Montessori toys are toys that equip children with the ability to lead independent and autonomous lives. They aid in promoting the development of independence and self-sufficiency, critical thinking and problem solving, Imagination and discovery. Montessori toys are also great for helping your little one develop their fine motor skills.
So how does one know whether or not a toy can be classified as a Montessori toy? Here are the 5 key elements of Montessori toys to look out for.
1. Montessori toys focus on simplicity.
Montessori toys are simple. They are not overstimulating or confusing with an overwhelming amount of colours and sounds. You may think that a simple toy could be perceived as boring by the child, but it is important for a toy to be in line with the child's zone of proximal development. An over complicated toy may seem more interesting to us. However, if it overwhelms the child, no development will take place or the toy may be avoided altogether.
2. Montessori toys are self explanatory.
Montessori toys are auto-instructional. This means that they encourage the child to employ their discovery and problem solving skills to correct their own errors without instructions from an adult. Montessori toys encourage independence and confidence. Freedom of choice also comes into play because Montessori toys are open ended. Meaning that they can be used in a variety of different ways. Children learn to achieve their desired outcome through repetition as well as trial and error.
3. Montessori toys are passive.
An active toy results in a passive child and a passive toy results in an active child. Therefore, Montessori toys do not make sounds, flash lights or display overwhelming amounts of colour. Montessori toys are unable to do anything without the child manipulating the toy. The child had to actively explore the toy by hand to develop motor skills and develop cognitively. If the toy moves, plays sounds or flashes light and colours, it demotes the child to a passive observer and therefore, the child is not developing any skills. This can also hinder imagination.
4. Montessori toys are made of natural materials.
Toys made up of the natural materials in the world around us, help children to familiarise themselves with textures, smells, tastes and consistency of their natural environment.
5. Montessori toys are open-ended.
A Montessori toy can be used and explored in a variety of ways. However, they are not too open ended. This means that there is a limit to the ways in which the toy can be used.
Example, the alphabet board can be used to trace the alphabet with a stylus, the child can fill the letters with coloured sand or beads, the child can use the board to point out the letters in their name. The child can choose what they want to do with the alphabet board. However, there is a limit to what can be done with the board. When an activity is too open-ended, it can become overwhelming and actually hinder creativity.
Example, an art activity instructing children to paint a tree is open ended because there are many different trees to choose from, there are a range of colours that can be used depending on the season, the child can get creative by adding fruit or flowers to their tree. However, an art activity instructing children to paint anything they want quickly becomes overwhelming. It may seem that this may inspire more creativity but in reality, it hinders creativity and growth by making the child revert back to what they already know works for them. In these situations, children tend to paint something that they have painted before and know they do well. This hinders creativity and doesn't inspire the child to learn anything new.