I'd like to think we are a Montessori "blended" household. My son attends a Montessori preschool but we are far from a strict Montessori home. I probably do far too much for my kids for fear that they will spill milk all over the floor or cut off an arm while making a fruit salad (have you seen the videos of that little girl cutting a cantaloupe all by herself??). Not unlike any other household full of wild kids, we also have far too many partly broken, obnoxious noise making, plastic toys. But we do try. I try to purge the plastic toys regularly and I try to be conscious when bringing new toys into the house.
This time of year it is especially important to make a concerted effort, least you find your home looking like the grandparents raided the local Toys-R-Us. One of my favorite ways to attempt to curtail that is to make a Christmas "Wish List." Using Amazon's Wish List function and My Registry, I add all of the things that the kids have asked for leading up to Christmas along with things I think they would benefit from in the coming year. While some plastic toys certainly make the cut, most of the list is made up of handmade items, learning materials, clothing and pajamas and books. This year is no exception and I have already begun working on that list. Want a sneak peek of what's going on there? Here are my "Montessori-inspired" must-haves that should be on your child's holiday wish list...right beside that plastic Spiderman action figure.
First up: Pixnor's Montessori Wooden Cylinder Socket Pack available on Amazon. This 4 pack of wooden "puzzles" is suitable for kids 2 years and older and is excellent for hand-eye coordination. Each cylinder is a little different from the other (taller, thicker, etc) and each one corresponds to a slightly different hole in the base. As children play with the puzzle they observe differences and their judgement and memory are tested. Hadley, who is almost 3 years old, has played with these toys since about 18 months of age and still reaches for them on a regular basis. She knows them forwards and backwards by now, but still finds the activity quite soothing.
Next up: Mirus Toys' Double-Sided Alphabet Tracing Board. This handmade beauty features capital letters on the front, lowercase on the back and comes with a wooden stylus. Each letter has formation arrows that offer the child a visual guide for how to form the strokes of the letter correctly. The colored letters, while pretty, also serve a function in that they are colored based on how the lowercase letters are introduced by most occupational therapists:
- Magic C letters (a, c, d,g,o,q,s)
- Tall line letters (b,h,k,l,t)
- Short line letters ( i,m,n,r,v,u,w)
- Tail line letters (j,p,y)
- Odd ones out (e,f,x,z)
And when you are ready for a little imaginative play, wooden peg dolls from The Lovebug Collection can offer up hours of play. Both kids use these dolls as replacement for plastic characters all the time. They are smaller so they are able to be used with different play sets and their simplicity allows them to become whatever characters the kids can imagine. One minute Evan imagines one to be a fire fighter rescuing a cat, the next minute Hadley has the same peg doll cast in the role of Rapunzel trapped in a castle. Plus they travel easily. Our set actually visited Texas, Massachusetts and North Carolina before finally calling Florida home.
And last, but certainly not least, is handmade play dough by Z-Dough. Never again will we have any other kind of play dough. The smell, the smoothness, the feel of Z-Dough is hands down better than anything I could ever make or buy from anywhere else. Plus all of the ingredients are from her kitchen. All those amazing smells of Lavender, Wintergreen or Pineapple are coming from baking supplies or essential oils not chemicals. The best part: her subscription packs are gifts that keep giving. Order a 3, 6 or 12 month subscription and have a new pack of play dough at your door each month. This option makes it my favorite gift to give as well as a staple on my own kids' wish lists for every gift giving occasion.
So...what do you think? Did you go put all of these amazing products on your wish list? If not, you should! Any suggestions for what else should go on our wish list? Any amazing products your kids have loved that mine should try? Let us know. Santa (and those grandparents) are always looking for more ideas.
Looking for even more Montessori-inspired gifts? Check out my Amazon must-haves full of toys ready to engage and inspire.