Montessori is an approach to education based on the principle that children should drive the learning process. “Even as infants and toddlers, little ones can begin to learn through creativity and hands-on activities that allow the child to explore what interests them,” says Brenda Guevara of CozyKin, a nanny-share startup that matches families with caregivers who are trained to teach the Montessori curriculum.
CozyKin uses the Montessori techniques because they encourage children to play a role in their own learning process (think collaborative play and hands-on activities to help a child foster her own innate talents and interests). But how can parents use Montessori-inspired learning on their own? “Toys can be a great way to allow children to explore at their own rate and pace,” says Guevara. I asked Guevara and the team at CozyKin for their recommendations for toddlers.
Enjoy watching your child focus on stacking towers—and then knocking them down, only to rebuild again? These nesting and stacking bowls are handcrafted in Germany and finished in nontoxic, water-based dyes. “Little ones are learning about balance and further developing their visual acuity,” says Guevara.
Made of all natural wood and recycled rubber, this toy box and mallet helps your baby learn hand-eye coordination as well as how to align objects. Each time they hammer one of the colorful balls through the hole, they’ll love picking up the ball as it rolls through the side. The overall process also teaches them the concept of object permanence.
“This toy is a must-have for developing early sorting skills,” says Guevara. As your child learns hand-eye coordination, the next step is to start teaching color matching, shapes and spatial relationships. Each chunky shape is designed for easy grip and finished in non-toxic paint.
It’s so rewarding to see a child master the art of picking up and neatly arranging bulky objects in intended spaces. As your toddler gets older, challenge their skills with smaller objects, like the ones in this wooden cylinder set. Guevara says, “This is one of CozyKin's favorites for developing concentration. It helps develop pincer grasp in addition to strengthening finger dexterity and visual acuity.”
Watching your little one master basic life skills like getting dressed is wonderful. These classic Montessori items can be a fun way to help reinforce the skills for how to tie, button, snap, lace, zip and buckle all on their own.
“Little ones crave the ability to work with real materials that are built just for them,” says Guevara. This mop and broom set can help lay the foundation for self-care and cleanliness and give little ones a sense of responsibility over their environment.
Music teachers love distributing these colorful scarves to little students to liven up each class. Parents can use these for pretend play, such as wrapping a present, making a pouch, creating a sling for a doll, tying on a stick to make a flag or anything else their imagination desires.
While teaching your toddler colors and creativity is important, don't forget to instill an early love for learning math, too. Help your little one learn to count with this hundred board. Guevara says, “This game is a wonderful educational toy for preschoolers as it teaches to count from 1 to 100 and reinforces sequencing.”
This article originally appeared on Forbes.