Many people assume that Montessori activities are suitable only for older children.
However, it is perfectly possible to apply the Montessori method from birth – whether it is encouraging the infants’ freedom of movement, respecting their own developmental pace and personality, or early exposure to beauty and art.
And there are many great toys and materials that will help you with that. Montessori toys for infants should be:
- simple and beautiful
- made of natural and safe materials
- purposeful – focused on the development of a specific skill
- in accordance with their developmental stage
Note: In this post, we use the terms baby and infant to refer to children under 12 months. If you’re interested in toys for older children, check out other posts from our series on the best Montessori toys.
#1 Sensory developmentThe best thing for the sensory development of your newborn baby is seeing your face and hearing your voice. No toy can beat that. But there are many great toys you can use as additional tools to stimulate your newborn’s sensory skills. Let’s take a look at them.
High contrast cloth book for newborns
Newborns’ color perception is limited. This beautiful book has simple, high-contrast pictures that will definitely catch your baby’s attention. It was produced in accordance with scientific research in the field of early cognitive specialization of infants. It is made of baby-friendly, non-toxic materials and includes four rubber teethers on the side.
Handmade Montessori mobiles
Natural wooden teether and rattle
Infants love to chew on everything. This beautiful set consisting of a wooden rattle and a bunny teether offers a great way to let them come in contact with natural materials. Made of eco-friendly, non-toxic materials.
Double-sided shatterproof floor mirror for babies
Kids simply love seeing their own reflection and making faces. Once the baby spends more time on the tummy, the baby mirror is a perfect tool to encourage cognitive, physical, and social development. A great thing is that the mirror is versatile – it can be also positioned vertically for older children.
Sensory texture squares
Sensory texture squares are a great toy that helps to develop tactile awareness. They have vibrant colors that will attract your baby’s attention and various surfaces (bumpy, furry, fuzzy, nubby, etc.). The package also includes an activity guide for older children.
High contrast soft Montessori gripping ball
This beautiful, soft gripping ball is perfect for smaller children because it is very easy to grab and has beautiful, high-contrast colors. At about 6 months, the child will take pleasure in seizing, rolling, and throwing it. There are plenty of color combinations you can choose from.
Wooden teether with crochet grasping beads
This wooden teether has a “bracelet” consisting of beads of different sizes and textures. This allows your child to learn to grasp and discover new things through the sense of touch. It is made of naturally-polished, smooth, non-toxic birch wood and hand-crocheted cotton.
Visual stimulation cards
These high-contrast visual stimulation cards are divided into 4 categories according to the infant’s age: black and white cards for babies 0-3 months, black and white + color cards for 3-6-month-olds, colorful patterns for babies between 6 and 12 months and colorful objects for children between 12 months and 3 years.
Tip: Check out our collection of free Montessori printables.
Maracas can be a great way to introduce musical instruments to a baby – they are safe and very easy to use. Give your little one the right tools she needs to discover sound, learn cause and effect, and entertain herself.
#2 Hand-eye coordinationHand-eye coordination is one of the most important fine motor skills your child learns in the early stages of life. There are many great Montessori toys that will encourage this skill. We have selected some simple classic Montessori toys (like wooden egg cup, puzzle, or interlocking discs) that are appropriate for kids under 12 months.
Wooden egg cup
At a certain point, babies will become very interested in putting things together. A wooden egg with a cup is a great item to start with when learning this skill. It is super-simple toy that fits perfectly into a small hand. A Montessori classic.
Montessori object permanence box with tray
Another popular early-childhood Montessori toy. With the object permanence box (also known as “box with tray and ball”), the child develops refined hand movements and learns that objects do not cease to exist after they disappear from sight.
Simple wooden stacking rings
Stacking rings are super-popular and there are hundreds of different models. Here, we have selected one that is simple enough for an infant – it has one color, the rings don’t necessarily need to be sorted by size and the base is wide enough so that it doesn’t get easily tipped over by small, clumsy hands.
Wooden learning puzzle with 4 shapes
This wooden puzzle consisting of 4 different shapes is a perfect toy to introduce shape sorting to your baby. It is simple, perfectly fits into small hands and provides a great developmental value.
Wooden nesting doll (Matryoshka)
Matryoshka nesting doll was probably the favorite toy of our daughter when she was 8-12 months old. She loved the surprise of opening one doll only to find another and another inside. FirebirdWorkshop does a great job at creating beautiful, handmade pieces that will brighten up your toy shelf and provide hours of play.
Montessori spinning drum
A perfect activity for tummy time or babies who can sit. The Montessori spinning drum helps to coordinate the hand-eye movement and develop the wrist and arm strength. It also makes a sound as it spins so the child can explore cause and effect.
Montessori interlocking discs
Interlocking discs are a Montessori classic. You can find two versions of these discs: glued together for younger babies (develops grasping and the un-glued version for older babies (they fit together like a puzzle and allow the child to practice fine motor skills).
#3 Gross motor skillsWe used to think that babies are quite passive little beings that spend all of their time sleeping. We couldn’t be more wrong. The progress children make in the first year is incredible. So we should provide them with a safe environment that allows them to develop their gross motor skills freely.
Freedom of movement is one of the most important aspects of the Montessori philosophy. A baby playmat helps to create a safe environment for your child to move freely and explore the world around from an early age.
Pop-up play tunnel
Once the child starts crawling, a play tunnel can be a lot of fun for both the baby and the parents. One of the great advantages of this Poco Divo model is how easy it can be folded and stored when not in use. It can be used both indoors and outdoors.
Montessori pull up bar for infants
Pull up bar is a popular Montessori-friendly tool to encourage and help practice the skill of standing up. It is often combined with the baby mirror to motivate the children to stand up and see their own reflection. Safe and adjusted for the small hands.
Climb & play set
This colorful climb & play set offers hours of fun while developing gross motor skills, balance, and coordination. The pieces hold together perfectly and provide a safe environment for your baby’s climbing adventures. It’s certified and doesn’t require any special maintenance.
#4 Language development
There’s not much real talking in the first year of a baby’s life. But it doesn’t mean there’s no language development. The adult plays an incredibly important role in this. The best you can do is talking to your baby, explaining everything, reading aloud, or singing. All the time.
That’s why in this section, we’ve selected two types of Montessori-friendly toys that will help you introduce many useful words to your infant – books and toy animals.
First 100 words book
The First 100 words is a popular children’s book by a bestselling author and child educator Roger Priddy. What makes it a great choice for a Montessori household? It features real photographs of everyday objects, animals and activities instead of illustrations. The point isn’t to teach new words but to remind the baby about the names of the objects he knows from real life.
Making faces board book
Making faces is a simple board book that introduces 5 essential expressions – happy, sad, angry, surprised, and silly. With every picture, the child is asked to pick the emotion from a group of other images and the mirror on the last page is a great way to encourage self-awareness. Children love it!
Realistic farm animals playset
Animals are super popular among children. You can repeat the names of the animals as well as the sounds they produce to encourage the language development of your little one. Toy animals are loved by babies and toddlers alike, so there’s a great play value for the years to come!
Realistic safari animals playset
Another beautiful, realistic set by Boley. It includes 6 animal pairs – lions, giraffes, elephants, tigers, rhinos and zebras you can introduce to your baby. You can work with them the same way you would with the book – name the animals, talk about what they do, how do they look, what colors they have, etc. The possibilities are endless!
That’s it. This is our list of the best Montessori-friendly toys for babies under 12 months.
Did we miss any great toy that should be on this list? Do you have a favorite toy your little one loves playing with? Let us know in the comments!