13 - 15 Months

The best Montessori and learning toys for 1 year olds

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What are Montessori toys?

Officially, there is no such thing as a Montessori toy; anything that fits the philosophy can qualify. Simple toys made of natural materials allow your toddler to practice one skill at a time and make for great Montessori-aligned playthings. 

Uncomplicated in construction and purpose, these kinds of toys feel good to hold, don’t provide excess stimulation like bright lights and loud noises, and tap into your child’s natural inclination to learn.

Learn more about what makes something a “Montessori toy.” 

What are the best Montessori toys for 1-year-olds?

At 12 months old, your child is likely more mobile and curious than ever before. The best toys over the next year support their growing mobility, new fine motor skills, emerging language, and independence. 

Here are our picks for the best Montessori toys for 1-year-olds: 

The best Montessori toys to introduce at 13 months

Spatial relationships with a flexible wooden stacker

Toddler playing with a Lovevery stacking toy

Ring stacker toys help your toddler learn about spatial relationships as they explore how objects fit together. This Montessori classic is a twist on the design of a traditional stacker, allowing for more advanced skill development. 

Montessori practitioners refer to a concept called “isolation of difficulty” when introducing an object with several distinct elements. The Flexible Wooden Stacker allows your child to isolate color matching, adding and removing rings, and completing the puzzle in the base.

Ideas for play:

  • Show your toddler how to remove one or two rings from the post and put them back on.
  • The first step is learning how to take the rings off. With some practice, your toddler may be able to put the rings back on the post by 15 months; threading takes more advanced fine motor skills.
  • If your toddler is struggling, lean the flexible post toward them and pull a ring most of the way off. Then, let them place the ring back over the post and push it down.

Posting with a coin bank

Toddler playing with a Lovevery Wooden Coin Box

Manipulating coins is a fine motor problem solving activity. Your toddler will work hard to pick up each coin, turn it to the proper position, and drop it into the slot. Fitting objects into their slots and dropping or pushing them through is called “posting.” 

This three-dimensional puzzle may be a little challenging at first. Over time, your toddler will start to see that rotating an object’s direction can change how it fits into another object.

Ideas for play:

  • Start by fitting the dark blue lid onto the Wooden Coin Bank. Then, offer your child a single coin—once they’ve fit it into the slot, give them more to work with.
  • When the coins drop in, shake the bank—what sound does it make?
  • Show your toddler how to turn the Wooden Coin Bank over to pull off the magnetic bottom and retrieve the coins; they can also pull off the silicone top.
  • Try putting the coins into the bank without the bottom on—when all the coins are inside, lift the bank to show your child where the coins went.

Understanding how pieces fit together with a circle puzzle

Toddler playing with a Community Garden puzzle by Lovevery

Puzzles, a classic Montessori activity, are another great tool for developing spatial skills and practicing resilience. A circle is the easiest shape for your toddler to match because it has no corners, so it can fit in any orientation. Starting out with a simple, two-dimensional object like a flat circle helps your toddler build awareness of how shapes fit together—a foundation for the more complex puzzles that will come later. 

Puzzles are Montessori staples in part because they encourage children to self-correct. It can be tempting to jump in every time your toddler gets frustrated—but try giving them the space to experiment with the pieces and use trial and error (and logic) to complete it.

Ideas for play:

  • Give your toddler plenty of time to explore the puzzle pieces on their own.
  • Place all the pieces in the puzzle and demonstrate how to take them all out. At first, your toddler will have an easier time removing the pieces than putting them back in. Toddlers love to undo things before they redo them, so they may spend a lot of time removing the pieces before they show interest in completing the puzzle.
  • The biggest challenge will come from the circles being different sizes. The four smallest pieces will all fit loosely in the largest hole, so the puzzle becomes a logical one: what do you do if four pieces fit but the fifth doesn’t? If your toddler gets frustrated, you can remove the middle three circles and cover up their holes with a sheet of paper, leaving only the largest and smallest circles.
  • For added fun, cut out circular pictures of family members and loved one to customize the puzzle.

The best Montessori toy to introduce at 16 months

Threadable Bead Kit for precise fine motor practice

Toddler playing with a threading kit from Lovevery

In Montessori, “practical life” refers to activities that involve care of self (like pouring your own water) and care of the environment (like cleaning up). They also support focus and fine motor precision. Threading is a classic practical life activity. 

This is an activity that takes time and patience. Your toddler is learning to use both hands together, and beginning to understand that each hand has its own role. One hand can act as the holder while the other acts as the manipulator. 

Ideas for play:

  • Slowly show your toddler how to thread beads onto the string. Offer them the thin rings first, and show how to put the ring over the dowel—flat pieces will be easier to string than the thick, round ones.
  • If they struggle, you can put a bead on the dowel and let your toddler pull it out the other end. You can also hold the dowel so your toddler can use both hands to put the bead on.
  • Stringing beads is a challenging fine motor activity. Your toddler likely won’t be able to do it independently until close to their second birthday, so give them repeated exposure, practice, and support.

The best Montessori toys to introduce at 18 months

Everything in its place with a Montessori placemat and utensils

Toddler playing with the Montessori Placemat by Lovevery

In Montessori learning, “sensitive periods” are stretches of time when your child is interested and ready to learn certain skills. The sensitive period for order peaks at around 18 months—this is a time when your toddler wants everything to be in its proper place. A Montessori placemat with child-sized forks and spoons will show your toddler where to put their plate, cup, and each utensil for mealtime. A napkin with oversized stitching guides them as they learn how to properly fold.

Ideas:

  • Introduce the placemat and show your toddler where everything goes. Using the same kinds of tools adults use (like the steel utensils provided with the placemat) is a foundational Montessori principle. This allows your toddler to learn what different materials feel like and how they behave.
  • Invite your toddler to set their own place at the table. Consider using the same cups, and plates you use, and store everything your toddler needs where they can reach it.
  • The napkin includes visible stitching along the folding lines. Lay it out flat, and show your toddler how to make two folds so the napkin fits on its outline on the placemat.

Pushing and pulling with a stroller and a pull toy

Toddler pushing the Buddy Stroller by Lovevery

Toddlers learn to push before they learn to pull. A stroller like The Buddy Stroller helps your child learn balance and coordination as they push dolls, stuffed animals, or other small friends around. 

A pull toy is deceptively simple. A cute dog on a string teaches your child about cause and effect, trial and error, and more: what happens when they pull the string? How do they get around a corner? 

Learn more about the developmental benefits of a pull toy (and why they’re so fun and timeless).

Ideas for play:

  • Try an obstacle course with either the Stroller or the Pull Pup; start very simple, with just one object (a pillow or a chair) in your toddler’s way. If they’re able to get around it, you can gradually add more obstacles.
  • Simple pretend play starts to develop this year, as your toddler begins to mimic what they see others do. They may pretend to nurture dolls and other small things by feeding them, putting them to bed, and strolling (or pulling) them around.
  • Once your toddler is walking, try a short walk. Walking outdoors with a stroller or pull toy provides new challenges and opportunities for pretend play.

Early STEM learning with a block set

Man and toddler playing with The Block Set by Lovevery

Building blocks are the original STEM toy. They teach physics concepts like cause and effect, force, velocity, and gravity. They also help develop social-emotional growth and resilience, and provide opportunities to explore imagination and visual-spatial relationships.

Ideas for play:

  • Build a tower and start small (two or three blocks when your toddler is 12 to 16 months). This develops balance and fine motor skills like gripping and releasing. By age 2, many toddlers can stack as many as 6 blocks.
  • Sort by shape—the Block Set’s wooden box has five openings (rhombus, circle, triangle, pentagon, and trapezoid). Matching the block shapes to their corresponding holes is great spatial reasoning practice.
  • One of the most important foundations of math development is pattern recognition. Try laying out a simple pattern (cube, wheel, cube, wheel) and see if your toddler can add the next piece.
  • Toddlers start to recognize colors at around 18 months. Sort the blocks by color yourself and see if your toddler can catch on. Once they get the hang of it, you can start color-coding your creations.

The best Montessori toys to introduce at 19 months

Learning about light with a real, functional flashlight

Toddler looking at a flashlight

Your toddler is learning that certain objects, like lamps, flashlights, lanterns, and light switches, can give or control light. Montessori is all about using real-life objects—like the Really Real Flashlight—that are sized for your child’s body and can teach them how the world works. Toddlers love pushing on/off buttons over and over and over on their own real-world mechanical objects.

Ideas for play:

  • Build a fort for your toddler (or use a large cardboard box) so they can hide inside it with the flashlight. They can also turn the flashlight upside down to make a lantern.
  • With the lights off, lie down together on the floor, and have your child use the flashlight to point in different directions.
  • Go on a lights tour around your home, helping your toddler manipulate the different types of switches; talk about how the light is on or off.
  • Your toddler will love pushing buttons, so ask for their help with elevators, the dishwasher, washing machine, microwave, or any other appliance you use

Building concentration with Quilted Critter Pockets

Toddler matching animals in the Quilter Critters toy by Lovevery

Realistic images of animals and nature are a big part of Montessori learning. Putting the Quilted Critters in their pockets and taking them out again is a form of transferring; it’s also a matching activity that takes concentration, fine motor skills, and stamina. Eventually, your toddler may be able to match the animals with the image on the pocket, but in the meantime, they can have fun experimenting with “in and out.”

Ideas for play:

  • Hang the Critter Pockets at eye level for your toddler—from a door, the refrigerator handle, or from hooks in the wall, using the grommets.
  • First, place all of the Quilted Critters in their pockets so they’re peeking out a little bit, and let your toddler practice pulling them out. With time, they’ll gain the patience and interest to put the Critters back into their corresponding pockets. Name and describe the animals as your toddler plays.
  • Your toddler may mix and match the critters and pockets, and may try to stuff several into a single pocket—a great experiment in volume 😉

The best Montessori toys to introduce at 22 months

Practical Life skills with a toddler pitcher

Toddler pouring water from the Grooved Pitcher by Lovevery

Another practical life skill your toddler can start practicing this year is pouring their own water. Pouring practice with a Grooved Pitcher (outside the bath, so your toddler can notice spills) helps develop precise hand-eye coordination and self-control; your toddler needs to stop pouring when the water reaches the rim of the glass.

Ideas for play:

  • Set up a pouring area on a tray or rimmed baking sheet. To start, have your toddler pour dry items like (uncooked) lentils or rice—it’s easier for them to practice with these before moving on to liquids.
  • When your toddler is ready for water, start with a small amount in their pitcher (much less than would fill up the whole glass).
  • Show them how the pitcher can rest against the glass with its groove on the glass’s rim while they hold the cup with their other hand.
  • Have a small dish towel or washcloth handy for the inevitable spill, and invite your toddler to do the wiping up ❤️ 

Matching with Montessori animals

Young child holding a cow figurine on top of a wooden cow card

Your toddler is always trying to make sense of what they see. With time—and lots of experience—they’ll perceive the similarities and differences needed to start classifying objects (putting them into groups). Perceiving, comparing, and categorizing are all examples of advanced thinking that develop through practice and exposure. 

A Montessori animal matching activity supports this kind of thinking. It also develops your toddler’s growing ability to connect two-dimensional images to corresponding three-dimensional objects.

Ideas for play:

  • Say the name of each animal and mimic the sound it makes when you introduce each tile. Once you’ve shown your toddler all of the tiles, start the activity by choosing just two tiles and their matching animals.
    • Lay the tiles on the floor, and hand the animals one at a time to your toddler, working with them to make matches.
    • Slowly increase the number of animals and tiles as your toddler’s skills grow.
  • For a more advanced version of this activity, make only the animal’s sound (“moo” for cow, etc) and see if your toddler can make a match that way.

Transferring small objects with tweezers and spoons

Man sitting with a toddler with two bowls in front of them

Transferring objects from one container to another is a common activity in Montessori classrooms and homes. Most toddlers naturally love to use tweezers, which are useful for developing fine motor skills and concentration.

Ideas for play:

  • Put the Felt Stars into a cup, and show your toddler how to use the tweezers to transfer the stars from one cup to another. You can also use small bowls, egg cartons, and muffin tins.
  • If your child is struggling to pick up a Felt Star with the tweezers, you can help by placing a star right between the tips of the tweezers and letting your child grasp and then release it into the container.
  • Invite your child to use their tweezers with everyday household items like pom-poms, o-shaped cereal, blueberries, dried pasta, and cubes of cheese. The smaller the objects, the more challenging the transferring will be.

You can also practice transferring objects with a spoon rather than tweezers:

  • Set out two bowls on a tray, filling one halfway up with (uncooked) beans, rice, or other grain, and hand your child a spoon. Show them how to scoop up a spoonful of beans (holding the spoon between their thumb and middle finger, thumb on top), and gently move it over to the empty bowl to tip the beans over and out.
  • For the inevitable spills, have your tweezers ready so your child can work on both spooning and tweezing at the same time.

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Posted in: 13 - 15 Months, 16 - 18 Months, 19 - 21 Months, 22 - 24 Months, Montessori, Independence, Practical Life, Plaything, Child Development

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