Why do so many parents and educators value the Montessori educational philosophy and toys? These thoughtful tools encourage hands-on, brain-boosting play. Montessori toys, and others inspired by Maria Montessori’s philosophies, are made of natural materials like wood and free from ear-splitting electronic buzzes and beeps, and they fit perfectly into a simple, streamlined play space where quality is more important than quantity.

Because these toys tend to be durable and well-made classics, they last long enough to make great hand-me-downs for younger siblings or friends. Montessori toys are developmentally appropriate for each individual stage, encouraging children to work on their fine motor skills in preparation for future writing and drawing, practice standing up and climbing, and explore colors, shapes and textures.The best Montessori toys nurture open-ended, creative play and exploration and will be favorites for years to come. Keep reading to find our favorite Montessori-inspired toys for babies and toddlers.

Grimm's Rainbow

This beautiful wooden rainbow is one toy you won't mind having out on a shelf. Pretty enough for living room decor, the simple, clean arcs of the Grimm's Rainbow fit together and can be stacked in different ways. As your little one grows, the toy will help them learn colors, shapes and math concepts like counting. Later, the rainbow is a bright base for all sorts of imaginative play. Just add plastic animals, cars or dolls!

Available at thenaturalbabyco.com; $21 for a small and $96 for a large.

Textured Ball

Balls of different textures are a classic Montessori baby toy. This soft, multicolored ball from Sebra gives babies a chance to safely explore: Little ones can grasp the smooth ribbons and run their fingers over the bumpy terrycloth. Later, you can roll the ball back and forth with your baby, a simple game that also introduces little ones to the concept of conversational back-and-forth.

Available from scandiborn.com; $15.95.

Pikler Triangle

A Pikler Triangle is an indoor play gym, climber and all-around gross motor booster in one awesome structure. We love that this awesome Montessori-inspired toy helps children develop spacial awareness and build balance. Babies can use the sturdy bars to pull up to stand, while older toddlers can climb up and down the bars. Drape a play silk or cloth over the top and it becomes a cozy nook for pretend play. Lily & River's award-winning Little Climber folds up for easy storage and includes add-ons like a slide.

Available from lilyandriver.com; $199.95.

Play Silks

Beautiful play silks start as peak-a-boo accessories and offer opportunities for babies to explore textures and colors. In a toddler's hands, they become fancy dress-up fabric, blankets to tuck in a doll, dancing accessories to wave while twirling, or temporary hiding places. In all the colors of the rainbow, these lovely handmade play silks are durable enough to last through all sorts of activities.

Available from magiccabin.com $69.98 for a seven-piece set.

Multi-Shape Wooden Puzzle Toy

Wooden shape puzzles help babies strengthen fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination as they pick up pieces. With this classic Montessori puzzle, babies and toddlers learn shapes and primary colors and use their finger and thumb to grab hold of the sturdy wooden knobs. In wood and water-based paint, this puzzle will last for years to come.

Available at amazon.com; $27.99.

Wooden Blocks

A set of solid wooden blocks are a playroom must-have and a perfect first-birthday gift. This set of 50 blocks from Plan Toys will last until your kids go from stacking two blocks to make a wobbly tower to building an epic castle with triangle-topped towers in every corner. Bonus: Research shows that blocks help develop everything from spatial awareness to creativity and language skills.

Available at amazon.com, $70.

Monti Kids Subscription

If you're looking to stock an empty nursery for a very lucky baby, check out the Monti Kids subscription service. Each box comes packed with Montessori materials handpicked by educators for little ones at a specific age and developmental stage, as well as tips for parents. This subscription box is not cheap, but if your baby or toddler is learning at home, it may be exactly what you need right now. The Level 3 box, shown above, is designed for kids 7-10.5 months and includes 6 toys, bags and baskets to organize them, and coaching videos delivered via email. The toys are a rolling drum, spinning drum, a basket of four balls with varying textures and weights, an object permanence box, a stacker, and three small puzzles.

Available at montikids.com; $99 per month, paid quarterly.

—Oz Spies

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