Confidence-Building Montessori Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers

A little girl in a yellow dress with no sleeves is playing with wooden dolls that are purple, green, yellow, dark blue, light blue, red, and orange

Using the Montessori method to select toys for my 18-month-old was one of the best decisions I’ve made as a parent. Dr. Maria Montessori, the founder of the Montessori method, truly gets young toddlers. 

Grounded in modern child development practices decades before science actually caught up to it, the Montessori method offers kids a way to play that also ticks off all those important milestone boxes. 

Today we’re assembling an epic list of our family’s favorite Montessori toys for 18 months old and growing, as well as a few options I’m kicking myself for not buying earlier. Let’s get started!

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I’m Obsessed With Young Toddlers, And I Don’t Care Who Knows It

One-year-olds buzz around like little bees, flitting from one extremely interesting yet totally ordinary thing to the next. Unencumbered by doubt or fear, they lift heavy objects with one hand and will run headlong into oncoming traffic if you aren’t watching them like a dang hawk. 

As they squat down to observe an oddly-shaped pebble or leaf, you can’t help but join them in their appreciation and awe. Their lust for life is exhilarating. 

Between 18 and 24 months, your child is laying the foundation to do some pretty incredible things, particularly when it comes to talking.

In fact, the language learning that occurs in this very small window of time can predict a child’s cognitive performance through grade school and beyond.

Montessori Toys for 18 Months Old: Focus On What’s Important To Your Child RIGHT NOW

With so much at stake, how can Montessori toys help navigate this important but fleeting time in our children’s lives? 

The Montessori method advises parents to provide toys and activities that are relevant to your child’s immediate interests and preferences. 

While there are variations, eighteen-month-olds generally love language learning, participating in everyday routines, and practicing fine and gross motor skills

Montessori toys, in combination with an observing caregiver and a prepared environment, offer children endless ways to channel their natural desires and learn all the critical skills listed above. 

 (If this is your first look at Montessori toys, keep in mind they may look a little different than the stuff you find in the toy aisle. For a full breakdown, scoot over to our page What are Montessori Toys?).

A light wood bowl is sitting in the middle of a light pink table. In it there are yellow, light blue, green, orange, and dark blue wooden balls. Around the wooden bowl are a wooden spoon and wooden bowls that are red, orange, yellow, green, light blue, dark blue, and purple.
These Montessori toys for 18-month-olds will be a hit with your little ones and you!

Montessori Toys For 18 Months Old: Lots Of Language Learning 

Young toddlers learn language by both increasing their vocabulary and by guessing the meaning of the words you use through their context. Each skill feeds into the other until BOOM! They are talking in entire sentences.

It’s wild! 

The following toys expose your toddler to new words while simultaneously encouraging you to create playful moments of conversation: 

1. Musical Instruments

Even children as young as 7 months old can detect and differentiate between musical patterns, so 18-month-olds are bringing a lot of knowledge to musical play. 

Ask your child to pick out maracas, a tambourine, or a shaker egg. Tap out a simple rhythm and make up a silly song together. Don’t be surprised if they want to hear it 100 times!

For even more ideas on how to engage in music play, join a local preschool music class or find a virtual class

2. TalkBox Mom

Speaking a second language in early childhood boosts cognitive development

Talkbox Mom is a quarterly subscription that helps non-bilingual parents teach their children a second language from birth. Seriously!

While this is technically not a toy, they offer colorful picture charts with each box and even scavenger hunts. 

We’ve been using it for just two weeks, and I’m already having conversations with my 3-year-old in Spanish! 

3. Putumayo World Music

If Cocomelon makes you want to scream, try Putumayo. This collection of world music is beloved by preschool teachers and parents who can’t help but sing along.

From the Brazilian cuica drum to the ukelele, the music is rich with fascinating sounds, foreign accents, and unexpected melodies. There is lots to discover and discuss.

Also, their version of “No More Monkeys” Jumping On The Bed is the best ever made. Period. End of discussion!

4. Ourshelves

While I love my local library, they don’t always have books reflecting my modern parenting philosophy and values.

Thankfully, we found Ourshelves. It’s a quarterly curated book subscription specializing in diversity and inclusion. 

They have board books too! We love Grandad’s Camper and Rosa Loves Cars.

5. Roll And Play Dice Game

Movement and language learning often go hand in hand. 

That’s why I love this simple dice game featuring a soft, chunky die and corresponding play cards with silly movements like “Spin around 2 times.”

This game has everything a young toddler could want: throwing stuff, learning colors, and making their parents do goofy things. It’s ideal for this age range. 

Montessori Toys For 18 Months Old: Part Of The Routine

Something unique to Montessori is its focus on practical life activities (the activities that make up your daily household routine).

Most 1-year-olds are incredibly helpful and amenable to doing just about any household chore you give them. They love to make small contributions, and they are pretty fun to watch! 

The following toys are designed to teach children about their daily routines and how they can participate as a valued member of their family. 

1. Melissa And Doug Toy Shopping Cart

This adorable child-sized shopping cart (or “buggy” if you’re here in the South) is perfect for a pretend grocery shopping adventure.

It’s also great for hauling stuffed animals, laundry, or anything else your child can wedge into the wire basket. Talk about practical life!

I’ve even seen brave parents bring it to the grocery store for their child to push around, including a stuffed animal in the baby seat!

2. Green Toys Recycling Truck 

Recycling trucks and garbage trucks are a part of daily life that fascinates young toddlers. There’s always lots to discuss.

The Green Toys Recycling Truck is realistic and sturdy. Our son loves to fill it and then dump it, over and over (it’s lightweight and easy to wrap as a gift!).

We’ve gone through many Green Toy trucks in 3 years, but this one has outlasted them all!

3. Going To The Potty By Fred Rogers 

In Montessori homes, children begin gentle potty training efforts as early as 15 months old. 

While you might not be ready for potty training just yet, this is one of the best books about potty training to share with your child at any age. It describes all the wonderful things they will learn to do by themselves as they grow up. 

We also loved Potty by Leslie Patricelli! 

4. Silicone Gardening Tools

We use this exact gardening set in our backyard every day! It’s a great size for small hands.

My favorite part is that it’s sturdy enough for actual digging and raking, but it’s still soft enough to avoid injury while my son is unsupervised. 

Pair it with these tough-to-find toddler-sized garden gloves and you’re set for the park, the backyard, or the beach! 

5. Place Setting Mat

In Montessori, children are often taught how to set a table with a place setting mat.

Traditionally made of cloth, these feature little shapes indicating where a child should put their plate, cup, spoons, etc. Imagine a not-too-distant future where your kiddo is setting the table all by themselves. 

 I’m all for tradition, but these washable silicone mats are way more convenient!

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Montessori Toys For 18 Months Old: Fine Motor Skills Or “Shelf Work”

While “shelf work,” or activities set out on little trays, is the hallmark of Montessori, please don’t expect the average 18 month old to sit down and play with them for hours. 

More likely, they’ll spend a minute or two doing an activity and revisit it several times over the course of the day. This is totally normal! 

1. Beads On A String

Lacing or threading is a popular Montessori activity that increases coordination and finger strength. 

This set includes twelve lovely hand-stained wooden beads and a one-way lacing thread.

This wooden bead string set from Etsy is a great Montessori toy for your 18-month-old.

It’s small enough to be portable if you’re traveling and open-ended enough for years of play beyond 18 months.

2. Matryoshka Or Nesting Dolls

Parents and toddlers alike love taking apart and assembling nesting dolls. It was one of the few things my son would sit down to play with at this active age. 

Unlike cheaper nesting dolls on the market, the materials and paints used in these dolls are natural, non-toxic, and long-lasting. 

These handmade wooden nesting dolls from Etsy and a great addition to your Montessori toys for 18-month-olds.

This gorgeous hand-painted set of dolls has a modern folk art design that is so cute you could place them in an adult space and no one would be the wiser. 

3. Melissa and Doug Modeling Clay Stamp and Roll

This is my favorite kit by Melissa and Doug because it has such a variety of tools. Children can practice cutting, slicing, rolling, tamping, and pressing.

It even comes with a little wooden tray you can use to store it on the shelf! It’s Montessori ready.

Each tool requires a different set of fine motor skills. Parents even love the modeling clay included more than name-brand Play-Doh!

4. Wooden Sorting Tower

Eighteen-month-olds love to move heavy objects. It’s a behavior described by Montessori as seeking “maximum effort.” 

The heavier and more unwieldy, the better. This wooden size-sorting tower with a vertical dowel is a wonderful way to meet your child’s desire for “maximum effort.” 

This size sorting puzzle tower by Etsy is a great Montessori toy for 18-month-olds.

This Etsy shop makes so many beautiful Montessori activities. I also love their Ring Return Toy

5. Object to Picture Matching Game

At eighteen months, you can introduce your child to puzzles that involve matching a physical object with a picture. This is a way to teach your child that photos are representations of real things. 

This puzzle set includes a variety of everyday objects. I love the range of colors, textures, and shapes! So enticing for little hands. 

This matching game from Etsy is a perfect Montessori toy for your 18-month-old.

 It even comes in a woven basket ready for storage on your toy shelf. 

Montessori Toys for 18 Months Old: Gross Motor Play All Day

Once walking becomes their preferred method of travel, toddlers are unstoppable. The main thing I remember about our son at this age was his back – I was always chasing him!

Young toddlers should have at least 3 hours of unstructured, active play, but that’s probably on the low end. We’re not trying to simply get by here – we’re trying to thrive!

Here are my favorite toys for meeting and exceeding those hours of active play.

1. Nugget

This is one new product that is actually worth the hype! 

The Nugget is basically high-quality modular furniture for kids. It folds and stacks into anything your toddler can dream up. Your child’s creativity is the only limit.

Ours is a pizza oven, car wash, hotel, train, and a comfy place for Mommy to sit in the sunshine. Get ready for pretend play all day!

2. Large Wooden Blocks

This thick wooden box set is perfect for the 18-month-old who loves making and knocking down towers. 

The boxes stack as high as 45 inches and nest one inside the other for easy storage. 

While unpainted wood is traditional in Montessori, the colorful rainbow animal version is too cute to pass up. 

3. Soft Hollow Balls

Young toddlers love to throw, but they run into trouble when they start throwing breakable objects.

We had these small balls lying all around the house so whenever my child felt the urge to throw, I could hand him something safe to chuck.

The holes are helpful for gripping and carrying all over the place. Save yourself time and buy a couple of packs at once! 

4. EverEarth Beach Blanket and Kiddie Pool Combo

Whenever we went to the beach, my eighteen-month-old would run straight into the crashing waves. I was too busy playing lifeguard to relax for even a minute. 

If only I’d had this handy waterproof beach blanket. Scoop out a little sand and it conveniently transforms into a mini kiddie pool at the beach.

Now we can bring the water to us, and my son can play safely under the shade of a beach umbrella.  

Could This Really Be The Ultimate List Of Montessori Toys for 18 Months Old? 

We’ve purchased so many Montessori toys in the past three years, but this list includes some of our most beloved. I’m talking about toys that we still use and enjoy. 

I hope you’ve found something here to help your child on their journey, whether it’s learning to talk or just inventing a new dance move. I’m excited for your family to experience these incredible Montessori toys for 18 months old!

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Montessori toys for 18 months old and up are great, but we know kids this age play with literally anything they can find. What’s your child’s favorite non-toy toy?