Since Sirius/XM has their holiday music stations up and running, and every other commercial on TV has jingle bells and gift wrap, we thought it’s time to publish our first ever “Wish List for the Montessori Kid.”
Many parents with children in Montessori programs consider purchasing Montessori materials for holiday or birthday gifts. Parents will come and ask us, “What can we tell Nana to order for Annie?” Often, parents are taken aback when our answer is “No, please don’t do that!” While we admire and appreciate the parents’ intentions, we find that for many children working with the Montessori materials at home, as well as at school, can be confusing and overwhelming.
Children who work at home, generally don’t want to work with the same materials at school and vice versa. Additionally, inconsistencies between how the materials are used a home and in school may cause confusion and impede the classroom learning process. And, lastly, Montessori materials are just too darn expensive for parents to invest in when an individual child will only use an individual material for a relatively short period of time.
However, many great activities and materials are out there that support many of the same goals as the Montessori materials, but are not available in the classroom and are more suitable for at home.
So here a few items, grouped by level, that you can feel free to send to Nana and Pop-Pop! Be sure to check out all of the age groups, especially if your child is at the youngest end or oldest end of an age grouping.
Infant (0-16 months)
For infants and younger toddlers, a bit more overlap between home and school is ok.
- Natural teethers: Haba Toys
- Rattles made of natural materials that include bells, stretchy materials: Haba Toys , Rain Shakers
- Sensory balls: I like these because they also incorporate shapes
- Shape Sorter: Melissa and Doug Shape Sorter
- Anything to promote gross motor and movement!
- Activity Cube
- Colorful Scarves: You can do so much with these! Stuff them in a tissue box and let your little one pull them out. Dance with them. Name the colors. Play Peek-a-Boo.
- Dusting Activities: Little ones love to dust. Crawlers can wear them on the hands and knees!!
- Nesting/Stacking Cups
- Table Top Easel Except Put It on the Floor! Art with babies can be a bit scary, but go for it! Limit babies to one color at a time and small amounts of paint, chalk, etc.
Toddler (16 months-3.5 years old)
- Gross Motor Activities. If there is one thing this age group craves, it’s movement!
- Bilibo Seat
- Mini Trampoline. Place in front of a mirror for the most fun!
- Balance Bike – There are plenty to choose from, but be sure to get one with platforms for your child to place their feet as they become more comfortable gliding. It will save their shoes!
- Climber – If space allows, keep it indoors! For outside, hit the nearest playground and let them try some bigger equipment
- Cook Book and Apron
- Puzzles – Simple and Complex (ones that incorporate matching, locking mechanisms, matching, etc.)
- Simple Games
- Building Blocks: Make sure they are not magnetic or self-adhering in anyway. Balancing the blocks is a key developmental milestone.
- Train Set: Make sure it allows for multiple configurations!
- DIY Dress Up Trunk: DIY can be intimidating, but it is so fun and often WAY more affordable. Focus on using real clothes and/or costumes that reflect real professions (doctor, police officer, hairdresser, etc.) Of course, including the occasional princess or superhero is fine too!) Include gloves, shoes, socks, jewelry etc. And make sure your child dresses him or herself! The real beauty is the way it fosters self-dressing!
- Water/Sand Table: And think beyond sand and water. Certainly you will want to use those as times, but in other seasons consider leaves, snow, slime, or simple water, dish soap and whisk. Also be sure to add some other materials in – shovels, cars, blocks, etc.
- Sewing Block or Lacing Cards or Bead Stringing
- Books, Books, and More Books! Read them together. Toddlers particularly like books with real photographs (as opposed to illustrations). The DK line of books have tons of these types and are great for vocabulary building. Plus, they have books for all ages!!
Children’s House (a.k.a Primary, a.k.a. 3-6 years old – if you have a young 3 year old, check out the Toddler section too and if you have an older Kindergartner, check out the Elementary section)
- Craft projects:
- Puzzles: Always aim for a little harder than you think your child can do
- Simple Mandala Color Books: Give your children the relaxation and creativity of coloring with a challenge that goes beyond kids coloring books. Use colored pencils for precision
- Roller skates or Ice Skates. A great way to get kids moving, but be sure to get the real deal, not the training ones.
- Marble Maze Building Set
- Board Games: Children in this age group really begin to grasp the concept of board games and choices are unlimited. Plus, they reinforce taking turns, playing by the rules, and losing gracefully!
- Puppet Show Theater: Wait and see the productions your children will perform, but have the children design their own puppets!
- Subscription Boxes: “The gift that keeps on giving the whole year round” – Especially helpful if your little one has a birthday that falls close to holidays and you want to spread out the presents
- DIY Profession Kits: No doubt children love to play doctor, school, etc., but give them a play kit, with the read deal. For relatively little money, you can put together a small box with real working items!! Enlist friends and family for help.
- Doctor’s Kit: A working stethoscope, thermometer, bandages and wraps, x-rays, reflex hammer, a small clipboard. All available on Amazon, but also talk to your doctor and nurse friends.
- Hairdresser’s Kit: Clips, brushes, old hairdryer, spray bottle. Forage underneath the bathroom sink. Child size, working hair tools are also available
- Teacher’s Kit: Chalk, a small chalkboard, books, paper, pencils, etc.
- Build A Fort Kit: Easy to DIY with a plastic storage box, a set of sheets, some paper and sticker letters for signs, and potato chip clips, or purchase a pre-made kit: Fat Brain Fort Kit or Build About Fort Kit
- An experience with you: Tickets to an event (play, musical, ice show), a museum outing, afternoon tea, a manicure/pedicure, Touch-a-Truck events, Medieval Times, etc.
- And, once again, books! Again, think about including some a little bit above your child’s level. Maybe grab some small chapter books for your 4-year-old or some Roald Dahl for your Kindergartner
Elementary (6-9 years old)
Some of the suggestions above can be expanded upon. For example, a more advanced cook book, or choose a subscription box for an older age group.
- Bee-Bot and Pro-Bot: Simple robotics activities
- Makey Makey: Forget using technology, try creating it!
- Experiences: Like above consider tickets to an event, or an outing to a museum, theme park, or even the movies. However, at this age, you could explain the concept of an experience as a gift and allow the child to choose and plan his or her experience.
- Science Experiment Kits
- Fiber Art Activities:
- Sewing Machine and Supplies
- Weaving Looms Note: Loop looms are popular right now, but keep in mind the variety of projects is limited and you have to buy more expensive specialty loops. Stick to a traditional loom for versatility.
- Knitting Needles and Yarn: Here is some basic info to get your child started with knitting
- Classes/lessons. This is another great option if you’d like to stretch the usefulness of a gift. It can be anything that might interest your child from ice skating to cooking to a musical instrument.
- Construction materials: Kids love to construct and nothing is more exciting than using large, real-life materials. Check out Kodo Kids for inspiration (don’t even look at the prices, you’ll have a heart attack!), but you can DIY it at Home Depot/Michaels for MUCH less. It can be a simple as some PVC pipes with connectors and bag of marbles. Let Home Depot know what you are doing, they often give out scraps for free for kids!
- Snap Circuits: For the budding electrical engineer
- Active Play: Big kids need movement and outdoor play, just as much as the little ones
- Fine Arts Supplies. Time to move beyond Crayola. Stock a kit with pastels, drawing pencils, paints of various bases: oil, acrylic, etc., different types of paper, small canvases. Or buy one, but look for ones geared towards adults or older children
- Story Time Dice: Maybe your child is the next J.K. Rowling!
- Board Games. Focus on those games that incorporate strategy.
- Magazine Subscriptions: Most of these magazines also have editions for younger children and are also great gift ideas, just be prepared that younger children will probably need more adult support to get the most out of them.
- A telescope
- Starter Archery Set: For the those kids who love to shoot things!
- Keva Planks: Unlimited building options!
- And, your guessed it, books!! For the elementary crowd, throw in some non-fiction: cookbooks, science, biographies. Children this age love humor; try some joke books. You can also experiment with different formats like graphic novels.
Hopefully, this will fill you with inspiration. Gift buying can be very overwhelming. Montessori generally believes less is more. Consider these guidelines when planning your gift giving for your children
- Something He/She Needs
- New Soccer Ball
- New Ballet Leotard
- Something He/She Wants
- The item they keep talking and asking about. Probably the one, you are least enthusiastic about, but go for it!
- Something to Wear
- Think along the lines of something you wouldn’t regularly buy. Perhaps a more expensive brand or something a bit silly
- Start a tradition. In our family, everyone gets a pair of jammies, every year
- Something to Make
- Science experiment
- Something to Do
- The experiences like we discussed in the list
- Something to Read: I know we’re pretty adamant about books, but to this day I still look forward to what book my mom will pick out for me
- Something to Share
- A movie the family can watch together
- A board game
- Or this one is easy to combine with one of the other categories.