The transformation from baby to toddler can be profound. A baby is fully dependent on caregivers for all their needs, since they obviously can’t feed, dress, or move themselves.
As they grow into toddlerhood, they begin to realize that they’re their own, separate person who can do things by themselves. They learn, often enthusiastically, the words “Mine!” and “No!” as they differentiate themselves. While sometimes (often) frustrating, this is a crucial part of a child’s development.
However, with underdeveloped motor abilities, a limited vocabulary, and poor social skills, 2-year-olds aren’t very good at navigating this complicated life change. And if that weren’t hard enough, we’ve labeled this stage the terrible twos… so, really, with so much stacked against them, who can blame them?
They’re ill equipped and have a bad rap. Like tiny, unstable dictators, there’s little room for negotiation or healthy dialogue.
And as parents, who often have jobs, other children, and plenty on their plate, guiding little ones through this stage with grace and patience can push us all to the brink. Choosing the right toys and activities can be tremendously helpful in getting everyone through this stage unscathed… or as unscathed as possible.
Two-year-olds need time to explore their environment, make sense of their surroundings, and practice their many, newly formed skills. It truly can be a magical period of exploration and discovery.
One way to support your toddler and their burgeoning independence is to provide age-appropriate toys. Play is one of the best ways for young children to understand, learn, and make sense of their environment and Montessori toys are an ideal choice.
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Why Montessori Toys?
Montessori is a child-centered approach to education that embraces hands-on, multi-sensory learning in order to foster independence, self-discovery, and allows children to make sense of the world around them. Montessori classrooms are beautiful environments filled with natural elements, items from everyday life, and Montessori materials.
Montessori-friendly toys are ideal, as they promote experimentation, inspire imagination, and can be done independently, things that are important for the blossoming 2-year-old. The best Montessori toys use natural materials (such as wood), nurture motor skills, encourage problem solving, and are multisensorial.
They’re an excellent way to help stimulate a child’s cognitive development from a young age. If you’re looking for a Montessori gift guide or adding to your own playroom, look no further!
15 Perfect Montessori Toys for 2 Year Olds
1. Wooden Food Prep Kit
Toddlers want to be just like the grownups in their lives, one reason they enjoy working in their own, kid-sized kitchens. A wooden food prep set, equipped with food, knife, and cutting board is a favorite Montessori toy. Central to the Montessori Method are activities that teach practical life skills.
A wide selection of realistic, wooden foods make food-prep fun for 2-year-olds. They can practice the real life skills of slicing and preparing foods, while honing important fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and using their imagination.
While some kits use velcro, we prefer this set because it utilizes magnets, solving the problem of velcro losing its stick. You can find this wooden food set here.
2. Wooden Rainbow Stacking Toy
An iconic Montessori toy for young toddlers is this brightly colored, rainbow stacking toy. It can be used in a variety of ways to stack into unusual towers, make new patterns, and learn colors.
The chunky, wooden blocks are ideal for little hands to deconstruct, make new shapes, and rebuild the rainbow. It’s an excellent toy for working on hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills as well as encouraging creativity.
You can find the wooden rainbow toy here.
3. The Original Busy Board
One of my oldest daughter’s favorite phrases as she approached her second birthday was, “Do it myself!” A familiar refrain of toddlers everywhere. A great way to encourage independence and allow your little one to, in fact, do it themself, is by offering plenty of practice with the basics.
In order to be able to fully dress themselves and take this important step toward independence, young toddlers need practice with snaps, buttons, zippers, ties, buckles and more. A busy board can be very helpful in sharpening the fine motor skills necessary for these motions that are often complicated for small hands.
The Original Busy Board can be found here and is a great choice.
4. Colored Balls and Cups Sorting Game
This colorful game of cups with corresponding balls is a great option for young children. With its beautiful craftsmanship and simple, sturdy design, this is a classic example of Montessori wooden toys at their best.
Toddlers can use their hands and eventually the spoon as their abilities allow, to match the ball to its cup. Ideal for sorting, color recognition, and fine motor skills, this is a fun game for 2-year-olds to do all on their own.
Our favorite balls and cups game is found here and comes in 12 colors.
5. Color Matching Peg Board
As toddlers continue to fine-tune their color recognition, they can better pick up on slight differences and gradations in color. This pegboard sorting toy is set up for your child to play independently, as the solution is already baked into the game.
The different colored pegs correspond to the colored boards and are just right for toddler-sized hands to manipulate. It’s a fun way for young children to work on pattern recognition, sorting, and learning new words as they seek to describe colors that might be new to them.
Our favorite version of this Montessori color game can be found here.
6. Cylinder Sensory Blocks
These wooden, cylinder blocks are a staple in all Montessori preschool classrooms and a perfect toy to have in your home. The large, round knobs are ideal for working on the 2-fingered grasp and are easy for toddlers to manipulate. The natural wood design adds to its simplicity.
There are 4 sets of 5 cylindrical blocks, each with a different height and/or diameter. You can use one set at a time for younger children and introduce more as they perfect the skill of differentiation.
Toddlers can more effectively distinguish between size, height, and dimension, while also cultivating fine-motor skills and hand-eye coordination. And because only one cylinder fits into one hole, it’s excellent for honing problem-solving skills.
You’ll find some versions with bright colors, but we prefer the natural wood option, where the only difference is the size and shape of the cylinder. Our favorite version can be found here.
7. Sandpaper Letters
Another material that you’ll find in every Montessori classroom are the sandpaper letters. Letters are constructed on wooden boards, so that children can use their pointer and middle fingers to trace along the rough surface. This helps them to sensorially learn the letters before having to write them.
Traditional Montessori sandpaper letters have the consonants on pink wooden boards and vowels on blue in order to visually illustrate the difference. This is a wonderful way for children to learn the alphabet in a truly sensorial way while they work on large motor skills.
Although truly traditional Montessori classrooms have cursive sandpaper letters, we’ve suggested a print version here.
8. Sound Cylinders
One of the most beloved lessons in the Montessori curriculum is the introduction of the sound cylinders. Quietly listening to the noise that each cylinder makes, 2-year-olds can find the match or line them up softest to loudest. It’s a lovely way to refine the auditory sense.
There is a set of 6 blue cylinders and a matching set of red. Each cylinder makes a distinctive sound when shaken and your child can sort and match as they see fit.
You can find the Montessori sound cylinders here.
9. Pretend Mopping, Dusting, and Sweeping
Most toddlers want to be taken seriously and are eager to help. Having child-sized cleaning tools at their disposal is a great way for them to engage in pretend play, feel grownup, and get them to be good helpers.
While most Montessori educators will quickly add that creating opportunities to perform true cleaning tasks, like washing tables, this cleaning set is a great addition to any home. Often 2-year-olds make the best helpers, with their industrious attitude and desire to be just like you.
Our favorite set, with high quality wooden handles and genuine materials is from Melissa and Doug and available here.
10. Indoor/Outdoor Stepping Stones
These brightly colored stepping stones promote balance, coordination, and physical activity while working on gross motor skills. They can be used indoors or outside and encourage children to jump, stretch, and climb.
These stepping stones come in a variety of heights and sizes, so they can grow with your child as their skills increase. This is a fun, unique way to increase gross motor skills.
One of our favorites can be found here and comes with its own tote bag for easy transport and storage.
11. Wooden Musical Instrument Set
Most toddlers are happy to bang on pots and pans all day, but parents might agree that having a set of child-friendly instruments is a better option. Encouraging refinement of the senses, motor skills, and creativity, musical instruments are a wonderful addition to any playroom.
This wooden set of instruments is sturdy, offers a wide variety of options, and is a beautiful way to introduce your 2-year-old to the world of music.
The set we like best is available here.
12. Wooden Puzzles
A chunky, wooden puzzle is an excellent way to develop cognitive abilities, fine motor skills, and problem solving. Ideal for 2-year-olds, large, 1-piece puzzles are good for learning shapes, colors, animals… the options are endless!
Little hands can easily pick up and place the pieces, matching shapes, colors, pictures, and more. You can isolate one skill at a time and add to them as your child grows.
One of our favorite sets has numbers, letters, animals, and fruit and can be found here.
13. Car Ramp Racer
This toddler race track toy is ideal for young children due to its simplicity and ease of handling. Children can place the cars on the tracks, driving them, watching them roll, all the while developing a natural curiosity for how things work, hand-eye coordination, and improving their visual tracking abilities.
The four curved ramps and chunky, wooden cars make it relatively easy for 2-year-olds to manipulate. The design allows for cars to drop from ramp to ramp until they slide into the parking area beneath, while your toddler also learns about cause and effect.
We love this brightly colored, wooden toddler ramp racer toy.
14. Geometric Sorting Puzzles
Playing with geometric shapes is a building block for future math work. Sorting and seeing how things come together is an essential framework for many larger endeavors, like engineering and geometry.
This set comes with 6 shapes, each with multiple pieces that fit inside each other for endless ways to stack, play, and put back together. Your toddler can learn shapes, colors, and the ways things fit together while further developing logical thinking, creativity, and associative thinking.
You can find this colorful, geometric sorting puzzle here.
15. Wooden Balance Board
This sturdy, curved, wooden balance board is so much more than meets the eye! Sure, your toddler can practice balancing on the curved surface, working on core strength, concentration, and confidence. But with a little imagination, this simple toy can also be a bridge, ramp, lounge chair, fort, and more.
While an excellent toy for gross motor practice, it’s also a fun way to activate your child’s fantasy world. After all, it’s often the most simple objects that become so many different things within the endless space of imagination. It’s something that can grow with your child, adapting to a large range of abilities, and can even be used in yoga practice.
We love this sturdy, wooden balance board.