A friend and reader recently asked me if I had any toy recommendations (our boys are similar ages). I’m always happy to share what’s working for us. First, context and our toy and activity item guidelines. I’ve done a lot of reading on Montessori activities and toys. We love being able to get Montessori items, but to keep in our budget, we try to make hand-me-downs, garage sale items, and gifts work for us.
Bash’s Current Physical Abilities
Bash is just over 12 months. He’s not walking, but is a speedy crawler. Not joking, he might be able to crawl as quickly as I jog. He pulls himself up to a standing position, can climb, and walks sideways along walls and cabinets with little support.
Toy and Activity Item Guidelines
We stay away from items that:
- Make electronic noises
- Have screens
- Have tv/movie characters
- Move themselves
We look for items that:
- Have open ended play (lots of ways to play with something)
- Are made with natural materials
- Facilitate hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills
- Encourage exploration of the toy and his environment
- Have varying textures
- Encourage walking, but don’t force it
- Cater to Bash’s individual interests – he’s currently enjoying animals, anything with a hinge, and books
Current Favorite Pre Toddler Toys
- Wild Republic, Australia Collection – These were a gift from my aunt, who lives in Australia. Bash loves handling these small, realistic animals. Pictured here are a few we leave out for independent play. There are some we only get out when we’re using them together because they’re still swallowable. Bash loves walking these, feeling them, and carrying them around.
- Shape Sorter Mixing Truck – This was a birthday gift from my bestie, and it’s been a hit. The shapes are a more difficult version of Bash’s single shape puzzles. He’s also really enjoying moving the wheels. Things I really like: Most of the truck is wood, the colors aren’t obnoxious, the little man can move his arms, legs, and head and isn’t too small, and it spins and has a hinge.
- Stuffed Animals – Bash really likes soft things. We haven’t bought him any stuffed animals, but he loves the ones he’s received as gifts. The bear was a baby gift and the koala was a birthday gift (also from my aunt). Bash hugs these, gives them kisses, and occasionally tosses them in the air.
- Basket of Play Silks – These are great for open ended play. Bash uses them as hats, waves them, plays peekaboo, and puts them on us. This was an easy make at home. I found an empty basked and put pieces of fabric in it. Ours includes handkerchiefs from grandparents, a pocket silk from a wedding Will was in, a paint rag, and some small stuffed animals (my childhood Hushpuppy and a lavender fish we bought at the Festas de Lisboa).
- Where’s Will? – Bash loves books and he’s getting really good at gently turning regular pages. My mom bought this as a joke for Will a few years ago. Bash pulled it off a shelf and decided it was his. He spends a decent amount of time looking at all the details in each picture. An old I Spy book would also be great if your kid likes looking at details.
- Accessible Board Books – We have lots of board books and we rotate them weekly, leaving a couple of Bash’s favorites out every week. We don’t stick to strict Montessori recommendations of realistic images of activities or ideas that happen in the real world. My English MA, art history loving self can’t quite stick to that. Ones Bash loves right now: From Head to Toe, Frankenstein: A Baby Lit Anatomy Primer, any of the Baby Lit board books, The Art of Colors, and Baby Faces. Bottom line, Bash reads so much, that I could do a whole post on books.
These are just a few of the things Bash is regularly playing with and enjoying. He also spends a lot of reorganizing my kitchen cupboards and exploring our house.
Any favorites you’d add to my list?
If you purchase or try any of these, let me know what you think!
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