Montessori Toys for Child Development
What (and Who) is Montessori?
The Montessori education system is surging in popularity among parents and educators these days. If you weren’t aware, the Montessori system is a method designed by an Italian doctor named Maria Montessori. While it’s very popular now, it’s not a new concept - Montessori created her method in the early 1900s. The method centers around the idea that children crave knowledge and can engage in the learning process through their own exploration, if given the right learning arena and proper support from experienced adults.
While the term “Montessori” applies to a broad range of programs that implement and interpret the original method, there are some core tenets that most adhere to, including:
- Mixed age classrooms
- Freedom to choose from a variety of learning activity options
- Learning through exploration and discovery, rather than overt instructing
- A carefully prepared area where materials are organized, arranged, and appropriately sized for the children using them
- An experienced instructor trained in the Montessori method who is well acquainted with the children they’re teaching
Montessori lessons stress that education should be concurrent with childhood development – that children can learn by engaging with their environment as they naturally develop skills both psychologically and physically. Dr. Montessori believed that, if left to their own devices and provided adequate materials, children would naturally be drawn to educate themselves about the world around them and in doing so would learn to develop important skills and traits.
Montessori Toys for Early Development
Montessori believed that from the time a child is born to the time they reach age six, they are building their mental framework based on how they engage with their environment, largely through sensory development. At this time, when the brain is absorbing sensory information like a sponge, it is crucial to provide them with the right opportunities by surrounding them with educational materials and encouraging active exploration.
Dr. Montessori also identified specific period during this growth stage where children would become specifically sensitive to certain stimuli. Some of these include:
- An interest in small objects from the ages of around 18 months to three years
- An interest in sorting and order from the ages of one to three years
It is in these stages in particular that Safari Ltd toys can be used as a great supplement for Montessori inspired lessons. Safari Ltd toys are excellent for use in supervised sensory play, especially those that come in our TOOB sets. TOOBS feature between six and 13 miniature figures based on a particular theme, and they’re pretty much the perfect size for sensory play.
Pictured: Safari Ltd TOOB and Incredible Creatures figures in a Sensory Bin
A sensory bin is a great type of learning activity to help develop skills through exploratory activity. Fill a tray or bin with a substance like sand, pebbles, water, rice or some other material, then add TOOB figures, and allow your child to explore the environment. You can even add larger Incredible Creatures figures for more variety.
Children can learn about the creatures of the ocean or the animals of the wilderness, all while given free reign to explore with open-ended sensory play.
Montessori Toys for Primary Development
From about ages three to six, activities in the Montessori process usually incorporates a very hands-on process to learning materials. Children engage in various activities that involve further developing senses, as well as honing their skills in math, language arts, music, science, culture and more.
Once again Safari Ltd toys can be useful in this stage of exploratory learning. TOOBS are once again a great tool, as their size and portability make them convenient tools to supplement matching and sorting activities. Children can learn about everything from different animal habitats to musical instruments to outer space. Since each TOOB is centered on a specific theme, it’s easy to find the right ones to incorporate into a specific lesson.
Pictured: Safari Ltd's Space TOOB
Good Luck Minis are another useful toy for this stage of learning. Good Luck Minis are small figurines, usually an inch or so long, that represent everything from animals to buildings to objects, and much more. Their size makes them excellent choices for counting and sorting activities.
Pictured: A counting activity using Safari Ltd Good Luck Minis
Hands-on Toys for Hands-on Learning
These are just a few of the ways Safari Ltd toys can be integrated seamlessly into Montessori lessons to help children learn about their world while exploring it in a tactile and sensory way. With its intense focus on direct exploration and hands-on learning, the Montessori method and Safari Ltd toys go hand in hand, as our goal to create “Toys That Teach” means making toys that allow children to learn while they play. Check out all of our Safari Ltd Montessori toys!