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Children can learn so much through play. Unstructured play benefits kids' mental and physical health—it helps them make sense of the world around them through teaching boundaries and social interactions and it's even good for you, too, mama. But how many toys do your little ones really need? And which ones will get played with the most?
What are Montessori toys?
Montessori toys are usually made from natural materials, non-electronic and foster independent play, creativity and concentration. A phrase that comes up often is "open-ended," meaning the toy isn't telling the child what to do with it. Rather, it provides them an opportunity to explore and experiment. They're also always based in reality, a tenet that's built on the research which shows that before the age of six, children aren't capable of sorting fantasy from what happens in the real world. By doing things like reading them books about animals in the wild versus animals having a picnic, it helps them establish a secure connection to the world around them and develop a sense of imagination.
When choosing toys for your baby and toddler, we like the less-is-more Montessori-inspired approach: fewer, higher quality toys, each with a purpose, made from mostly natural materials, that can grow along with your child. Clutter can be overwhelming for little ones, and the science tells us that children play longer and more happily with less toys.
Check out some of our favorite Montessori toys that will grow with your child.
We've chosen 18 Montessori-inspired toys that will inspire imagination and encourage open-ended play from the baby years through toddlerhood and beyond. Your littles will come back to these toys again and again.
This article was originally published in July 2018. It has been updated.