Every parent wants to give their children a great start when it comes to the development of motor and problem solving skills, even in the earliest stages of infancy. Many experts advocate for simple, quality open ended play options for children that foster exploration, creativity, and ultimately independence.
With so many options out there, it can be a challenge for parents to know what open ended toys to buy and why. Montessori toys are a wonderful choice for parents who want to give their babies and toddlers a child-centered, holistic start to playtime.
Wooden Montessori toys can sometimes be hard to find, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, and many parents may be put off by the price tag.
There are several reasons why Montessori toys can be so costly. Most Montessori toys are handmade out of high quality wood and other materials, and they are made in small batches rather than via huge production lines typical for children’s toys. There is a craft to making them, and each piece takes time to create.
But there are many excellent reasons to invest in wooden Montessori toys for your toddler.
In this article, we will explain Montessori toys and their benefits, why they are so expensive, and examine some options for parents who need budget-friendly options for their children.
What is considered a Montessori toy?
If you’re new to the concept of Montessori toys or open-ended toys, the main thing to remember is that you want to look for toys that allow for a variety of creative play. It doesn’t matter how your child decides to use a Montessori toy; the idea is that he directs his own play.
The wooden blocks that today turned into a fortified castle for a set of dinosaur figurines will tomorrow turn into percussion instruments.
These simple toys actually engage the toddler and his creativity. Instead of pushing a button and seeing a light and hearing a sound, your toddler will look at a wooden block and try to imagine all the different things it could potentially be. Is it a car, plane, person… There are no limits to the imagination of a child and Montessori toys do just that.
There are several characteristics common to Montessori toys. Let’s explore the basics.
- Montessori toys are simple.
- Many toys on the market today that are geared toward babies, toddlers, and small children are designed to beep, buzz, flash lights, and move on their own. Montessori toys, on the other hand, have very simple designs with no bells and whistles. This allows the child to explore them however he wants without being distracted or overstimulated by noises, lights, and motion.
- Montessori toys are made of natural materials such as wood.
- Quality Montessori toys are produced using high quality wood and other natural materials. This helps guarantee longevity and is something of a return on your investment. Many producers of Montessori toys also try to use sustainable wood sources, which is great for the environment.
- Montessori toys are functional.
- Just as the items adults use everyday exist for a specific purpose, so too do Montessori toys. The function in this instance is that these open-ended toys allow a child to explore, manipulate, and learn in his own way and timeframe, and they require his participation and interaction.
- Montessori toys are based in reality.
- Montessori toys are designed to help a child learn cause-effect relationships that make sense and develop an understanding of what is real, rather than what is fantasy. Toys produce a consequence that makes sense and can be reproduced over and over again.
- Montessori style play is limited in choices.
- A key component of Montessori is the idea that children are not bombarded with dozens of options at playtime. This results in higher levels of engaged play, and for longer periods of time.
Why are Montessori toys so expensive?
As parents, we want our children’s toys to be long-lasting, engaging, and of good quality. Montessori toys fit the bill in many ways, but they tend to be costly compared to mass-produced toys.
Most Montessori toys are crafted from high quality wood and other natural materials, like clay or metal, as well as glass or fabrics. Maria Montessori, the creator of the Montessori Method educational theory, designed many of the toys and manipulatives she used in her Casa del Bambini from wood, so the tradition of wooden Montessori toys comes from her practice.
Interestingly, children tend to be attracted to wooden toys, even those that don’t beep, buzz, move, or light up. Montessori open-ended toys are handmade in small batches, and it takes time to properly make each piece. As with any craft, you pay for the time and quality of production.
This is not to say that there are no budget-friendly options out there. Many companies produce good-quality toys that, while perhaps not specifically Montessori toys, lend themselves to the open-ended play concept found in the Montessori home.
Wooden blocks or a toy cleaning set are both Montessori toys in their own way, and are available at affordable prices.
Can you make your own Montessori toys? Is it cheaper?
Many parents may wish to create their own wooden Montessori toys in an effort to save money in the long run. Several factors will play into whether DIY Montessori toys are cheaper than those available for sale: your skill level, available time, and access to the right materials.
If you’re handy and have the right tools and time, you can probably craft many Montessori toys for your child, perhaps even with materials you already have around the house.
Some examples of DIY Montessori toys include:
- Insert Work Toys
- Cut holes in the lid of a cardboard box and cut up straws to insert
- Cut a round hole in the lid of a plastic takeout container (like the kind soups sometimes come in) and provide a collection of wooden pegs to insert
- Cut a slit in the lid of a cylindrical container and provide buttons of various sizes to insert
- Fill an old wallet with expired credit and debit cards, or the sample cards that sometimes come with credit card offers
- Create a Tugging Box by poking holes in the sides of a cardboard box and threading lengths of colorful ribbon or fabric to entice your child to tug on the different material.
- Build a Sensory Wall from a piece of particle board, including metal or plastic numbers or letters of different sizes, light switches, latches and locks, even sample carpet squares.
- Build a busy board with leftover materials such as switches, hinges, latches, zippers and more.
In the end, you have many options to introduce Montessori toys to your child to foster open-ended play. Whether you decide to make your own open-ended toys or invest in official Montessori toys, your child will benefit from the opportunity to explore, create, and learn through play.
Vikki is the creator of Totsgo and the mother of two children. She is a passionate mother who enjoys assisting other parents.