16 toys to encourage independence and exploration, according to a Montessori teacher

Gonge Hilltops Stepping Stones
Gonge Hilltops Stepping Stones are a great option for kids to burn off energy indoors while practicing balance and coordination.

When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

  • Montessori toys encourage child development and help kids build independence and resilience.
  • A Montessori teacher and mom of two toddlers carefully selected 16 of her favorite toys.

Montessori toys empower children to be more independent and self-resilient by tapping into their natural inclination to "do it themselves." When you take away flashing lights and commercial characters, you invite children to create original ideas and become intrinsically motivated to learn new things. 

As a Montessori-credentialed preschool teacher with more than a decade of experience, I've seen this firsthand in my own classroom. Below, I've rounded up a list of toys that uphold the Montessori ideals of independence and self-directed learning, are non-commercial, and are powered by curiosity. These toys will capture a child's attention and ignite their curiosity about the world around them, making them a welcome addition to any home.

Here are 16 of the best Montessori toys, according to a teacher:

A kit that supports infant developmental goals

woven basket with wooden toys inside and small wooden frame mirror beside the basket - best montessori toys for babies
Monti Kids

Montessori Newborn Kit, available at Monti Kids , $75

This Newborn Kit is a thoughtful collection of Montessori toys that focuses on the specific developmental goals of infants. The kit has a child-safe floor mirror and high contrast book to support eye-tracking as well as rattles and silicon balls that promote core strength, reaching, and grasping development. Having them available in one kit saves you time searching for toys that target each milestone, and time is valuable when you're a new parent. 

Recommended ages: newborn to 1 year old

Play silks for infants to learn object permanence

two young children walking along shoreline, taller child is holding yellow silk flag attached to short pole - a montessori toy for kids
Bella Luna Toys

Play Silks, available at Bella Luna Toys, $15.95

Colorful and soft play silks are fun at any age and are perfect for playing peekaboo with infants and babies, which helps with a baby's development. The game teaches object permanence, learning something exists even when you can't see, hear, or touch it anymore. 

Recommended ages: newborn to 5 years old

A climber that supports gross motor skills

child sitting on top of wooden climbing arch in room with wooden floor and toys spread about

Montessori Climber Arch, available at Etsy, $109.60

Toys that adapt to kids' interests and needs are the best. You can rock them on this pillowed arch or put the pillow on the floor for tummy time. As your child grows, climbing over and under the arch will provide hours of play while promoting balance, coordination, and imagination.

Recommended ages: newborn to 5 years old

A cup for learning how to drink independently

toddler holding and drinking from light pink plastic cup with white and pink flower design on bottom

Babybjorn Baby Cup, 2-pack, available at Amazon and Target, from $18.99

If you are starting to consider incorporating more independence into your baby's daily routine, introducing a baby cup is a great start. What sets this cup apart is that the BPA and PVC-free plastic won't break and is translucent, making it easier for a child to learn to drink from a cup on their own.

Recommended ages: 6 months to 2 years old

A stacker to refine a sense of order

pyramid shaped stake of round wooden plates in colors blue, red, orange, yellow and green
Hazelnut Toys

Grimm's Wooden Conical Stacking Tower, available at Hazelnut Kids, $45

I searched for a dowel stacker like this forever. Several details of this design make my Montessori heart swoon. It hits all the right notes for color identification, developing a sense of order, and fine motor coordination. 

Recommended ages: 1 to 5 years old

Child-size seating to support independence

two children sitting on wooden stools beside larger wooden bench

Natural Bentwood Multipurpose Kids Wooden Chair Set (3-Piece), available on Amazon, $187.42

This versatile set easily adapts to your child's changing needs. We have this set in our playroom and love it. Why? When a child sits in a chair with their feet on the floor, they develop better core strength, leading to better fine motor skills, like handwriting and self-feeding. 

Recommended ages: 1 to 5 years old

A cleaning set for eager household helpers

child holding hand broom and dustpan on floor, sweeping up debris

Melissa & Doug Let's Play House! Dust, Sweep & Mop, available at Target and Kohl's, from $25.19

There is this delightful phase where toddlers want nothing more than to help out around the house. This set will encourage your little one to put that desire into action. Better yet, it empowers them to clean up their messes and be proud helpers at home.

Recommended ages: 2 to 5 years old

A toddler-friendly game for developing hand-eye coordination

young toddler and adult placing wood pecker toy in hole on wooden pilar

Jojo Woodpecker Catching Bug Game, available at Amazon, $28.99

Games that encourage fine motor development are always a great addition to any toy collection at home, but toys that can provide more than one educational element are even better. Children can master using their thumb and forefinger to pick up the worms and hide them in the tree or use the magnetic beaked bird to pull the worms out. 

Recommended ages: 2 to 4 years old

A bead set for learning patterns

various beads in primary colors, threaded on strings and wooden dowels
Tout About Toys

Toys for Life Sort the Beads, available at Tout About Toys, $23.99

Bead stringing is an excellent activity for building fine motor skills and patterning. Being able to identify patterns is essential to learning math, reading, and writing. This set is ideal because it gradually increases the difficulty and allows children to steadily build on their fine motor skills, and it's fun.

Recommended ages: 2 to 4 years old

A real screwdriver set for busy builders

a wooden tray with various meta parts attached alongside a toy screwdriver and wrench

Panda Brothers Montessori Screw Driver Board, available at Amazon, $31.99

If your child is into trucks and building, chances are this screwdriver set is the perfect gift to help develop their fine motor skills. Kids are always dazzled when given real things, making this board appealing to busy young learners.

Recommended ages: 3 to 5 years old

Books for the beginning reader

Stage 1: Beginning Readers Bundle
Bob Books

Stage 1: Beginning Readers Bundle, available at Bob Books, $52.99

If you are hesitant to start a literacy routine with your child, look no further than the Bob Books Beginning Readers Bundle. These books have been a favorite on my classroom shelves for years. The Bundle has everything you need to begin a positive reading journey. 

Recommended ages: 3 to 5 years old

Books to learn numbers and letters the Montessori way

Montessori letter and number books

Montessori: Letter Work Board Book, available on Amazon, $9.39

Montessori: Number Work Board Book, available on Amazon, $10.59

These two workbooks are a staple in almost all Montessori classrooms. They are the perfect all-in-one material for teaching your child their letters and numbers using the Montessori method.

Recommended ages: 3 to 5 years old

A math game that builds confidence

blue, purple, green and red wooden balls arranged on wooden counting board labeled with numbers 1 to 10
The Tot

Q Toys Natural Counting Board, available at The Tot, $36.99

The design of this number board is excellent for teaching essential foundations of math. It doesn't take up much space and is beautifully illustrated. The grooves in the board ensure counting success, building positive associations with math, which is always a win.

Recommended ages: 3 to 5 years old

An inside balancing game to burn off energy

orange, yellow, red, blue and green stepping stones of different heights arranged on floor, and two children walking on top of them

Gonge Hilltops Stepping Stones (Set of 5), available at Amazon and Fat Brain Toys, from $119.99

I'm from Maine, and there are days in the winter when it is too cold to go outside to play, so having toys that help burn off energy are essential. These stepping stones will bring your "floor is lava" game to a whole new level while promoting balance and coordination.

Recommended ages: 2 to 5 years old

A timer to soothe and relax

child brushing teeth at sink where hourglass sand and liquid timer is placed

Liquid Motion and Sand Timers, available at Amazon, $16.59

Daydreaming helps our brains relax and improves our ability to be creative. These groovy timers are a fun way for kids to learn about the passing of time and an excellent tool to promote relaxation and daydreaming. 

Recommended ages: 1 to 5 years old

A book to inspire global curiosity

book cover with illustration of planet and Smithsonian Children's Illustrated Atlas printed on cover

Smithsonian Children's Illustrated Atlas, available on Amazon and Target, from $12.79

Seeing how children live in other parts of the world is one way Montessori kids learn geography and culture and begin exploring concepts of peace. The illustrations, pictures, and age-appropriate text in this atlas will ignite your child's curiosity and sense of wonder for the world around them. 

Recommended ages: 3 to 5 years old

Sign up for Insider Reviews' weekly newsletter for more buying advice and great deals.

You can purchase logo and accolade licensing to this story here.

Disclosure: Written and researched by the Insider Reviews team. We highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our partners. We may receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising team. We welcome your feedback. Email us at reviews@insider.com.

Close icon Two crossed lines that form an 'X'. It indicates a way to close an interaction, or dismiss a notification.