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The best Montessori learning toys

RubRab Wooden Rocks
Colorful toys like these wooden rocks help kids learn through tactile, sensory play. (Image credit: RubRab)

Maybe you've heard the word "Montessori" before. Maybe not. Either way, you've likely run across some Montessori toys. 

Back in the late 1800s, Maria Montessori, an Italian physician, noticed that children naturally learn through the intrinsic motivation to pick something up and explore how it works. She developed a teaching method that embraces hands-on, multi-sensory activities that kids can investigate at their own pace. 

The Montessori Method is still used in nursery and preschools today, but you can start at home long before your child gets to school ... or any time. Many of the toys marketed toward babies and toddlers follow the Montessori Method, providing sensory experiences that help young kids learn through exploration. 

These are toys like the classic rainbow stacking rings (opens in new tab) and blocks that twist (opens in new tab) to form different three-letter words. Below, we've gathered some of the best Montessori toys available this holiday season. 

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Chuckle & Roar Shapes and Numbers Learning Puzzle: $14.99 at Target (opens in new tab)

Little ones (ages 3+) can have hours of learning fun with Chuckle & Roar’s 4-in-1 puzzles (opens in new tab). This board has 75 pieces: 10 numbers, 10 shapes and 55 stacking rings. As they are learning about numbers, shapes and colors, your child will also practice hand-eye coordination while stacking the wooden parts.

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Cheffun Carrot Harvest: $22.46 at Amazon (opens in new tab)

This smooth, wooden block from Cheffun (opens in new tab) acts like a chunk of ground at a farm lush with carrots. Toddlers (ages 1+) will have seven different carrots of different sizes to "pick" and then "plant" back into the block, all the while discovering which carrots fit into which holes. 

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RubRab Wooden Rocks: $19.99 at Amazon (opens in new tab)

RubRab's wooden blocks (opens in new tab) look a bit like gemstones with their brilliant colors and faceted edges. With different sizes and shapes, these wooden stones give kids the sensory experience Montessori is famed for. They're not only fun to touch, but also stackable. 

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Hey! Play! Twist Blocks: $29.99 $23.99 at Khol’s (opens in new tab)

When your kids are getting ready to learn the basics of letters and spelling (ages 3+), Hey! Play!’s twisting alphabet blocks (opens in new tab) can be a big help. These blocks twist to form different three-letter words, with one color representing consonants and the other vowels. Through tactile fun, your kids will learn the basics of phonetics. 

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Hey! Play! Rainbow Stacking Blocks: $29.99 $23.99 at Kohl’s (opens in new tab)

This one is so classic, you probably had your own set of rainbow stackers as a child. The Hey! Play! set (opens in new tab) includes three stacking blocks of different shapes: square, circular and hexagonal. 

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Hey! Play! Colorful Counting Sticks: $10.95 at Amazon (opens in new tab)

Hey! Play!’s box full of bright, colorful counting sticks (opens in new tab) teaches simple math like counting, addition, subtraction, and even multiplication and division. The set includes number blocks with symbols so kids can set up basic equations as they learn. 

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deMoca Busy Board: $47.95 at Amazon (opens in new tab)

A busy board offers lots of options for your toddler's fidgety little fingers. This one from deMoca (opens in new tab) includes a buckle, zipper, wheel gear and more. Recommended for ages 3 and up, this sensory board includes 10 preschool activities to help kids to develop their fine motor skills.

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Melissa & Doug Lacing Beads: $12.99 at Amazon (opens in new tab)

Your toddlers will develop fine motor skills, cognitive skills and visual perception as they pick up and play with the 30 different beads in Melissa and Doug's Lacing Beads set (opens in new tab). The beads come in bright, primary colors and in several different shapes with laces thin enough to easily thread through the beads. 

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Melissa & Doug Standard Blocks: $69.99 $52.49 at Amazon (opens in new tab)

Every kid should have a set of building blocks, which foster problem-solving and engineering skills early on. This set from Melissa & Doug (opens in new tab) is perfect for the little ones in your life, with blocks big enough for toddler hands to grip and shapes that can be put together to build just about anything. The set is recommended for ages 3 to 8.

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CENOVE Veggie and Fruit Sorting Box: $20.99 at Amazon (opens in new tab)

Your child can plant fruits and veggies with this fun kit that will help them learn about pattern matching. While sorting their produce, kids will also be honing their fine motor skills.

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Play Brainy Color and Shape Puzzle Game: $25.99 $14.99 at Amazon (opens in new tab)

Kids ages 4 and up can choose one of the 18 included cards and learn how to recognize and match both colors and shapes, while trying to solve that puzzle within the time limit of the hourglass. And when it's clean-up time, the wooden game board also acts as a storage box.

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Berkshiled Animal Puzzles: $29.99 at Amazon (opens in new tab)

These adorable puzzles (opens in new tab) are perfect for the tiny thinkers in your life. Cute shapes like a frog with bulbous eyes and a fluttery bumblebee create simple puzzles for babies to learn concentration, color and shape recognition, and hand-eye coordination. 

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Asher & Olivia's Math Wooden Number Shape Set : $23.99 at Amazon (opens in new tab)

This Montessori set includes multiple  toys in one, with a number puzzle, set of stacking rings, wooden shapes, two lacing toys and a learning clock. While playing with these puzzles kids will develop fine motor skills, depth-perception, and shape and color recognition. 

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Stoie's International Wooden Music Set: $39.99 at Amazon (opens in new tab)

Stoie's international music set (opens in new tab) is a gorgeous collection of wooden instruments from all around the world. Kids will use a tambourine, maracas, a hand drum, and several more instruments to create music and learn about different cultures. 

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Lewo Rainbow Stacking Game: $15.99 at Amazon (opens in new tab)

This beautiful version of the classic stacking game (opens in new tab) gives kids a little more challenge as they're stacking the arches of a rainbow on top of one another. But of course the rainbow doesn’t always have to go in the right order. This toy inspires creativity as the arches can be used as differently sized tunnels, hills, rocking chairs and more. 

Kasandra Brabaw
Live Science Contributor

Kasandra Brabaw is a freelance science writer who covers space, health and psychology. She has a bachelor's degree in science and a bachelor's degree of arts from the University of Syracuse; she completed her master's of arts degree in journalism at Syracuse University in 2014. In addition to writing for Live Science and our sister site Space.com, Kasandra has written for Prevention, Women's Health, SELF and other health publications. She has also worked with academics to edit books written for popular audiences.