8 best Montessori toys that encourages imaginative play – The Independent

8-best-montessori-toys-that-encourages-imaginative-play-–-the-independent

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ExtrasIndyBestKidsToys & ActivitiesIntroduce your kids to one of these toys that will educate, stimulate and create hours of funMontesorri toys shouldn’t have one fixed purpose but rather act as a stimulus – allowing little ones to use their imagination and creativity (iStock/The Independent)If you’re new to the concept, you might be wondering exactly “what is a Montessori toy?” And it’s a good question. Rooted in the educational teachings of Italian medic and educator Dr. Maria Montessori who passionately believed in child-led learning, Montessori toys actually have no fixed genre or strict specifications, but must simply adhere to a few founding principles.The overarching philosophy of a Montessori education is that children should be encouraged in open-ended play and given access to real life scenarios through games. This means that the best Montesorri toys should, where possible, not have one fixed purpose but rather act as a stimulus – allowing little ones to use their imagination and creativity.Teachers and parents are encouraged to source toys that are made from natural materials that foster unstructured play and in places imitate real life scenarios such as cooking, building or cleaning.Sarah Cummins, Chairperson of the Montessori Society in the UK, is keen to stress that just because natural materials are often recommended, “Montessori is not just for the wealthy families” and says that, “actually, to follow Montessori at home should not cost a lot at all.”“The best toys will offer the opportunity for children to explore, to make decisions and not be reliant on adult intervention.Read more “Look for toys that offer control of error, e.g. a shape sorter is about getting the correct shapes in the correct slot – it has a control of error so the children will know when they have succeeded,” she adds.So while you may already have the perfect Montessori toys at home – hiding under the guise of pots and pans – you may also be keen to treat a little one to something special.Thanks for signing up to the INDY/BEST newsletter{{#verifyErrors}} {{message}} {{/verifyErrors}} {{^verifyErrors}} {{message}} {{/verifyErrors}}I would like to be emailed about offers, events and updates from The Independent.Read our privacy noticeWe’ve gathered together eight of the best Montessori-style toys we could find from wonderful UK-based shops at a variety of price points.We had help for this one from a couple of mini testers, so you know everything has been properly (and we mean properly) put through its paces.You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.Playspiration natural doughCreated by parents, these super sweet doughs come in gorgeous natural colours, are free from any nasties and are packaged in environmentally-friendly reusable glass jars. Although the age specifications recommend children use the dough from three upwards, our little tester was just 18 months and loved pushing and pulling the super soft homemade-style paste into different shapes, so we think this would make a great Montessori-style toy for a family with varying age ranges.The possible activities are endless – encourage nature play by collecting objects from outdoors and pushing them into the dough to create impressions, roll out balls in different colours to aid number and counting skills or whip up some good old fashioned “mud pies”. The limit is your child’s imagination. We also loved that help was on hand for any queries from the owners themselves and that the dough didn’t leave any stains on our tabletop.
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{{/hasItems}}Stoy counting bar activity toyScandinavian brand Stoy is exclusive to Alex and Alexa, and champions the importance of play as well as upholding beautiful design principles. We found the mass of small pieces on this counting bar to be a tiny bit troublesome, as they more often than not ended up scattered across the floor. But despite the tidy up time we thought it was a great educational tool for little ones to learn through hands-on exploration.The rings coupled with the number discs reinforces number skills while the action element helps develop those all important fine motor skills. Younger children may struggle with this, but from around four and up we think it would be a great piece to see kids through primary school, reinforcing their confidence in counting.
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{{/hasItems}}Raduga Grez wooden fruits setThese stylised fruits and vegetables are stocked by Mama Owl, a shop which specialises in toys crafted from natural materials fashioned by ethical makers. While on a grown-up level we appreciated the soft, muted tones, our mini tester loved how tactile each piece was with soft curves that are easy for small hands to grip.While playing it was clear that classification was being explored with our tester sorting the fruit and vegetables into different categories, and vocabulary was also being improved with this easy and visual way to practice common food names.Each piece has a good weight, however we did find one of the tops of the tomatoes easily sheared from the main body, making these perhaps best suited for slightly older children who know to be a little less rough.
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{{/hasItems}}Blossom & Bear pear wooden lacing gameComing in at under £15, this sweet Montessori style represents good value for money and would make a lovely gift for a child’s party or special occasion. The accompanying wooden “needle” that comes with the pear helps small hands to easily get to grips with the threading process while the wooden bead stopper is a useful control of error element, meaning children know when to stop the threading.Made from natural materials this is nice and neutral and petite enough that it could be used in the car or on a train to keep little ones entertained out and about. The nature of the threading also means that fine motor skills are employed to complete the task.
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{{/hasItems}}Wobbel original bamboo wobbel boardA bridge, a slide, a rocker, a reading nook… the beauty of a Wobbel Board is that the only limitations are imagination. We saw ours used as a road for toy trucks and a hill to climb and jump from, as well as it being a seesaw to rock back and forth on. While it may look unassuming and slightly ambiguous, that’s the beauty of giving your child something so open-ended. We really enjoyed seeing its uses evolve with our little one’s day to day development, and thought it was a great tool for allowing them to assess risk in a safe environment.The wooden curve feels sturdy and there’s no setting up required, while the felt back is great for grip if you want to flip it over for climbing on. Beware though, your coffee table will never be free of a curved growth again as your kids use it to prop up their bridge, slide or mountain.
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{{/hasItems}}Triclimb natural triangle climbing frameReady to go straight from the box, this sweet climbing frame is made from natural wood sourced from responsibly managed forests and provides a dynamic play space for curious kids. At just 18 months our mini tester conquered the top straight away which we were impressed by and the whole thing felt super sturdy while also flat packing away for easy storage.The two rungs at the top is a unique feature which makes this climbing frame reassuring under foot, allowing children to immediately feel safe, an example of how detailed the development behind this piece is – no element is accidental.Other features can be added on too, letting this Montessori style toy grow with your kids to keep the development of their problem solving skills ongoing. There’s an optional slide which we loved – which is great for toddlers getting to grips with their gross motor skills, which in turn helps to foster their self-confidence.
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{{/hasItems}}Plan Toys natural tea setIt’s a fact that kids love imitating adults, and Montessori education is all about allowing children access to real life scenarios. While you might not want your toddler getting hands on your actual cups and saucers, this adorable mini wooden version lets them play pretend and mimic grown up behaviours. This is a pretty dinky size, so better suited to little kids.Our tester enjoyed keeping their cohort of stuffed animals well hydrated by means of forced tea parties. We loved the little details like the tea bags and stirring sticks which help children go through the imaginary motions of making a cuppa, something they probably see the grown ups around them do every day.
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{{/hasItems}}Olli Ella holdie houseNot all dolls houses are created equal, and we think this is a gorgeous example of one that stands out from the crowd. While it’s small enough to stash away in a cupboard, it’s still roomy enough to allow for free-flowing imaginative play. The sturdy vegan leather handle was a fun addition that our junior tester loved, giving them a sense of control in where they trundled their house to next.It was also light enough for our toddler to carry themselves, which meant independent play was facilitated. We loved the crossover for other toys this instigated, with soft animals and tea sets introduced to the interior, although if you want to do things in an coordinating way, there is a whole range of furniture and dolls you can add to play with.
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{{/hasItems}}The verdict: Montessori toysWith such a gorgeous range of Montessori toys available in the UK, it was a pretty tricky task to pick just one as our favourite, but we can’t see past the beautiful simplicity and affordability of Playspiration’s natural doughs. The concept isn’t a new one, but the presentation and colour range make everything feel fresh and contemporary, while giving little ones endless open-ended play options.Plus, this is a family company with heart which we think is a lovely thing to support. If you’re looking for something more substantial we thought the Triclimb was a really excellent toy that would be perfect for special occasion gifting, and something that will get day to day use for years.Get children to step away from screens with the best kids’ subscription boxesIndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.
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