There is no shortage of information about the furniture you will need when bringing home a new baby —cribs, bassinets, changing tables, the list is endless! But as that baby grows into a toddler, they also outgrow the baby gear, and next thing you know you have a walking, talking member of your household who wants to climb every chair, see on top of every counter, and do it all with an independent flair! As a parent, this stage can feel frustrating and scary, but taking a Montessori approach and outfitting your home with Montessori furniture can help.

What is Montessori furniture?

The Montessori approach believes that by thoughtfully preparing your home, you can provide your curious little one with independence and self-motivation. This is where child-sized, well-crafted (and visually pleasing!) furniture comes into play. A few toddler furniture key pieces can support you to help your toddler help themselves, and may even take a few chores off your never-ending list!

These are key pieces of Montessori furniture for toddlers:

1. Learning tower

learning tower, or kitchen helper, is becoming a common sight in households with young independent toddlers. It is not a small purchase, but one that you will find countless uses for throughout your day. The Montessori approach believes children learn best through real-life experiences, and what is a better way to provide this than allowing children to safely and comfortably get right up to the action? Having a safe platform at counter height allows for help with cooking and baking, independent hand-washing, and an opportunity to observe other members of the household. With close supervision many children can begin using a learning tower at 18 months, and may continue to use it through early elementary school years.

Our Favorite Learning Towers

Piccalio Mini Chef Helper

Piccalio

$199

Mini Chef Convertible Kitchen Helper Tower

Piccalio is known for their swoon-worthy wooden products for kids (think: balance beam, pikler triangle and balance board), so it’s no surprise that their ever-popular Mini Chef Convertible Kitchen Helper Tower features a similar wow-worthy modern design. The Helper Tower features three height options and is designed to encourage independence and self-confidence as your mini-me gets the extra leg up they need to brush their teeth, help you in the kitchen, or peek out the window at the garbage truck. We especially adore that the Helper Tower converts to a table in just a few simple steps, allowing them a height-appropriate surface to eat, draw, or build. Additionally, Piccalio offers a vegan leather Guard Net ($34), which provides a protective barrier to the back of the helper tower. Since the Helper Tower can be used starting at 12 months old, we love this extra security net that ensures our littlest of littles stay safe and secure, and don’t accidentally fall backwards out of the helper tower.

guidecraft kitchen helper

Guidecraft

$199.99

Kitchen Helper

As one of the only fold-flat styles on the market, it’s no surprise we love the Guidecraft Kitchen Helper. The netted side clips in place to keep them from tumbling out while a non-slip mat gives extra peace of mind. It can be adjusted to two different heights and features a chalkboard on one side and a whiteboard on the other to keep them busy even when they aren’t standing inside!

Why we love it: Did we mention it folds flat? Seriously. You can’t beat that.

little partners limited edition learning tower

Little Partners

$259.99

Learning Tower

The gold standard of learning towers, Little Partners introduced the original in 1992. And while we love the simplicity of the OG design, this limited edition style improves on the classic. With the addition of an activity center which includes a chalkboard, paper holder and shelf, it adds even more utility–important for a piece of furniture that takes up a fair amount of real estate. Designed by a Montessori teacher and mom, the durable and sturdy tower sits flush against the counter making it easy for little ones to cook, rinse, measure and stir with ease. The roomy platform adjusts to four different heights and a 200-pound weight limit means it can easily accommodate two little ones at a time. Best of all, with a few additional accessories, the tower can easily become a puppet theater, lemonade stand or ice cream stand!

2. Montessori floor bed

This is such a quintessential Montessori-at-home item that you will often find it marketed under 'Montessori Floor Bed'. Maria Montessori did not believe that children (yes, even young infants) should be sleeping in cribs, but instead should be placed on a small mattress on the floor. This allows the child independence and freedom of movement from a young age, two important Montessori principles. To get the benefits of a floor bed, it does not have to be used in place of a crib; it can also be a great option when transitioning out of a crib and into a toddler bed. Like any space where your child will be left unsupervised, it is important to ensure their sleep environment is safe for some middle-of-the night or early-morning exploring. Editor's note: As a reminder, the AAP recommends that all babies sleep "on a firm sleep surface (eg, mattress in a safety-approved crib)" so be sure to talk to your pediatrician about the right sleeping situation for your child.

Our favorite Montessori floor beds

South Shore Sweedi Toddler Solid Wood Bed

South Shore

$269.99

Sweedi Toddler Solid Wood Bed

With a simple Scandinavian inspired look, this natural poplar wood frame allows the mattress to lay directly on the floor. And, it’s the same footprint as a standard crib, so no new to buy a new mattress!

sprout montessori floor bed

Sprout

$479

Montessori Floor Bed

The Sprout floor bed is one of the most popular options on the market, and thanks to its sleek style and conversion options it isn’t surprising that is the case. The frame is made out of baltic birch, can hold up to 250 lbs, and comes in twin, toddler, or full size. One reviewer said, “The minimalist style is crafted so beautifully, and it assembled in about 10 minutes with no screws or tools. Ben loves climbing in and out by himself and we love being able to sit close to him to play or read stories before bed.”

3. Kid-sized table and chairs

When you're in a Montessori classroom you will find that the furniture can be arranged to meet the needs of the group that particular day, and often can be moved by the children themselves. Allowing children autonomy in how their furniture fits in their space can lead to longer and more meaningful independent play.

Our favorite kids' tables and chairs

ikea kids table

Ikea

$39.99

LÄTT

The price point for this table and chair set is so good, you may want to pick up two. This easy-to-clean and versatile unit is great for an independent eating space, an arts and crafts table, book nook, or puzzle building surface. The height is just right for toddlers, and the lightweight material allows children to maneuver the pieces how they see fit.

Lalo

$250

The Play Kit

Minimalist baby gear brand Lalo offers one of the most stylish and versatile table and chairs sets on the market. Useful, fun and easy to sit on for tiny humans, the sets come in a variety of great colors and pair perfectly with their giant coloring sheets which are designed to completely cover the table surface. This will be the perfect place to read a book, create an artful masterpiece, play with some play-dough or work on a puzzle.

4. Play couches

Sparked by the launch of the ubiquitous Nugget Play Couch, play couches have gained quite a few fans over the past few years. While they're not necessarily known as a Montessori staple in classrooms and homes just yet, the design and function makes them a welcome addition to both environments. The simple design of separate foam pieces can be configured in dozens of ways for indoor imaginative play, and doubles as additional child-sized seating. 

Our favorite play couches

little boy reading on a nugget couch

Nugget

$229

The Nugget

The OG! Made with a microsuede fabric that’s super durable and a strong, supportive foam inside that’s just the right amount of firm but comfy, the Nugget is a favorite for kids and parents. It comes in tons of colors and even some fun collabs like Sesame Street. The covers are totally machine washable and can be purchased separately if you’re ever looking for a change!

Fort

Fort

$399

The Fort

This fort has transformed playtime! The cool shapes make my toddler’s imagination run wild as she’s figured out different ways to build a house, fort, or castle, or just some random mish-mash. The magnets are the most clutch part about it, keeping her build together, but not being too strong for when she’s ready to inevitably destroy it. Each set comes with 12 waterproof and wipeable shapes that can be reconfigured endlessly!

Kids playing on Member's Mark Kid's Explorer Sofa

Sam's Club

$189.98

Member's Mark Kids' Explorer Sofa

This near spot-on Nugget Dupe is sold exclusively online at Sam’s Club and costs about $40 less. The Member’s Mark Kids’ Explorer Sofa is also comprised of four flippable cushions that can take on all different configurations and is available in eight fabulous colors with machine-washable covers.

5. A low bookshelf

The size of the shelf limits the amount of books that can be displayed at a time, which will help your toddler to pick out a book on their own—it can be overwhelming at this age if there are too many options. Having the cover of the book showing, versus the spine, also makes this a more inviting activity for your child. Just like the toys and game throughout the house, rotating the books displayed on the bookshelf regularly will keep your child interested and attracted to this space.

Our favorite low bookshelves

Ikea flisat book display

Ikea

$22.99

FLISAT

This simple and clean design from IKEA is a perfect bookshelf to add to your toddler’s play area or bedroom. Not only is it super affordable, it’s also sized just right for regularly rotating books in and out.

Humble Crew kids book rack storage shelf

Humble Crew

$39.99

Kids' Book Rack Storage Shelf

Highly-rated, simple and at a price that can’t be beat, this simple fabric bookshelf keeps their current favorites on display and easy to grab.

Modern Tall Three Shelf Bookshelf White - Pillowfort™

Pillowfort

$135

Modern Tall Three Shelf Bookshelf

We just love the simple, modern look of this low-profile bookcase. It features shelves that are perfect for books and even some built-in storage for stowing toys. And, at just 38 inches tall, keeps things at arms reach for little readers.

6. A toddler-friendly wardrobe

Allowing your toddler to pick out their own clothes for the day and dress themselves provides an opportunity to take care of their own needs, practice coordination and use concentration. Although it may take longer and may not be possible every single day, providing them this opportunity is invaluable for their development and sense of self worth. Having a wardrobe that has an open-look and is child-sized allows the adult to preselect three to four seasonally appropriate outfits that the toddler then selects from.

Our favorite clothing racks

South Shore Sweedi Scandinavian Clothes Rack for Kids

South Shore

$112

Sweedi Scandinavian Clothes Rack for Kids

This simple Scandinavian-inspired clothes rack has just enough space to hang a collection of essentials along with a sizable platform for shoes or accessories.

Babai Clothing Rack

Babai

$119.99

Clothing Rack

The addition of casters makes this a great option for moving from their bedroom (daytime dressing) to playroom (costume party time!). It’s made with sustainable wood and designed to last for generations.

7. Sensory table

Although a sensory table is not something most would consider an essential piece of furniture, or even one that you'd expect to see in many homes, it has been said that they can be one of the best purchases you can make for a busy toddler. The internet is full of sensory bin ideas that can be used indoors and out to boost fine motor skills and aid cognitive development.

A version of this story was published February 8, 2021. It has been updated.