Every parent wants the best education possible for their child. If you’re like most parents, you’ll invest a good amount of time researching milestones for your baby or toddler to master at every stage of their development.
Along the way, you’ll gain exposure to a variety of educational focus areas–from emotional and psychological development to academic interests like STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).
At some point in your research journey, you’ll also more than likely come across the Montessori method of learning that is embraced by many parents today to educate their children.
According to the National Center for Montessori, today there are approximately 3,000 Montessori schools operating in the U.S., and only about 560 of those are public schools.
If you’re not familiar with Montessori education and want to learn more, you’re in the right place. Below is Young Eden’s comprehensive guide to the Montessori method of education and toys to help you decide if you’d like to incorporate it into your child’s life.
2024 Guide to Montessori Toys & Learning for Children
Who started Montessori education / schools?
In the early 1900s, Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator, opened the first Montessori school in Rome. Over the years, she traveled around the world and attracted a large following of people who preferred her approach to education over traditional school curriculum.
How effective is Montessori education?
While in-depth research has been sporadic through the years, some studies in the last decade suggest that Montessori students have been found to have higher proficiency rates than traditional public school students when compared in subjects of study like ELA (English, Language, and Arts), math, and science throughout elementary and middle school.
Other studies have also found that children who went to a Montessori school tended to have better literacy, numeracy, executive function and social skills, compared to those who had attended the other schools.
What is the Montessori Method of education?
The Montessori Method is an educational approach that emphasizes the belief that children are naturally curious and self-directed learners. This philosophy suggests that children have the natural ability to learn and develop at their own pace when placed in an environment that is equipped to meet their needs. The approach values the individuality of each child and encourages independence, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.
The Montessori Method uniquely emphasizes that children are active learners and should have a say in their own education. Examples of this method include the following principles:
Child-Centered Learning - Prioritizes encouragement of the child's natural exploration and interests in learning, with a teacher working as a guide rather than a direct instructor.
Prepared Environment - Ensures classrooms are designed for easy access to learning tools and independent exploration by the child.
Montessori Materials - Provides educational items used to promote hands-on, experiential learning and are designed to be self-correcting so that children can learn from a mistake on their own.
Mixed Age Groups - Classrooms often have mixed-age groups, allowing younger children to learn from older peers and providing older children with leadership opportunities.
Uninterrupted Work Periods - Students are given extended periods of time to work on tasks or projects without interruption, allowing them to fully engage in their activities.
Freedom within Limits - Children are given the freedom to choose their activities within the prepared environment, but this freedom is guided by limits and responsibilities to create a sense of order and respect.
Individualized Learning - Teachers observe each child's individual development and tailor their guidance and support accordingly.
Focus on Practical Life Skills - Helps children develop skills for daily living, for example putting on their own clothes, cleaning up, and preparing food.
Absence of Grades and Tests - Montessori education typically avoids traditional grading systems and standardized testing, instead prioritizing holistic development of the student.
What age is Montessori education best for a child?
Montessori is practiced across age groups, from toddler ages 2-6 years old to elementary school ages 6-12 years old, and even into adolescence ages 12-18 years old.
What are Montessori toys?
Montessori toys are created to support the principles of the Montessori Method, encouraging a child’s hands-on, self-directed learning and exploration. These toys are typically made of natural materials and are chosen to support the developmental needs and interests of children.
Examples of Montessori toys include any of the following:
Simple and Natural Materials - Montessori toys often use natural materials like wood, metal, and fabric. The emphasis is on simplicity, avoiding toys with electronic components or excessive decoration.
Open-Ended and Multi-Purpose - Montessori toys are designed to be open-ended, allowing for various ways of play. They should encourage creativity and imagination, enabling children to use the toy in multiple ways.
Realistic and Functional - Toys in the Montessori philosophy aim to mirror real-life objects and activities. This helps children develop practical life skills and a sense of independence.
Sensory Exploration - Many Montessori toys focus on engaging the senses, promoting sensory exploration through touch, sight, sound, and sometimes even smell.
Developmentally Appropriate - Montessori toys are chosen based on the developmental stage of the child. They are intended to support the child's natural learning progression and interests.
What are the best Montessori toys?
There are several fantastic options of Montessori toys to consider giving your child, for example, sensory toys, practical life child-sized furniture and tools that mimic everyday activities, wooden blocks and puzzle toys that challenge a child’s problem solving skills and spatial awareness. You may also consider items that encourage a child to explore nature, like a magnifying glass, and art supplies like clay and colored pencils for creative expression.
Where to buy Montessori toys?
There are a lot of options of physical and online stores that sell Montessori toys. You should consider online marketplaces like Young Eden and bigger retailers like Amazon and eBay. You can find specialty Montessori stores that are local to you, or try educational supply stores, toy stores, and even craft stores. Some Montessori schools may also be able to offer resources or direct sales to interested families.