15 Best Montessori Toys for 1-Year-Olds

The article highlights the best Montessori toys for one-year-olds, emphasizing their importance in fostering development and engagement. Montessori toys are simple in design, promoting curiosity, motor skills, sensory exploration, and spatial awareness without distracting features like flashy lights and sounds. The article provides a list of 15 recommended toys, including geometry puzzles, coin boxes, stacking toys, discovery blocks, and bead mazes. These toys are chosen for their ability to support fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, cognitive growth, and open-ended play. The article also discusses the benefits of natural materials, like wood, and the acceptable use of high-quality silicone in Montessori toys. The goal is to help parents select toys that enhance their child's early developmental experiences, keeping them engaged and learning.

One-year-olds are so fun because everything is an adventure! As they grow from sweet babies to busy toddlers, the sheer amount of development happening at this stage means every moment counts in long-term development. What are some of the best Montessori toys for one-year-olds?

The best Montessori toys for one-year-olds are simple in design and engage a little one's mind and motor skills. Montessori toys do not distract little ones with flashy lights and loud sounds; they engage their curiosity and challenge their sensory exploration and spatial awareness skills.

But finding sturdy toys that do this well is not always straightforward. If you feel overwhelmed by search suggestions for Montessori toys, this article will narrow down the best options to age-appropriate Montessori toys.

What Makes a Toy Montessori?

A toy is Montessori if it has a thoughtfully simple design to engage a specific skill in children. Montessori toys are passive, meaning they do not move on their own to distract or entertain children. Instead, they require kids to take the initiative to play with them.

Now, there are an awful lot of toys on the market claiming to be Montessori that don't quite fit this description, and there are many children's toys that existed before the Montessori Method was created that do.

If you want to implement Montessori ideas into your child's education and playtime, you should consider the principles of the Montessori method when collecting beneficial toys for your little one.

If you are not familiar with them, we spell these principles out in The Montessori Philosophy for Parents: Why It Works and How to Make It Work for You.

Once you understand the Montessori Principles, you can see why the toys don't matter much. Environment, freedom of choice and movement, sensory exploration, and playing with others are far more impactful than the toys kids play with.

However, simply designed passive toys engage growing minds far better by exercising multiple skills in open-ended, creative play than plastic Disney dolls do.

Do Montessori Toys Have to Be Wooden?

Dr. Maria Montessori believed in using a range of natural materials for children's toys to give children a rich sensory experience. Natural materials have various textures, densities, sizes, colors, and smells to take in. 

Wood is the most popular material for Montessori toys because it is used to make wooden toys that are simple in design, sturdy, long-lasting, and beautifully weighted and textured. However, not all Montessori toys have to be made of wood.

Montessori toys can be made of organic cotton, natural rubber, high-quality silicone, or even plastic. Still, you need to consider the sensory experience these materials afford along with their care.

For example, wooden toys cannot be sterilized, soaked, or wiped down with beach water because the porous material will soak the chemicals or water up and weaken the wood. High-quality silicone, on the other hand, can be boiled, put through the dishwasher, or soaked without issue.

I break down exactly how to clean and sterilize various toy materials in The Dos and Don'ts of Disinfecting Baby Toys: A Comprehensive Guide. It's surprisingly tricky!

Though a Montessori purist will say Montessori toys must be completely made of natural materials, the Montessori philosophy does not require that. It is crucial to provide your little one with a range of material textures, weights, sizes, colors, and densities, most of which should be natural materials.

However, a few beautifully designed hypoallergenic silicone toys in the mix will not ruin your child's sensory experience. Plastic is another story altogether, though, especially for babies. For more on that, read Are Plastic Toys Bad for Babies?

15 Best Montessori Toys for 1-Year-Olds

I've worked with many one-year-olds as a mother, foster mom, and nursery volunteer. Though I haven't always had the luxury of sticking with purely Montessori toys, I can confidently say that the following toys have been the best for holding attention and building fine motor skills.

These toys are not overwhelming, flashy, or difficult to keep up with in a play area. Some focus on one skill set, and others are more open-ended. Nonetheless, your little one will benefit from playing these together with you, siblings, family friends, or alone.

1. Geometry Puzzles

Geometry puzzles are simple wooden shapes meant to be placed in the matching space on a wooden board. Some have a peg that toddlers can grasp easily and place in the matching space. 

You can make these or buy one . Geometry puzzles become more complex for each developmental stage, so if your little one takes to them, you'll have plenty of options to upgrade!

A quick note on wooden toy pieces: stay away from little pieces or "travel-sized" wooden puzzles until your child is well past the must-stick-everything-in-the-mouth phase.

Also, if you notice your one-year-old chewing on a wooden puzzle piece (or any wooden toy), it's best to replace it with something gentle that won't puncture easily, like a silicone teething ring. Wooden toys are amazing in so many ways, but tiny teeth can dent them.

2. Coin Boxes

There's just something about a coin box that enthralls toddlers. Maybe it's the challenge of holding all the coins or the process of making them disappear through a slot. Whatever it is, this toy has entertained the toddlers in my home for hours .

It's fantastic for practicing fine motor skills, counting, and picking things up! You can easily make a coin box or can at home, but one-year-olds are still big on putting things in their mouths. That's where a wooden coin box like this one comes in handy.

3. Sorting and Stacking Toys

Sorting and stacking toys are ingenious because they challenge your little one's hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, identification, and stacking skills. These can be  super simple pegs with colored rings  or  colored shapes with multiple holes for several pegs.

Sorting and stacking toys with multiple pegs are challenging for little ones who haven't figured out they can twist the shape a bit to make it fit, but once they've got that down, they have fun with it.

4. 4-in-1 Sorting Toys

The  4-in-1 sorting toy  fascinates one-year-olds who have already mastered simpler peg sorting toys. This one has four pegs, but two of them are a puzzle to put the pieces on: one requires twisting to fit mini-pegs through, and the other is threaded so that its pieces need to be screwed on.

This sorting toy will keep a toddler busy for a while!

5. Balls in Cups Toys

One-year-olds love tiny things and are fascinated by using tools to move things around. So, here is a  ball and cup toy  that combines these interests to create an open-ended challenge!

Though this is a fun toy, one-year-olds will want to stick the balls in their mouth, so only let your little one play with this set when you sit with her. It's fun to practice scooping, sorting, and dumping skills with a spoon!

6. Wooden Discovery Blocks

Discovery blocks  are wooden cubes that spin, fidget, rattle, or have buttons to press. One-year-olds are intrigued by the different sounds and movements these colorful blocks are designed to perform.

As little ones explore them, they exercise skills like twisting, pinching, pressing, stacking, and pulling. These are fun!

7. Assorted Wooden Blocks

Wooden blocks  are a classic toddler toy that sticks around because kids love them! While playing with wooden blocks of various shapes and sizes, toddlers practice creative open-play, stacking, grasping and releasing, planning, problem-solving, hand-eye coordination, and balancing skills.

With so much practice packed into such a simple toy set, it's no wonder these have been around for generations!

8. Hammer Box Sets

Toddlers love to bang on things with anything swingable! Why not give them something they are allowed to hit? That's where a  hammer box set  comes in. These are typically balls, pegs, or blocks set in a tight hole that, when hit hard enough, fall through to a box or a ramp.

Annoyance and fear aside, you've got to marvel at the skills toddlers are learning as they hit things: hand-eye coordination, self-control, spatial awareness, aim, grip, swing, expectation, and problem-solving. Who knew skill-building could be so fun?

9. Bead Mazes

Bead mazes  are nostalgic to many kids who remember sitting in a doctor's or dentist's office as a kid because they are the perfect "do something" toy. Typically designed with a wooden platform, a few colorfully coated wires, and big wooden beads, bead mazes are a cool toy for one-year-olds.

A unique skill that bead mazes exercise in toddlers is tracking. When pushing a bead along its path, a toddler must keep an eye on the bead to push it along properly. This is surprisingly tricky for a little one to do while looking away!

10. Rainbow Wooden Block Sets

A  rainbow wooden block set  is a beautiful and simple addition to any toddler's block collection. These wooden shapes have a clear-colored acrylic window inside that allows light to shine through them. Essentially, your little one can make his own window pattern!

Rainbow blocks are a fun and brilliant way to teach colors; you can hold two together and make secondary colors. How neat is that?

11. Stacking Cups

Stacking toys , like blocks and cups, are super beneficial for one-year-olds. They exercise spatial awareness, hand-eye coordination, grip and release control, gentleness, and balancing skills.

Stacking cups are excellent for one-year-olds because toddlers understand other ways to use them. Whether your little one uses them to hold other little toys, pours water with them in the bathtub, or stacks them just to knock them down again, stacking cups are an open-ended toy.

Stacking toys are not just good for one-year-olds; they benefit babies, too! Read up on the benefits in 5 Ways Stacking Toys Benefit Your Baby.

12. Ball Towers

Ball towers come in various shapes and sizes, but they all provide benefits for listening to the sounds of balls rolling down a track, practicing dexterity, observing cause and effect, and improving hand-eye coordination.

You can buy your little one a wooden tower with a mallet for hitting the balls at the top, like this one, or get one that is free-rolling. Some ball towers are taller and more musical-sounding, like this one. Make sure that whatever tower you choose has balls larger than your little one's mouth and pieces that don't break off easily.

13. Car Towers

Along with ball towers,  wooden car towers  provide hours of fun for little ones! These can be pretty elaborate, but a one-year-old will more readily enjoy a simple car tower.

Car towers are more challenging than ball towers because they require little ones to place the car correctly. Some one-year-olds pick up on this quickly, but some may become frustrated and need some time playing with you to learn the tricks.

14. Xylophones

Xylophones are an amazing one-year-old toy because they make your little one practice associating action with sound, coordination, and aiming. You can find  wooden  or  metal  xylophones on the market;  some even sit at an angle  to roll a ball across the pieces. 

Babies less than a year old can play with xylophones, too, but they are also cool toys for one-year-olds that bring lots of smiles and giggles!

15. Shape Sorters

No list of Montessori toys for one-year-olds would be complete without a wooden shape sorter set. These simple match-the-shape-to-the-hole box sets help build fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, shape identification, spatial reasoning, and problem-solving skills.

Of course, such a great toy concept is made in a thousand different ways, so you can find shape sorters of various themes, difficulties, and sizes. I stuck with a simple, colorful shape sorter like this one for my littles between 12 and 18 months.

When they got comfortable with that one, we graduated to a garden-themed shape sorter to challenge them with more difficult shapes and practice naming food. They played with this one throughout the rest of toddlerhood and preschool!

In a Nutshell

There you have it! According to my own experience, these are the 15 best Montessori toys for one-year-olds. Whether they held their attention marvelously, stimulated their senses, or challenged necessary cognitive and physical skills, each toy on this list has earned its place.

Different kids have different preferences, though. So, what have been your favorite Montessori toys for your family so far?

Leave a Comment

All comments are moderated before being published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.