When I first found out I was pregnant with Aliyana, two things filled my Pinterest board – nursery decor and beautiful play spaces filled with every single toy I wish I had when I was little. A little back story, my parents were both immigrants, escaping the war in Vietnam so they came to Canada with little money and made a life here from scratch. Growing up, my parents would spend money only on essentials, bought my sister and I a few toys here and there but what they did spend money on was anything that “taught” us something. Piano lessons, mandarine classes, a tutor and swim lessons. Looking back, these are all life skills so thank you, Mom and Dad.
After being introduced to Montessori shortly after Aliyana was born, my vision of a beautiful play space in all of its’ glory turned into a vision of thoughtfully curated items to encourage play but also promote developmental growth.
WHAT ARE MONTESSORI TOYS?
Technically, there is no such thing as “Montessori toys” but there are characteristics found in Montessori materials that lend themselves to the development of certain concepts – fine motor, language, sensory etc. They are passive toys that require your child to physically manipulate them and incorporate them into their open-end play.
Things to look for when choosing your toys:
Natural materials. Toys made of wood, cotton, wool, and even rock are Montessori staples, since they connect children to nature and are generally safer than plastic toys. You might have seen that Montessori schools incorporate a lot of wooden items and aside from it being aesthetically welcoming, it also demonstrates to your child the process of wear and tear over time. Not all wooden toys in the market are ‘Montessori’ or ‘Waldorf’ so please don’t go down that rabbit hole by accident!
Nothing flashy, no bells and whistles. Toys chosen in the Montessori environment are designed to encourage kids to explore and discover independently. “Provide a grounding experience in the present moment while helping them connect to their bodies and environment in thoughtful ways”. Zarah from Monti-Kids did a TEDtalk recently and she touched on toys. Think of the flashy tricked out toys as junk food and the natural toys as healthy foods, if a child was to choose their own meals, they would always pick the junk food over the healthier options. We as mindful parents should present our children with things that nourish so opt for passive toys that can be manipulated and used for open-ended play.
Last year, we went to a birthday party and the child received loads of battery-powered, sound making, light up toys – things Aliyana obviously wasn’t use to seeing. She went nuts and was eager to play so we let her have a turn. What was interesting to me was that the playtime didn’t last long, she became quickly irritable and she asked me afterward, “Why was the bird talking? Bird’s don’t talk mommy” This non-real life interaction was confusing to her and as a parent, it was interesting to watch that connection for the first time!
Realistic. Montessori toys are usually lifelike and rooted in reality, providing a learning opportunity about the world around us. Find things that they can see in real life after the interaction i.e. farm animals vs. dragons, insects vs talking dogs. (Caveat, I’m not a fan of Paw Patrol at all and refuse to let Aliyana watch even one episode of it. I can go into detail about that at a later date but for now, I’ll focus on toys.)
Of course we can’t control everything and somehow unicorns and Princess Elsa with superpowers sneak into their lives but as long as we can try our best to limit what we can, simplify their options, you’ll be able to provide abundance! At the end of the day, kids will be kids.
There are a lot of subscription boxes in the market right now and the one I recently got is the Lovevery Play Kit. I picked The Babbler box (age 13,14 & 15 months) for my first trial and it was just what I needed for Magali’s toy shelf rotation. I wrote a blog post in the past about setting up your space and how it’s important to rotate out your materials. You can read all about it here. The Lovevery toys were really well made, durable, and offered enough of a variety for Magali to grow into. The house favourite so far been the ball run – both kids seem to enjoy this a lot.
How Do You Use These Boxes?
These boxes are GREAT for mindful parents who are trying to minimize the mountain of toys that end up accumulating in plastic bins and deep into baskets. I would suggest subscribing to a quarterly box like the Lovevery and then supplementing it with practical life activities (such as doing up buttons on a cardigan, zipping up a jacket, washing vegetables, doing the laundry and getting a small watering can so your little one can help care for plants around your home) or get a few other items that might not be included in the kits. I’ve put together a list of some of my favourite toys and materials on this page and on this Amazon Shop I own every single item – tried and truly love! I would never promote a product to you that I haven’t used for at least 30+ days. I am not here with the intention to tell you everything is great, and to buy this or buy that. My intention is to help you simplify and create beautiful spaces so you can nurture and develop the tiny humans in your life.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment or send me an email. I hope this post was helpful!