori toys are simple. Kids do not need much to entertain themselves. I love the bells and whistles. I want the elaborate kitchen toys that I can play with too, but my son is happy with an abacus and some cups.
If we limit what we buy and focus on quality over quantity, Montessori will not break the bank.
who sells montessori toys?
Thanks to the boom of the Montessori trend, there are so many companies specializing in these toys. Each of them offer something different. I’ve narrowed down my favorites based on what they offer that makes them unique:
Lovevery: montessori kits
Lovevery makes the Montessori experience so easy. You can go to their website and navigate through their entire collection, or you can sign up for Play Kits.
Play Kits are designed to do all the research for you. You received a box every two months with everything your child needs to enhance development at their stage. Everything is safe and sustainable.
fat brain toys: great selection for every age
Fat Brain Toys has a huge selection of Montessori toys for every age. You can search by age, which go all the way to teens and adults. They have great quality products at a range of prices. For someone new to the Montessori world, this is a great place to start. Also, it works well for control freaks (like myself) that want to make all the choices.
melissa & doug: affordable montessori
In all likelihood, we have all heard of Melissa & Doug. You can find their products at every major department store (Target, Walmart, etc.). They do not market themselves as strictly Montessori, but they sell many Montessori-approved products.
My son has a ridiculous amount of toys, but the Melissa & Doug activity table, gifted to him by wonderful friends, is his favorite. Everything on it teaches him important developmental skills like dexterity and object permanence.
here are a few of my favorite toys…
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is montessori better?
To be honest, I understand the appeal, and I love the aesthetic. Visually pleasing, developmentally beneficial, environmentally friendly, affordable substitutes available…what’s not to love? With that said, there is absolutely no shame in throwing a Fisher Price toy in your cart. I have combination of everything in my house.
My son has a Skip Hop push walker simply because I thought it was really cute, and I didn’t have $150 to drop on a wooden one. I will say that I do buy Melissa & Doug more often than not, and they have some great toys for older children.
All in all, do what feels right for you and your kid! No one knows your baby better than you. 🙂
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- American Montessori Society. “What is Montessori Education?”