play

18-24 Months: Play

18-24 months: Play and Toys

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Once toddlers can stand and really move, a whole new world opens up which needs exploring!   Toys still need to be relatively simple and inviting.  There is no need for toddlers to have electronic toys.  Look for realistic, relatable themes that aren't too visually busy or overly complicated.  

Keep a small number of play items available at once (about 5-10 max)  where your child can easily see everything and put things back.  Make sure there are plenty of opportunities for movement, both inside and outside.  Look for items to climb over, in, on top of, stand on, push, etc. 

Play objects for 18-24 months should still be checked for small pieces and loose parts that could get swallowed.  Toys for this age should hold up to rigorous throwing, dropping, crushing, banging, and pulling, and be made from sturdy materials like thick cardboard, wood, or metal. 

Help your toddler explore the world in a safe, independent way.  Provide simple demonstrations of what to do in a situation and how to do it.  Be mindful of over-helping or over-suggesting how to use something. This stunts creativity and problem solving.

This page contains affiliate links.  We only link to items we love and would recommend. By clicking on the link, you are offered the same (or lower) price, and a small percentage of any purchase you make goes to us at TPE. We use these funds to help offset our costs and provide more value to you. Thanks in advance! 


Play Materials for 18-24 months

Jumbo Piece Puzzles

These large wood puzzles are perfect for young toddlers.  The larger rounded knob encourages a strong fingertip grip (writing muscles), and with only three shapes to choose from, it's possible to complete the whole puzzle before losing interest or getting frustrated. 

Picture Dominoes

These thicker domino cards offer an opportunity to match by shape, color, and number.  Use just a handful of these as a matching activity to start, or play a simple domino game with the whole family.   

image from  Wiwiurka

image from Wiwiurka

Climbing Triangle

As your child gets stronger (and braver), she will want to climb everything.  Give her an appropriate place to practice with an indoor climbing structure, like this Pikler triangle.  I used one of these in my Parent-child toddler classes, and I love it.  There's graduated difficulty and multiple ways to climb, so it can grow with your child.  It folds up, and it's beautiful.  And most importantly, the triangle allows your child to test her own skills and learn how to move safely.  This one is from Wiwiurka, and is handmade in Mexico.   

Push Along Duck

I personally think this duck is super cute, but more importantly it's been super popular with many toddlers I've worked with.  The added complexity of walking behind a toy while steering and balancing is a welcome challenge for this age.  I find the wood stick to be more manageable than string pull toys, and more challenging than the push-cart I suggested for 12 month olds. 

image from  Heirloom Kids USA

Color Disc Sorter and Stacker

This is a classic Montessori Aid to Infancy material designed to build fine-motor and coordination skills.  The smaller size of the dowel and discs encourages the tripod finger grip later used in writing, but are still large enough to avoid choking hazards.   The simple colors and design help your child focus and make connections faster.  This material is mama-handmade from Heirloom Kids USA.

image from  Margaritkadolls

image from Margaritkadolls

Soft, Simple Doll

Dolls aren't just for girls.  This handmade Waldorf-style doll is perfect for any 18-24 month old, and will stand up to strong love and use for years.  A doll is perfect for caring role play, learning body parts and gentle, kind touch, and general companionship.  This doll is from Margaritkadolls and is handmade in Poland.   

Wooden Memory Game

Here's another game that offers a few ways to play together, or on your own!  These wood tiles from Hape Toys with sweet, simple animal pictures can be matched together, used in a memory game, hidden for a lost-partner treasure hunt, or whatever else you can think of! 

Bowling Set

Here's an active activity your child can do indoor or out!  I prefer softer pins for this age to help with noise and for safety reasons.  There's a handful of plush or plastic bowling sets from Melissa and Doug, but this handmade set is from CrochetFanaticDesign is my favorite by far.  


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12-18 Months: Outdoor

12-18 months: Outdoor and Travel

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As your child begins to walk, you can start of the most treasured toddler activities: the daily walk.  This is a slow activity full of exploration, observation, repetition, and joy.  

Outside time also builds gross motor skills, especially with ride-on toys, simple games, or helping with chores.  Make sure you get good shoes (see below) so your child learns to walk correctly.  

And when traveling, don't forget fun actvities like vocabulary cards or sing-along music! 

This page contains affiliate links.  We only link to items we love and would recommend. By clicking on the link, you are offered the same (or lower) price, and a small percentage of any purchase you make goes to us at TPE. We use these funds to help offset our costs and provide more value to you. Thanks in advance! 


Outdoor Materials for 12-18 months

Wheely Bug

A ride-on toy like this Wheely Bug from Prince Lionheart is perfect for 12 to 18 month olds who are just learning the idea of pushing with their legs.   It's almost impossible for a child to tip this over, and the wheels allow it to move in all directions quite easily.  I'm partial to the mouse, but there are several other designs to choose from.

Watering Can

Playing with water is a favorite activity for most young children, and a watering can like this encourages purposeful help!  I suggest introducing a watering can outside so your child can practice dumping as much water as she likes without drowning your potted plants.  

Shoes for Walking

As your child is coordinating her body to walk quickly and efficiently at this age, good shoes are of utmost importance.   No boots. No flip-flops.  No heels (yes, I have to say that sadly).  Your child's feet and legs must move in a natural fashion, and that requires a sneaker, sandal with an ankle strap, or bare feet. 

Look for velcro or elastic closures that your child can do on her own, and a sturdy but flexible sole.  These would also be a good choice.  

Digging Shovel

I love this shovel for toddlers.  It's  thick plastic handle and scoop hold up well to repeated use and the curved design helps dig deeper and more gracefully without added force.  


Vocabulary Cards on a Ring

A set of picture cards is great for practicing familiar words, and keeping them on a ring like this allows for easy travel.  These aren't as nice as the ones from So Awesome (so sad to see them go), but have many similar features.  The simple pictures are clear, the words and objects are familiar to many toddlers, and the tapered top makes flipping easy. 


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12-18 Months: Play

12-18 months: Play and Toys

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At this age, your child's brain is absorbing on a literal, surface level and is looking for connections, cause and effect, and deep sensory information to attach to words.   There is no need for toddlers to have electronic toys, as these will directly get in the way of this brain development.  Toys for this age must be sturdy, simple, and realistic.  Look for play items that aren't too visually busy or overly complicated.  

Keep a small number of play items available at once (about 5-10 max)  where your child can easily see everything and put things back.  

Safety: Play objects for 12-18 months must be checked for small pieces and loose parts that could get swallowed.  Toys for this age should hold up to rigorous throwing, dropping, crushing, banging, and pulling, and be made from sturdy materials like thick cardboard, wood, plastic, or metal. 

Playing together: Help your toddler explore the world in a safe, independent way.  Provide simple demonstrations of what to do in a situation and how to do it.  Be mindful of over-helping or over-suggesting how to use something. This stunts creativity and problem solving

This page contains affiliate links.  We only link to items we love and would recommend. By clicking on the link, you are offered the same (or lower) price, and a small percentage of any purchase you make goes to us at TPE. We use these funds to help offset our costs and provide more value to you. Thanks in advance! 


Play Materials for 12-18 months

Stacking and Nesting

These cheerful wood bowls from Grimm's Toys are perfect for stacking or nesting, two favourite activities at this age.  Plus, these wood bowls can double as storage when your child outgrows them.  Start with 2-3 bowls of very different sizes like red-yellow-blue or orange-green.  As your child gets better at stacking or nesting, you can include all five.  

Other excellent stacking and nesting toys include: 

The First Years Stack Up Cups

Green Toys My First Stacker

Hammer Pounding Toy

This toy offers an appropriate way to practice pounding or smashing toys together.  This pounder toy from Hape also allows your child to see exactly how far the colored pegs go when she hits them, and can be flipped over to repeat.  No balls to loose around the house!  

Honey Sticks Beeswax Crayons

 These crayons are 100% beeswax, non-toxic, and too large to choke on or break easily.  They smell faintly of beeswax and honey, which I think is just lovely.  These chubby crayons are perfect for 12-24 month olds who are just learning to hold objects and intentionally make lines and designs on paper.  

Shape Sorter

This is my favorite version of this popular toy, because of the simplicity and sturdiness of this design.  Just three very different shapes are used here, and three very different colors.  The lid of this wood box is easy for 12 month old hands to lift up and replace.  This shape sorter doubles as an object permanence toy, as the shapes seem to disappear into the box when sorted correctly.  

Giant Ball

I've found these large exercise balls to be endless fun with young toddlers!  The ball is so big, it's easy to children to "catch" when rolled to them, it's light enough to be picked up and thrown, and, they can push, jump, and bounce into it.  This exercise ball features thick rubber walls that slow-deflate when punctured and it's easy to clean.  

image from  Heirloom Kids USA

Chunky Shape Sorting Puzzle

This simple chunky puzzle offers an introduction to sorting by shape and matching.  Knobbed pieces are a bit too difficult for most children this age, so look for a first puzzle with large, thick pieces of wood and less than 5 pieces.  Introduce this puzzle with just ONE shape and the board, adding the other two later.  This is handmade from Heirloom Kids USA

Ramp Racer

Every Montessori mom blog lists this car ramp racer from EverEarth, and for good reason.  It's a simplistic, compact design that's mesmerizing for young toddlers.  I particularly like the stop block at the end, so cars don't race across the room.  This toy encourages repetition with very little reset time, and is totally child-powered.  

image from  Amy Baby Toys

image from Amy Baby Toys

Beanbags

Beanbags are one of my go-to play items for young toddlers, so many possibilities!  Make a throwing game, stack them high, then knock them down, or balance one on your head.  These triangular beanbag blocks from Amy Baby Toys are perfect for smaller hands to grab, stack, or throw, and they come with a handy fabric bag for storage.  Note that these are filled with small plastic beads, and should not be used with children younger than 12 months for safety reasons. 


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6-12 months: Play

6-12 months: Play

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There are so many big changes that happen from 6 to 12 months!  A play area for these mobile infants must be safe above all things.  I highly suggest creating a "yes"space that is not only baby-proofed but has interesting things to touch, move, and look at.  

As your child begin to sit on her own, you can offer a handful of items just out of reach so she has to stretch and bend over.  Get a pull up bar (see below) and a walker wagon to encourage pulling up and cruising. 

Please note: infants can be easily mesmerized by household items, and they in fact make excellent toys at this age.  You can offer a small collection of similar items in a treasure basket for exploration! (see below)

Any toy we listed on the 3-6 month page will still work for this age too. Your infant's brain and body have changed so quickly, she can now explore these toys in new ways.  

This page contains affiliate links.  We only link to items we love and would recommend. By clicking on the link, you are offered the same (or lower) price, and a small percentage of any purchase you make goes to us at TPE. We use these funds to help offset our costs and provide more value to you. Thanks in advance! 


Play Materials for 6-12 months

image from  Heirloom Kids USA

Pull Up Bar

A pull up bar offers a safe place for the infant to practice pulling up and cruising(sideways walking).  Attach a bar in front of an unbreakable mirror to create more interest and feedback.  This bar from Heirloom Kids USA  is 1 inch, perfect for smaller hands, and even has the holes pre-drilled for you.  Make sure you secure this into wall studs or use drywall anchors for safety. 

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Silicone Muffin Cups

I love these.  Interesting shapes and textures, flexible, washable, stackable, nest-able, AND you could use them for baking when your child gets older.  Look for cups that are food grade and BPA-free.  I offer a handful in a basket like this to 6-12 month olds, and observe the creative ways they find to play with them. 

image from  Bella's Casa

image from Bella's Casa

Two-handed puzzles

Infants are keenly interested in this simple Montessori puzzle that requires coordination for both hands! Offer the egg and cup first, and the pin and cup next, as it's slightly harder.  This handmade set is from Bella's Casa.  These have a similar function to the palmer and pincer blocks below, so you could choose one or the other if you are short on space. 

image from  Heirloom Kids USA

Palmer and Pincer Grasp Blocks

Another lovely handmade item from Heirloom Kids USA.  These Montessori infant materials offer another simple puzzle that build coordination and hand dexterity.  The block on the left builds a whole hand grip (palmer) and is offered first.  The block on the right can be offered when you notice your child picking things up by their thumb and index finger(pincer grip), around 9 months.

Walker Wagon

I'm not a fan of walking "aids" for developmental reasons, but this Montessori material is an exception.  A walker wagon offers your child an opportunity to practice skills like pulling up, take steps, and moving forward, which are all needed to walk.  Look for a wagon that is wide, heavy and hard to flip, has slow-moving wheels with traction, and is well-made.  This Radio Flyer meets all that criteria, and this wagon from IKEA also works.   

Baby Gates

Your mobile infant needs a safe space to explore and a gate offers easy protection.  My favourite baby gates allow me to open with one hand and walk through (as my hands are usually carrying a baby or toddler).  This one is extra tall and extra wide and pressure mounted.  Pick up some wall protection too, your walls will thank me later. 

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Outlet Covers

I have not found outlet covers I love.  The ones I've experienced are either too tight or too loose, and won't help you if you have something plugged in.  I've found the best solution is to block outlets with furniture to remove the visual temptation if you can, otherwise find a set of covers that are tight-fitting in your outlets.  Try these basic ones first, and these from Safety 1st.  I've also just taped over the outlets in a pinch. 

There are now new child-safe outlets available for installing into your home! Ask about it for new construction.

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Treasure Basket

Infants are quite happy with common household objects, and you can build foundations of logical thought and language with a treasure basket.  For 6-12 month olds, start with 3 objects that are quite different in texture, shape, color, or material.  Any safe objects you have around the house are fine.  The basket here has a plastic comb, a piece of ribbon lace, a large hair clip, a metal teaspoon, and a wood block.  As your child gets older, you can offer just brushes, or all red things, or different kinds of fabric.  Oh, and the basket is an object too!  


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3-6 months: Play

3-6 months: Play

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Now your child is ready for a few simple toys to explore as she practices using her hands, arms, legs, and feet. Make sure your child has time to move around on the floor or another clean, flat surface (the play area pictured in 0-3 months will still work for this age) . The best toys here will develop hand strength and dexterity, see below for categories.

As your child can begin to reach for objects with intention, offer a handful of items just out of reach so she has to stretch to get them. Small, soft baskets are excellent for storing toys here so you can carry a few from room to room.

Please note: infants can be easily mesmerized by household items, and they in fact make excellent toys at this age.

This page contains affiliate links.  We only link to items we love and would recommend. By clicking on the link, you are offered the same (or lower) price, and a small percentage of any purchase you make goes to us at TPE. We use these funds to help offset our costs and provide more value to you. Thanks in advance! 


Play Materials for 3-6 months

image from  bella's casa

image from bella's casa

Hanging Toys

Hanging a simple object on a ribbon or elastic is perfect for increasing hand-eye coordination,  depth perception, and concentration.  Traditional Montessori items are a wooden ring and a bell, but any lightweight, safe, simple object could be used here.  

These hanging toys are from bella's casa, and are ready to use, no assembly required. The ring offers a large area for grasping, and the bell makes an interesting sound when batted.   

Hang these from your ceiling, a sturdy mobile hanger, or a wooden gym (see below).  Stick to one object at a time, to avoid distraction and over-stimulation. 

image from  Poppyseed Play

image from Poppyseed Play

Wooden Gym Hanger

If you don't have an easy way to hang objects from your ceiling, a gym like this can be used.  Many baby gyms have WAY too many colors and objects on them, look for very simple models like this one from Poppyseed Play.  The gym should be sturdy, with enough space underneath for your child to safely roll over.  

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Grasping Toy

Another excellent toy for hand strength and dexterity, grasping objects are perfect for 3-6 month olds.  Look for one that has large openings for your infant's hands, or large objects to clutch. There are lots of great choices, I'd suggest no more than 2 available at a time, rotate a few others every few weeks if you like. Look for toys that are simple in colors, design, texture, and function. Here's some I love:

Manhattan Toy Skwish 

HABA triangles

HABA rainbow clutching toy (pictured)

Interlocking Discs

Rattle

A classic. Look for a rattle that is super simple and makes a pleasant sound. There are lots of great choices, I'd suggest no more than 2 available at a time, rotate a few others every few weeks if you like. Here's some I love:

Wood and Crochet Rattle 

Black and White Crocheted Rattle

Montessori Bell Cylinder

HABA Kringelring Wooden Baby Rattle

Teething Ring or Toy 

I'm a fan of the simple freezer rings for teething, and  a silicone necklace for the times you're holding your teething infant. A teething infant is going to chew any object you give them, so having a specific "teething" toy isn't necessary, but these chilled rings can help soothe sore gums.  

Soft Baskets

A few soft baskets can be handy for holding your child's toys at this age.  Only a few toys should be out at one time, so you'll need space to hold the rest, and a soft basket is an additional item to explore! Avoid any baskets with loose parts or breakable pieces that could be swallowed (reed, wicker, etc) 

These canvas baskets are collapsible and can be re-purposed as your child gets older. 


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Newborn to 3 months: Play

Newborn to 3 months: Play

photo from  Ananda Montessori

Brand new babies don't need much to play and explore; and it's important to keep their spaces super simple.  

Any toys you have should be saved for when your child is 3 months old.  

When you find your infant is fed, rested, and content, she can spend some time on her play mat.  Please note the lack of items in this photo.  This is the MOST you'd want to offer a child under 3 months, there is plenty here to do!    

Remember, your new baby has spent months in a dark, muffled space and is now having to adjust to all kinds of light, sound, texture, temperature, movement, feelings, etc.  That's plenty to do!  Take care not to over-stimulate a child who already has a full plate of work to accomplish. It is critical all materials and the space itself is very simple, plain, and calming. 

In a Montessori infant community, the playmat is placed near a large wall mirror.  This infant playspace at Ananda Montessori (pictured top left) shows how you could set this up.  You can use a crib mattress, a folded blanket, a lambskin, or a clean rug.

This page contains affiliate links.  We only link to items we love and would recommend. By clicking on the link, you are offered the same (or lower) price, and a small percentage of any purchase you make goes to us at TPE. We use these funds to help offset our costs and provide more value to you. Thanks in advance! 


Play Materials for 0-3 months

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Black and White Images

Newborns can't see very clearly or very far, so a series of high-contrast beautiful black and white images are interesting to them.  Wee Gallery makes adorable art cards of familiar animals from various habitats, choose the set that matches where you live.  

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Play Mat

When you find your infant is fed, rested, and content, she can spend some time on her play mat.  It is important this mat is very plain so your baby does not get overwhelmed (nothing like this.).  A thin mattress works well for this (like one you'd choose for a floor bed or crib), or my personal favourite: a lambskin.  

photo from  Ananda Montessori

Unbreakable wall mirror

It's tempting, but don't use a normal long hallway mirror for your infant space.  Get an acrylic mirror sheet that is lightweight and won't shatter or chip.  A sheet that's 12x24 inches is plenty, but you can go bigger if your space allows.  Your child can enjoy this mirror for many years beyond infancy.  

image from  Bella's Casa  Get this set from Bella's Casa   here .

image from Bella's Casa Get this set from Bella's Casa here.

Mobiles

Babies love mobiles.  Any simple, beautiful items that offer contrast in color, shape, light-catching qualities, texture, or shadow will make a helpful, interesting mobile for the first three months of an infant's life.  HOWEVER, your newborn does not NEED anything else to stimulate their vision.  Please note that babies this age can not choose to look away, and it is disrespectful to hang anything directly above their line of sight.  All mobiles should be placed off to the side where you child can choose to look at them...or not.

There are 5 specific visual Montessori mobiles that are offered in the first few months to aid in visual development and concentration.  If you wish to follow this sequence yourself, here it is (intro times are approximate).  I've linked to where you can buy these mobiles pre-made, but their are DIY tutorials available if you are crafty.  Get the first four from Bella's Casa here. 

Munari- around two weeks  

Octahedron- around six weeks. 

Gobbi- around nine weeks. 

Dancers- around twelve weeks

Sky or Water themed mobiles (butterfly, whale, fish, birds) around 15 weeks


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