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For many parents who adore the infant phase, there’s nothing like gazing into your little one’s eyes and cozying up for a chubby baby snuggle. I’m glad that parents like that exist, but I am NOT one of them.
I live for the full-contact, no bowl of food left upended, won’t-go-but-doesn’t-want-to-stay days of toddlerhood.
That might sound like nonsense, but hear me out. The transition to toddlerhood beginning at one year is one of the busiest, yet most fulfilling years of parenting–as long as you take the time to understand your little one’s needs and motivations.
In this article, you’ll discover how Montessori toys for 1 year old babies…er toddlers….er “tay-bies”… can support your child’s intrinsic curiosity to learn and grow.
How Montessori Toys Support the Transition to Toddlerhood
In Montessori classrooms and homes, adults practice quietly observing children as they play to understand what particular skills the children are interested in mastering at that specific point in time.
Older children will tell you what they are most interested in doing, but for toddlers, it’s all about observation. You can find a basic description of the technique in our previous post on Montessori for babies.
You may notice your toddler is interested in carrying multiple objects from room to room, but they often drop them. Your toddler may even seem frustrated by this and start to shout.
Like many parents, my initial response would be to remove the stressor and tell my kid to stop leaving stuff all over the house!
The Montessori approach reminds me to take a step back and recognize that frustration is an indication my child is working on mastering a task.
This process is called “following the child,” and it is the underlying principle that makes Montessori toys and activities so popular among parents looking to support their toddler’s development.
What Are Montessori Toys?
Montessori toys should be beautiful to the eye, free of excessive branding or distractions like sounds/lights, and readily accessible to children throughout the day.
Parents can even invent their own toys or activities as long as it’s guided by a child’s interests!
For example, my son received a small set of toy safari animals as a gift. I took photos of each animal on a white background, printed them, laminated them, and cut them into cards. I put the cards and the corresponding animals together in separate containers and made an affordable 3-D object to picture matching game. So fun!
What Are the Best Toys for 1 Year Old Toddlers Between 13 and 18 Months?
In the first year of life, children experience rapid physical, social, and emotional development.
For this reason, it is challenging to create a foolproof list of toys that will appeal to every toddler between 13 and 18 months. Fortunately, there are some preferences and interests that all typically developing younger one year olds share.
First, younger one year olds love to work on their gross motor development. Big movements like walking, running, lifting, pushing, and squatting help them build their strength and coordination so they can run with the big kids one day.
In Montessori, this is sometimes called “maximum effort,” and it is recognized that toddlers have a natural desire to constantly test their physical limits.
Montessori toys provide outlets for this innate learning process so your child doesn’t always resort to rearranging all the dining room chairs.
Second, as your one year old develops greater awareness of their place within your family, they also desire to participate in the activities of daily living.
Practical life activities that appeal to the youngest toddlers include:
- Loading and sorting laundry
- Loading and unloading the dishwasher
- Fetching items from another room
- Wiping with a cloth
- Transferring mixtures from one place to another (as in baking)
Montessori views these practical life activities as part of a child’s play, and Montessori toys often mimic the movements of practical life skills like threading a needle, holding and using a pen, or grasping and swinging a tool.
A Quick Note About Buying Toys for Busy One Year Olds
You’d be hard pressed to find a younger one year old sitting quietly in a corner engrossed in a toy or activity.
In fact, parents often discover their one year old has less patience and less concentration for traditional toys than when they were a baby. Totally normal!
The major milestones most commonly achieved during the 13-18 month stage require significant movement. These include:
- Walking independently and running
- Squatting down to grab an object on the floor
- Pulling or tugging a toy behind them as they walk
- Sitting down in a chair
In order to repeat and master these activities, your child stays on their feet and in motion most of the day.
This is not to say that your child will never sit down and play with toys at this age, but they often play for brief periods then move on to something else.
As your toddler approaches the two-year mark, expect some of that attention span and interest in sitting down to re-appear.
I remember when this phase ended. It was the day I finished an entire cup of coffee while my toddler played quietly. Your day will come!
Encourage BIG play with Montessori Toys for 1 Year Old Toddlers, 13-18 Months
Young toddlers love to move but often lack the coordination to dodge dangerous objects.
Make sure to clear your space of clutter and consider temporarily arranging the furniture to allow wide open spaces for movement at this age.
Here are some of our favorite Montessori toys for encouraging big play!
A personal family favorite! This walker wagon is popular with parents and kids everywhere.
We love its classic look, the adorable “tick tick” sound it makes as it rolls along, and its durability.
The Pikler was invented by Hungarian pediatrician, Dr. Emmi Pikler, to promote gross motor development in infants and young children.
We love this one by Lily and River as it folds for easy transport.
This ring stacker is perfect for ambitious young toddlers who only want to play with the biggest, heaviest, most epic toys.
We love the simplicity of this giant wooden stacker. And, it will grow with your child as they do!
Toddlers love to stack (and destroy!), but they are also easily frustrated.
These large soft blocks are perfect for little builders who are still building their hand to eye coordination.
High quality play silks like this one are perfect for all kinds of play from the toddler to teenage years.
Play silks inspire imaginative play. Use it as a cape, a ceiling for a fort, or anything their little minds can come up with!
6. Ball Tracker
This ball tracker has become a Montessori home staple. It’s the perfect height to encourage a young toddler to stand, it requires big bending and lifting motions to play.
7. Spinning Top
A vintage-inspired metal spinning top like this one gets toddlers moving, laughing, and working to figure out how to press down the plunger to hear it “whirrrrr.”
It’s old school, but it still holds up as a great toy.
Focus on Practical Life with Montessori Toys for 1 Year Old Toddlers, 13-18 Months
Toys on this list either directly engage your child in practical life activities or mimic the small movements your child observes and encounters as part of normal life.
As adults, we hold, carry, and manipulate various objects with ease, but to your child, holding a small object between their fingers requires concentration and effort.
By giving our children unfettered access to the types of toys described below, they can repeat these small movements over and over until they are confident in a particular skill.
1. Pop-Up Toy
A personal favorite! This is a wonderful toy for preparing little hands for holding pencils or crayons.
This pop-up toy encourages hand-eye coordination, and is so sweet and simple for your one year old.
This is a great set of classic Montessori stacking toys for any budding Montessori home.
This set is handmade and doesn’t include any harmful chemicals.
3. Baby Doll
Montessori dolls are anatomically correct to present realistic depictions of the body. Montessori discourages parents from introducing fantasy or abstract concepts until after a child has turned six.
The reasoning is that young children require (and prefer) to understand what they can see and experience in the real world.
4. Posting Game
What’s posting? Posting is just a fancy word for placing objects inside other objects.
Posting games also help children overcome the parental separation anxiety common at this age by helping them understand that objects exist even when they can’t be seen.
This is another family favorite that just keeps coming back no matter how many times I pack it away.
They’re simple, beautiful, and help children become more open to imagination play.
This timeless toy can be used with or without the hammer to build finger strength.
Need another reason to love this toy? It’s made of rubberwood; it uses organic pigments; and it’s safety tested!
Practical Life Tools for Toddlers
Though not technically toys, these tools are great for young toddlers showing an interest in everyday activities like writing, cleaning, or working in the kitchen.
It doesn’t get more real life than cleaning up messes, my friends!
Embrace the chaos.
A perfect and all-natural option for introducing little ones to the joys of coloring. Start with a blank piece of paper and a single crayon.
In Montessori, the process of making art is more important than the product of the art itself. By providing a blank canvas to our children (rather than a coloring book page), we communicate that there are no expectations about what they will produce.
My son uses this as a gateway to adult spaces like the kitchen.
It also moonlights as a jungle gym when I’m not looking.
What Are The Best Toys for 1 Year Old Toddlers Between 18 and 24 Months?
Congratulations! Your sweet, chunky baby has grown into a skinny, floppy toddler! Well done, Mama, but you’ve got some new excitement and challenges ahead of you.
Making Language Learning Part of Play
Toddlers between 18 months and 2 years experience a “language explosion” where they learn new words and phrases daily.
There is even research that suggests that children gain particular benefit from hearing their mother speak. (That’s one possible reason why toddlers follow us around the house!)
As an introvert parent of a child with no siblings, I am often the only available playmate. I want toys that are as mentally stimulating to me as they are to my child.
Toys that promote open-ended play or that encourage kids to get outside are equally as fun for me while increasing language learning opportunities.
For example, while my son is biking around the neighborhood, we observe, describe, and reflect upon things in the natural world. While playing music together, we name the instruments and use words to describe the motion and the sound.
Research suggests movement and sensory play improve attention and ultimately help children learn more efficiently.
Exploring “Shelf Work”
As your child approaches the two-year mark, you will also notice they are able to concentrate for longer periods
They’ll finally pick up all those beautiful toys and activities that have been collecting dust on their shelves, and that’s when you’ll know they are ready to revisit fine motor skill play or “shelf work” that is a hallmark of Montessori classrooms.
Though Montessori is for all ages, many social media accounts and parenting spaces tend to feature toys and activities intended for toddlers in the 18 month to 3 year old range.
This is a fun and interactive age where children begin to engage in exploratory and imaginative play, so it’s no wonder parents love it.
Build Language and Vocabulary with Montessori Toys for 1 Year Old Toddlers, 18-24 Months
Just about anything that children do is an opportunity for language development, but I’ve found these toys to be particularly helpful in keeping me engaged in dialogue with my son and nephews.
1. Strider Bike or Woom 1 Balance Bike
As your child explores the neighborhood on their sweet new ride, provide names and descriptions of everything you see.
You’ll be surprised how many new words your child learn on the go!
2. Wobble Board
This toy is a great way to help build body awareness and learn both anatomy and action word vocabulary.
Plus, watching children learn how to use these is so stinking cute.
This toy can help children learn about colors but remains full of possibilities for creative play down the road!
This set is hand-made and eco-friendly!
Find words to help your toddler name each instrument and describe the sounds they make.
You can even invent words to the music your child is playing and create a new family song!
Schleich makes realistic and proportional animal models for kids that can be used in open-ended play.
Create a pretend farm scene and help your child name all the elements from the animals to the barn to farmer.
At this age, toddlers begin to associate real-life objects with the illustrations they see in books or magazines.
Object to picture games can help solidify a toddler’s understanding of this concept while adding to their growing vocabulary.
Toddlers love to finger paint and get messy. If your child seems interested, you can introduce paint brushes, stamps, stickers, markers, and other art supplies.
Look for opportunities to describe each item, its color, and how it can be used to make art.
Develop Fine Motor Skills with Montessori Toys for 1 Year Old Toddlers, 18-24 Months
There’s nothing more rewarding as a parent than to quietly observe your child hard at work on a task. With any activity or toy, you will want to provide a simple demonstration to your child on how it works.
A wonderful toy for more complex stacking work, and it looks beautiful on a toy shelf, too.
Ideal for free-play, this peg board will also help your child with color recognition.
When it comes to wooden blocks in a Montessori setting, you want to keep them simple and high quality.
This play set has so many fun colors and pieces!
This puzzle set presents simple, colorful shapes and then increases the challenge by offering the same shape in multiple sizes.
Use this during free-play to help your child work on hand-eye coordination.
The coin box above is in the classic Montessori style.
I personally opted to purchase a metal coin box and realistic-looking plastic coins with the intention of using them as my son gets older. Be sure that any coin box and coins you choose are not a choking hazard for your toddler.
5. Shape sorter
Finally a shape sorter that you buy only once!
This shape sorter set has simple and complex options to grow as your child grows.
Driving thread through a bead or looping it around an object is an essential fine motor skill.
Interest in threading indicates your child might also be interested in learning other crafts like sewing and knitting one day.
Everybody loves this classic, and it’s great for kids’ dexterity and building the tiny muscles in their hands.
You could also opt for a DIY homemade dough.
What Are Your Favorite Montessori Toys for Toddlers?
No matter what age or stage, children at one year are truly delightful little creatures with their own minds and motivations for learning. I hope this list has given you some great ideas for Montessori toys for 1 year old children that help them along their own unique path of development.
With so many Montessori toys for 1 year old toddlers available, I bet you have a few of these toys already! What toys are the children in your life obsessed with right now?
Brittany Cantrell is an Epidemiologist at her local health department who oversees a team of beautiful, talented women. Though she specializes in infectious disease prevention, she is a strong advocate for all public health professionals. She is the owner and author of the mindful travel blog, The World Enough, where readers are empowered to live with presence and without fear. She was born and raised in the rolling foothills of the north Georgia mountains. In her spare time, you can find her helplessly pinned to the couch by one of her two cats, heading to a yoga class, or planning her next adventure.