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 and blocks that twist to form different three-letter words. Below, we've gathered some of the best Montessori toys available this holiday season. 

Chuckle & Roar Shapes and Numbers Learning Puzzle:$14.99 at Target

Chuckle & Roar Shapes and Numbers Learning Puzzle: $14.99 at Target

Little ones (ages 3+) can have hours of learning fun with Chuckle & Roar’s 4-in-1 puzzles. 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.

Cheffun Carrot Harvest:$22.46 at Amazon

Cheffun Carrot Harvest: $22.46 at Amazon

This smooth, wooden block from Cheffun 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. 

RubRab Wooden Rocks:$19.99 at Amazon

RubRab Wooden Rocks: $19.99 at Amazon

RubRab's wooden blocks 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. 

Hey! Play! Twist Blocks:$29.99$23.99 at Khol’s

Hey! Play! Twist Blocks: $29.99 $23.99 at Khol’s

When your kids are getting ready to learn the basics of letters and spelling (ages 3+), Hey! Play!’s twisting alphabet blocks 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. 

Hey! Play! Rainbow Stacking Blocks:$29.99$23.99 at Kohl’s

Hey! Play! Rainbow Stacking Blocks: $29.99 $23.99 at Kohl’s

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

Hey! Play! Colorful Counting Sticks:$10.95 at Amazon

Hey! Play! Colorful Counting Sticks: $10.95 at Amazon

Hey! Play!’s box full of bright, colorful counting sticks 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. 

deMoca Busy Board:$47.95 at Amazon

deMoca Busy Board: $47.95 at Amazon

A busy board offers lots of options for your toddler's fidgety little fingers. This one from deMoca 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.

Melissa & Doug Lacing Beads:$12.99 at Amazon

Melissa & Doug Lacing Beads: $12.99 at Amazon

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. The beads come in bright, primary colors and in several different shapes with laces thin enough to easily thread through the beads. 

Melissa & Doug Standard Blocks:$69.99 $52.49 at Amazon

Melissa & Doug Standard Blocks: $69.99 $52.49 at Amazon

Every kid should have a set of building blocks, which foster problem-solving and engineering skills early on. This set from Melissa & Doug 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.

CENOVE Veggie and Fruit Sorting Box:$20.99 at Amazon

CENOVE Veggie and Fruit Sorting Box: $20.99 at Amazon

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.

Play Brainy Color and Shape Puzzle Game: $25.99$14.99 at Amazon

Play Brainy Color and Shape Puzzle Game: $25.99 $14.99 at Amazon

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.

Berkshiled Animal Puzzles: $29.99 at Amazon

Berkshiled Animal Puzzles: $29.99 at Amazon

These adorable puzzles 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. 

Asher & Olivia's Math Wooden Number Shape Set : $23.99 at Amazon

Asher & Olivia's Math Wooden Number Shape Set : $23.99 at Amazon

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. 

Stoie's International Wooden Music Set: $39.99 at Amazon

Stoie's International Wooden Music Set: $39.99 at Amazon

Stoie's international music set 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. 

Lewo Rainbow Stacking Game: $15.99 at Amazon

Lewo Rainbow Stacking Game: $15.99 at Amazon

This beautiful version of the classic stacking game 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, 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.