Best Montessori/RIE Toys for Babies & Toddlers: 0-4 Years
As you have guessed by now, I love toys. I have a bit of an obsession with toys. This makes it very non-Montessori friendlyL lots of toys – not a minimalistic way of life. But, I do a lot of toy rotation and storage (for later donation).
One of things I have focused on in having in the household are real things (heuristic) and quality toys. Real things meaning scarves/fabrics, tupperware, spoons, and basically anything your baby will steal from your kitchen (because kitchens are awesome). And of course real things from the outside world, stones, pine cones, sticks, water, etc.
Our “quality toys” are usually wooden but we do have a few plastic toys like Duplo, Green Toys and Hess Trucks (my collection from childhood). What’s important to know that if you have a Montessori household, Montessori never advocated for toys – she wanted real materials for children to experience. Of course toys are a medium in which babies and children experience the world, but it’s not mandatory.
However, Montessori/RIE toys are always battery and lights free. It of course doesn’t mean your house should be 100% battery free, but rather the toys you have should stimulate active learning in children. I went through a phrase to try out a few battery toys and bought them on Facebook Marketplace (5 for $15 – score!). I bought them last year when my son was 20 months and mainly used them on a trip abroad. I won’t tell you the company names but they rhyme with StepBog and X-Mech. 😉
Pros: can entertain for long periods which are especially needed on long haul trips.
Cons: make a lot of noise, gimmicky, no learning or real entertainment.
My Hess Trucks on the other hand, are also battery operated, where the truck lights up. I have many great memories from those toys and I love my son playing with them (to be clear, my son sneakily found one of the trucks in a box – these are really for 5 years+ old)
Back to business, if you are looking for making your household less battery operated, these baby to young child toys are perfect. PS – This post contains affiliate links.
Wee Gallery Animal Alphabet Cards, High Contrast for Visual Development
Hape Color and Shape Wooden Block Sorter
Age range: 8 months – 2 years
Rainbow colors of nine pegs with 3 distinct basic shapes – triangle, circle, square
Plan Toy Solid Wood Drum
9 months – 3 years old
6 months – 12 months – teething, throwing around
12 months – 18 moths – stacking
Wooden Ring Stacker Toy | Fisher Price Self Correcting Ring Stacker | Grimm’s 11 Piece Ring Stacker | Grimm’s Nesting Rainbow Bowl Stackers | Pyramid rocking with Top – this you need to paint and varnish
Hape Roller Derby Wooden Marble Racing Toddler Toy
Age range: 2-3.5 years old
From an Amazon review: “Why I think it’s great: there is just enough color to pull them in and get them playing, but the toy is neutral enough that I don’t feel cluttered by it. The ball ramps are on both sides, so my children can easily play together. Each one had their own side. The developmental benefits of this toy are numerous. What I would change: I wish the little yellow starting platform was a bit bigger. My 22 month old struggled to get the ball started. ”
Hape Pound & Tap Bench with Slide Out Xylophone
Age range: 1-3 years old
Amazing Tracker Ball Maze
Age range: 1-4 years old
It’s large and with a hefty price tag for a child’s toy ($88 on amazon), but it is amazing. Standing nearly two feet tall, the older babies and toddlers will get endless entertainment from it.
Galt Toys Wooden Retro Pop Up Toy
From an Amazon review: “I bought this to replace the original one that I owned over 20 years ago! It is such a perfect toy to have for small children. each of the coloured peg people bob about easily in the holes and are the perfect size for little hands hold easily – it is great for their dexterity! the colours enable early colour recognition and matching. A simple, well made classic toy that I highly recommend having in your child’s first toy box!”
Little Climber Pikler Triange
Age range: 8 months – 4 years old
Foldable for Flat Storage | Includes Climber, Reversible Accessory, and Board Book
Guidecraft Peekaboo Lock Boxes (Set of 6)
Age range: 18 months – 3 years old
Good for fine motor skills, color matching, shape sorting
Amazon review: Wonderful quality, super sturdy and well made. I was a bit sceptical because of the prize, but just like other reviews said, we’ll worth the money. My 2 year 4 month old daughter plays with it every day. The locks are just difficult enough to keep her thinking and exploring, but doable so she doesn’t feel like it’s impossible. So many options with the blocks, the color base to sort the colors, count, stack, etc.”
Grimm’s Stacking Rainbow
21 months – 5 years old
Manhattan Toy Skwish Natural Rattle and Teether Grasping Activity Toy
Natural wood Six Piece Chunky Shape Puzzle |
Age Range: 12 months – 3 years old
Pounding Peg Boards
Age Range: 10-18 months
Plan Toys Pounding Bench | Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Pound | Hape Little Pounder
The Hape one has music. All three brands are similar except for sizing and number of pegs.
HABA Palette of Pegs – 32 Piece Wooden Pegging & Arranging Game
Age range: 12 months – 2 years old
Radio Flyer Classic Walker Wagon
PlanToys Plan Preschool Walk N Roll, Push and Pull
BeginAgain Cat Family Puzzle
Age range: 2-3 years old
What makes this puzzle great: Kids learn colors and their names. Play with pieces individually, use them as stencils and in storytelling, or complete the children’s puzzle. Each piece has the color name in English on one side and Spanish on the other to build kids’ bilingual language skills. Handcrafted from plantation-grown, sustainable rubberwood. Comes with storage tray.
18 months – 5 years old
Wood based, simple, no logos, brands, and ‘stuff’ on the kitchen set. You can IKEA hack it as you please. The fabric food, metal pot set, and ceramic tea set are also worthwhile.
Little Partners Learning Tower Kids Adjustable Height Kitchen Step Stool for Toddlers or Any Little Helper
Remember, it’s not about living the Montessori way 100% of the time – it’s about fostering independence, exploration, and curiosity about life.