Montessori-inspired toys are generally on the pricey side, so I am very selective about the toys I get for my toddler. These are the factors I consider before making the investment:
- Quality of the toys -- My inclination is for safe (non-toxic), sturdy and durable wooden toys that hold up well with a toddler's manipulation and through the years.
- Nature-based -- Like other Montessorians, I love the texture, aesthetics and smell of natural wood in children's toys. Where possible, I go for the unpainted, uncoated wood option to keep the beautiful woodgrain aesthetics.
- Purposeful -- The toys help my toddler in mastering a skill or hone understanding about a topic.
- Grows with my child -- Open-ended toys have high mileage and promote different developmental skills for a wide age group of children. The same toys could be played in new, more sophisticated and more imaginative ways as the child grows.
10+ Montessori-friendly Toys for 2 Year Olds
This gift guide is a result of active review-reading, internet research, word-of-mouth testimonials from Montessori-aligned caregivers as well as based on my own experience. I categorised the toy recommendations according to their approximate price tags to facilitate easier decision-making based on budget:
1. Glass pitcher
This child-sized glass pitcher is great for my toddler to independently serve herself water when she is thirsty. She has access to it at all times on our coffee/dining table.
When she is in a sensitive period for pouring and object transfer, I place a tray beneath this pitcher, provide a few more glass vessels and it becomes a low-prep Montessori practical life pouring activity.
At 2 year old, my toddler is cognisant of the common shapes and symbols and often points them out to me. A geoboard is a fun way for her to recreate shapes and symbols she knows, and invent new ones. She enjoys stretching and manipulating elastic rubber bands, which makes for a good introduction to science.
The geoboard can grow with children as they learn more advanced concepts like symmetry, angles, and fractions.
3. Woody art pencils
We love these woody art pencils, they function as colouring pencil, watercolor and wax crayon all in one and can be used on many surfaces including the whiteboard and glass. It's a bonus that they are really easy to wipe off (with a damp cloth or wet wipe).
I love this art pencil set for its strong and vibrant colors. The thickness of the pencils also make it easy for young toddlers to grip firmly and doodle on various surfaces.
4. Cutting blunt-tip scissors
A reader who's an ex-teacher highly recommended the Fiskars brand for their scissors for young children. Thanks Linda! For little ones starting out, a pair of soft grip blunt tip scissors is recommended.
My toddler uses her scissors everyday for craft and practical life activities -- opening of mail envelopes, food packaging etc. Here are some creative scissors activities I've created to hone her scissors skills.
5. Cleaning set
My toddler enjoys following my husband and me around with her swiffer (which we've adjusted to her height) and the cardboard cleaning caddy when we attend to our household chores.
This realistic-looking cleaning set is great for practical life activities as they can be used for simple sweeping, mopping, dusting and brushing.
6. Play silk
Playsilks are great for open-ended pretend play and encouraging gross motor movement in children. My toddler has used her playsilk as a superhero cape, baby carrier for her doll and even tied it around me as a 'bandage' while playing doctor.
I personally adore the space-themed design from Sarah's Silks and have used it in a space unit study designed for my toddler.
7. Nature's loose parts
Toddlers love exploring and tinkering with nature's loose parts, frequently building, taking apart, transporting, creating and connecting the pieces. They're perfect for open-ended play as they are played with no specific set of rules or directions and can be used in any manner, alone or together.
My toddler enjoys using loose parts in her pretend kitchen and in community towns she creates. The use of nature's loose parts in play spark creativity and imagination.
8. Sensory Rice Set
These wooden sensory tools (scoops, tongs and cups and pots) are wonderful for fine motor practice and sensory play with small filler bases like rice, beans and pom pom balls.
For a full range of sensory activities, you could supplement with Learning Resources' Helping Hands set which comes with a dropper and holey grabber (great when the setup includes water play) as well as the Fox Run tool set which has a wooden whisk, pair of tongs, spatula and spoons.
9. Play dough tool kit
Play dough is one of my toddler's favourite play mediums. I frequently create play dough tinker boxes for her.
These wooden tools can cut, shape, sculpt and roll patterns in play dough, making it a perfect addition to any play dough play.
10. Wooden Puzzles
Puzzles are great for boosting toddlers' motor and problem-solving skills. Puzzles are one of our staple materials in our Montessori-friendly home and make great independent quiet play activities.
With puzzles I look out for beautiful and realistic visuals with topics or stories that my toddler will take interest in. I like puzzle sets with varying numbers of puzzle pieces so they grow with my toddler. Here are my toddler's favourites:
- Kindness puzzle set by Mudpuppy. There's a kindness booklet that shares little stories behind the different scenes. My toddler loves the storytelling aspect to this puzzle and gets me to read them before doing the puzzles.
- Eric Carle's Brown Bear puzzle set by Mudpuppy. This puzzle makes a great extension to the book and the familiar characters engage my toddler to work on the puzzle.
- My Time of the Year puzzle set by HABA. The theme for this puzzle set is the changing of the seasons. It's a lovely way for my toddler to learn about seasonal changes, weather, holidays and season-specific activities and traditions. I also like that each puzzle is built on top of one another into one compact puzzle base, making it lightweight and portable.
- Adult and baby matching puzzles by The Learning Journey. I love that these puzzles are self-correcting and animals and the topic of parent and offspring is definitely something that intrigues my toddler now as she cements her understanding of family units and interpersonal relationships.
Links for various toys have been shared above.
11. Nesting Doll
My toddler loves the surprise of opening each beautiful woodgrain nesting dolls to find another one inside. Nesting dolls are great for size sorting activities, which I fostered an interest in my toddler by creating size sorting activities with everyday materials around the home.
I got unpainted nesting dolls which are aesthetically beautiful because of their workmanship and woodgrain. Someday I intend to paint them with my child. That would make a fun art home project.
12. Grimm's toys
Grimm's is THE brand of wooden toys mom influencers always feature in their children's playroom. It's super popular (but super expensive too).
I looked up Grimm's and found that they're a family-owned brand renowned for safe, high quality wooden heirloom-quality toys in Germany. These are the Grimm's toys I personally like, which are perfect for hours of open-ended imaginative play!
- Rainbow stacker -- They can be stacked, balanced and connected in various ways. My toddler uses them as a bridge, tunnel, slope and ambulance stretcher. She also calls it a 'mini wobbel board'. Other popular stackers are also element themed, in the design of a cave, flames and a wave.
- Colorful wooden cube building blocks -- These are great for children who enjoy stacking and the quantity and colors of blocks make for great open-ended construction fun.
- Peg dolls and bowls -- Apart from color sorting, my toddler likes to use the peg dolls for imaginative doll house play and the bowls for sensory activities. We've also used this peg doll and bowl set to make a DIY balance scale for a toddler-friendly physics activity.
Links for various toys have been shared above.
13. Grapat Mandala Loose Parts
Equally popular as Grimm's toys are the Grapat Mandala loose parts, which are in shapes inspired by nature and a wide assortment of colors. There are many different shapes -- honeycombs, flowers, mushrooms, raindrops, cones, pines, eggs and coins, just to name several.
Children usually use them for sorting activities, pattern/mandala creation, one to one correspondence practice and incorporate them into small world play.
14. Open-ended construction toys
There are a number of open-ended construction toys in the market, the most iconic one being LEGO. My toddler is not that fond of LEGO (she finds it a challenge to fit the grooves of the brick together) but loves her Magna-tiles and Tegu Magnetic Wooden Building Blocks, which with the help of magnetism can be constructed freely and quickly and transform into impressive structures within a short time.
Lately, I came across how Raising Dragons made Magna-tiles into dominos, which I'll try soon with my toddler! While plastic isn't a medium I enjoy children's toys in, I read reviews about how Magna-tiles are durable for years, withstand wear and tear pretty well and hold up well in terms of magnetic strength. We've only owned Magna-tiles for half a year and I think they're still in really good condition, save for scratches on the mirror tiles.
While Magna-tiles is the leading brand, there are other magnetic building block alternatives like PiccasoTiles.
We also have Fat Brain's Squigz, which are innovative suction construction toys made of silicone, that adhere to one another and many surfaces. My toddler enjoys using Squigz in her bath, for they stick really strongly to one another and to the bathtub with the addition of water. Unlike many other bath toys, Squigz toys seem resistant to mold and are easy to clean and dry off, which is great. They are among my favourite flight must-haves and travel toys.
Links for various toys have been shared above.
15 Realistic animal figurines
Reality-based materials are important in Montessori education, as its pedagogy advocates real world experiences for children.
We have Schleich marine animals which we use in creative sink play activities, Safari Ltd planets and space figurines which we used in our space unit study and regularly use these realistic figurines for small world play and play dough tinker boxes.
16. Lovery Box
Lovery is designed by child development experts and advocates stage-based play tailored to developmental needs of children. It's an award-winning subscription box maker with toys that are Montessori-inspired and sustainably-made.
I've read many reviews about how children look forward to their renewed kits and that the toys grow with children's developmental needs. At this point in motherhood as a mom of one, I enjoy crafting unique cardboard toys and plan homemade sensorial activities that follow my child's interests and fit their sensitive period needs, so I don't particularly have a need for a subscription-based play kit. However I imagine that I'll definitely be interested in Lovery subscription boxes if I'm time-pressed (i.e. balancing SAHM life with work, or have more children to homeschool).
17. IKEA Kitchen
I love having my toddler in the kitchen and often work on easy child-friendly recipes together. As such, she's no stranger to utensils, cooking methods and ingredients, and really enjoy 'pretend cooking' to whip up creations for her soft toys, my husband and me.
As a first birthday gift, we got her Kidkraft's Little Cook Station, but she outgrew it (in height) nearing two years of age. That was when we transitioned her to IKEA's DUKTIG play kitchen which has an overhead shelf and oven. As her abstract thinking ability and interest in pretend play takes off in toddlerhood, we see her play kitchen being used more and in increasingly creative ways.
I envisage that this play kitchen will continue to provide many, many hours of open-ended cooking fun for my little sous chef in the years to come.
18. Wobbel balance board
We got the Pikler Triangle when my little one was 1+ year of age and the Wobbel board as she neared 2.
I find that the Wobbel board complement the Pikler Triangle in our home (especially when we build obstacle courses from existing furniture around the house). When my toddler engages in dangerous activities like trying to balance on the bathtub ledge, I'll direct her interest to the Wobbel board.
The Wobbel board is great for everyday gross motor activities -- climbing, sliding, balancing, jumping off etc. We also pair it with other open-ended toys, using it as a gigantic bridge and tunnel for vehicle toys.
Note though that the Wobbel board is made of a rather heavy and sturdy wood material, and could trap and hurt little fingers beneath it whilst rocking. I recommend close caregiver supervision and repeated demonstrations of keeping fingers a safe distance away when the board is in rocking motion.
I hope you find this curated gift guide of 10+ Montessori-inspired & open-ended toys for 2 year old toddlers useful! Happy birthday to little ones turning 2!
Note: This selection is written from a non-biased point of view, as I'm not affiliated with any of the toy companies mentioned above, and these links are not affiliate links so I don't earn commission from purchases made through the links.
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Hi! I am Yunnie. I am the newly minted mama to a little baby girl and a mum friend to everyone on this special (and many times scary) journey of motherhood. Also a graduated bride with a penchant for weddings.