5 Characteristics of Good Montessori Toys
Many people are turning to a Montessori approach for educating their young children. This is not surprising when considering the research on the Montessori method. Longitudinal studies have consistently found that students attending Montessori preschools and elementary schools outperform their peers even in high school. Additionally, students educated under the Montessori method saw great social skills, emotional awareness, and creativity. Many parents wonder how to select a good Montessori toy for their child. Let’s review five core characteristics.
What Is the Montessori Method?
Before delving into the five characteristics of a good Montessori toy, it is important to ensure that we are speaking the same language. Thus, let’s take a moment for a quick overview of the Montessori method of learning. Montessori is an educational philosophy aimed at developing the natural interests of a young child rather than engaging in a more formal method.
It is based upon a number of principles of pedagogy. Below is a brief summary of these core Montessori principles:
- Children are free to make some choices regarding their learning.
- Children constantly learn by experiencing the world around them.
- Learning best occurs in an environment that is organized to encourage exploration.
- Children of all ages are capable of learning for themselves.
Characteristics of Good Montessori Toys
Now that we’ve established an overview of the Montessori method, let’s take a look at five characteristics of good Montessori toys. After all, toys are an important part of the Montessori process as they promote exploration, particularly for young learners.
Made from Natural Materials
It is fairly normal today for many toys to be plastic and filled with electronic lights, whirs, and sounds. These toys can definitely be exciting at first; however, they tend to do too much work for the child, reducing the need to challenge them to stimulate their imaginations. A true Montessori toy should be comprised of natural materials.
Natural materials help a child to explore more about their world. It helps them experience different textures, smells, and weights, providing much more complexity than plastic toys. This is excellent for alloying children greater freedom for self-exploration. In addition to playing games with a toy, they are gaining important information about the world around them. Wooden Montessori toys are perfect choices for this.
Represents Real Life
Another important characteristic of Montessori toys is that they are able to reflect real life concepts. Since the Montessori method is aimed at exploration, toys that mimic real life things can help to greatly enhance learning. For example, a toy telephone can help a child to mimic phone conversations while a toy pizza kit can help them to mimic cooking and related social interactions.
With wooden Montessori toys, the opportunities for real life exploration are nearly endless. These wooden cars can allow for lots of simulations and pretend scenarios that can enhance imagination. Meanwhile, the wooden little houses are great for allowing a child to create their own little neighborhood.
Simple in Nature
An important characteristic of Montessori toys is that they are fairly simplistic in nature. While there are many complex toys out there, simple toys provide for greater creativity by challenging children to create play situations. Simple toys can also greatly help children to learn important concepts and relationships.
Take this wooden stacking train as an example. It is a fairly simple toy that brings with it many learning experiences. Children can learn about shapes and colors as well as how different things pieces work together to form a whole. This makes it a great wooden Montessori toy that is fairly simple.
Can Be Manipulated
If you recall, an important component of the Montessori philosophy is that children are able to explore. Thus, one of the most important things of a quality wooden Montessori toy is that it can be manipulated by the child. Thus, the best Montessori toys are ones that have many pieces that can be maneuvered, helping learn concepts and improve manual dexterity.
A classic wooden Montessori toy is the block set, which helps to maximize skill development while providing perhaps the greatest breadth of creativity. With these, children can – and do – create almost anything. It can be so much fun watching their minds grow. Puzzles like this coral reef set are also great for encouraging manipulation and learning through trail and error.
Successful wooden Montessori toys are ones that require a child to make choices. This can occur in many ways. First, the toy can provide many options for a child to play with it, such as the aforementioned blocks. Secondly, they can challenge children to make decisions regarding how to successfully complete a challenge, like putting together a wooden puzzle.
By requiring choice, children are able to be self-directed in their learning. Hands-on learning, also known as active learning, is more enjoyable for children and also helps them master concepts more quickly. Ultimately, the goal is to make learning fun which can be accomplished with quality wooden Montessori toys.
The Montessori method is a great way to encourage learning for young children. Supplementing the Montessori method means providing children with simple, natural toys that allow them to make decisions, explore their world, and mimic concepts they see in real life. Keep these things in mind when choosing your next Montessori toy.