Updated: Nov 22
Every year, I get requests for Christmas gift ideas and every year I say that I’ll write a list, but so far I have never managed to get around to it.
2021 is the year that I am finally doing this, so here’s your ultimate Christmas gift guide, conveniently organised by age! This is a document that I aim to update occasionally too, so if you have any suggestions that could be added, I'd love to hear them.
Please note - not all of these recommendations are Montessori materials, however, they are Montessori aligned. I never recommend electronically activated toys because they are passive entertainment and do not activate your child's natural desire to discover and play for lengths of time. The more the toy does, the less the child gets from it.
P.S. If you're looking for some fun festive activities, grab your free copy of my activity advent calendar HERE!
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Your baby, especially at newborn age, really doesn't need much. Less is more, however, if you want to buy or make something that's totally amazing for your baby's growing brain, here are some fab ideas for your 0-3 month old:
Montessori visual mobiles - Specifically designed to match your baby's developing vision and a very easy DIY. Christmas doesn't have to be expensive! Check out my blog here for more info on how to make your own.
Black and white pictures or books - babies love high contrast imagery. You can easily make these or buy a fold out book like Black and White by Tana Hoban.
Montessori topponcino - A Montessori classic. A soft, cotton pad used as a point of reference for baby as their (and your) scent calms them from continuous use. I love these ones by May Montessori on Etsy.
Etta Loves muslins - beautifully soft and gorgeous patterns scientifically designed to match your baby’s developing vision.
Mindful Parenting Company Subscription - Such a gorgeous way to settle into motherhood with evidence-based information to support and guide you, plus gifts for parent and baby!
3 months +
As your baby learns more about how to control their hands, they'll begin to seek out items to grasp and bat. Choose simple toys that are light enough for them to hold independently or make a noise when your baby handles them.
Grasping toys - Your baby will be getting the hang of holding onto things and manipulating objects in their hands. Toys like a simple bell rattle by the Play Tribe, a Montessori puzzle ball or a Manhattan Toys Skwish are all ideal for grasping.
Teethers - Right now, teething might be on the horizon for your baby. There are so many on the market it can be difficult to know what's best to get. Generally, I advise getting something that's lightweight, easy to hold and natural. Some of my favourites are the Calmies teether, Yummikeys, and this round teether. You can also make a simple ribbon teether by tying some ribbon to a wooden ring. Use an overhand loop knot to ensure the ribbons can’t come off.
Mirror - Babies love to look at faces but also, in Montessori, showing the baby their full body helps them to learn about how their body moves. Installing a long mirror on the wall at floor level is ideal, bit if you'd prefer one that's more transportable, I love this acrylic mirror here.
Tactile mobiles - Now your baby wants to grasp and bat, the Montessori tactile mobiles will be an absolute hit. Check out Nicole's tutorial on The Kavanaugh Report on how to make a ribbon mobile. Your baby may also love playing with a simple wooden wind chime. Suspend above them within reach and they'll have a whale of a time.
6 months +
From around 6 months old, your baby is on the MOVE! They'll love exploring and discovering how their bodies move so play into that and encourage them!
Crawling toys - Simpler is better for your baby so offering your baby some simple toys for them to crawl after like the Montessori interlocking discs, the bell in a cylinder or an Oball are ideal as they don't roll away too quickly, but provide visual, tactile and audible interest as well.
Treasure basket - Also called heuristic play, this is the ideal activity for a child aged 6 months plus. You can set it up super easily and its very affordable too. Check out my guide on how to create a heuristic play basket here.
Play silks - So much fun for peekaboo but also, these silks are so versatile in play. They can be capes, landscapes in small world or even a tail (to name a few). The leading brand is Sarah's Silks, but you can also buy a pack of 6 simple ones here.
Weaning utentils - Forget the plastic cutlery, suction plates and sippy cups. In Montessori, we give children the real deal from a young age. Learn more about Montessori weaning here. Here are my favourite weaning items for babies: small glass tumblers, Doddl cutlery and Montessori baby bibs and place settings by The Marula Tree on Etsy.
Mirror balls - A favourite for babies and toddlers alike are the mirror sensory balls.
12 months +
At 12 months, your baby is likely walking or close to it and will certainly be on the move. Movement is super important for this age group, so choosing toys that will help your baby gain the skills they need in order to walk confidently are really great for their development.
Wooden walker - Choose one that's simple, heavy and sturdy so that it doesn't run away from them when they're walking. One like this with wooden blocks is good as it weighs down the walker and provides stability.
Climbing triangle - Even if your baby isn't walking yet, climbing triangles are a great way for your little one to get some gross motor practise in. Many babies climb before they can walk. The Tri-climb is an excellent UK brand, as is the Sawdust and Rainbows one. Both have add-ons available like slide attachments and bridges.
Schleich animals - An absolute must have! In Montessori we go for realism and the Schleich animals are just that! The detail is truly amazing. You can buy here.
Shape puzzles - The Montessori shape puzzles are a great first puzzle for your child as they gain more accurate motor skills.
Board books - At 12 months, babies love books with human faces like Baby Up, Baby Down, Smile (and other baby faces books in the series), Global Babies, My First Body, as well as books about animals like this one by Priddy Books.
Sand toys - Choose an eco brand like this one from Green Toys.
Musical instruments - Your baby will love making their own music. Choose a set that's quite realistic and easy to hold like the Melissa & Doug Band In A Box.
Photo book of family members - An easy DIY but a very enjoyable one! Your baby will really love recognising their family members in a book they can keep. You can make your own with a simple photo album or order one to be printed online, like this board book from Photobox.
18 months +
As your little one transitions from observant baby to busy toddler, you'll be amazed at the skills they'll be picking up with speed!
Cleaning set - Choose a child-sized set of cleaning tools like a small dustpan and brush, small cloths or mits, a child-sized spray bottle and a broom. You don't need to get a toy set or buy toy versions. The most important thing is that they're functional, so your child can actually use them. This classic sweeping set is ideal.
Realistic doll - Bring out your child's nurturing side with a realistic doll. An anatomically correct doll is best, like these ones by Miniland.
Peg puzzles - Your child's fine motor skills are developing and a peg puzzle really helps with this. I love these realistic vegetable ones from Absorbent Minds.
Coin box - Toddlers love putting things inside things. You can easily DIY a coin box with a little gift box and some milk bottle tops, but if you'd prefer a wooden toy, this one is lovely.
Colour paddles - Perfect for visual stimulation and colour recognition.
Sensory blocks - Versatile and fun to explore!
Ball push - Develops hand-eye coordination and object permanence.
Ride on toy - Your child will want to push their body to the limit, now they're likely to be successfully walking. A child of this age just needs to move! A ride on toy like this Scuttlebug is great because it's lightweight and easy to maneuvre, plus your child pushes it along with their feet.
A child-sized sling - a lovely alternative to a bulky buggy or pram. You can buy the children’s toy Tula from Lizzie, here.
2 years +
Now you're officially in toddlerhood, your little one will love being involved in everything that's going on in the home. Practical life activities are LIFE at this age, so get some functional toys and items that your curious child can use to mimic you.
Magnatiles - A sensory classic. Magnatiles are versatile and beautiful.
Books - Go for realistic stories and imagery so that your child can make connections with and deepen their understanding of the real world. Like this
Watercolour paints - Relatively mess free and fun for your little one to explore. You could choose something affordable like this one or go for something more expensive like this organic Okonorm palette.
Colour matching toys - This Montessori colour matching toy is ideal for 2 years.
Water calligraphy mat - Mess free art! Your child paints on the mat with water and as it dries, it disappears. You can get one at Inquisitarium.
Scissors - Choose scissors with a spring mechanism as this helps them to reopen the hand after squeezing the scissors shut. I love these Baker Ross ones.
Baking equipment - Your little one doesn't just want to mimic you, they want to join in! Get them a set of functional baking equipment that they can actually use. I'd recommend walking around a cheap shop locally and looking for real items that are child-sized, like a small hand whisk, a small glass bowl, small set of spoons etc.
Jugs for pouring - Help them to increase their independence with a small 250ml jug. I love this little glass one by Amazing Child Montessori because your child doesn't need to tip it too much in order to pour.
Squeezy bottles for watering plants - Toddlers love watering plants, but parents don't usually love their plants being flooded! I bought these squeezy water bottles for my daughter when she was 2 and they worked perfectly.
Wooden blocks - There are a myriad of wooden blocks sets to choose from out there. Your rule of thumb is that simpler is better. The simpler the set, the more creativity it encourages. I love these simple Ocamora blocks or if you're looking for a larger set, these Melissa and Doug ones are great.
Playdoh - What 2 year old doesn't love playdoh? You can make your own or buy a set.
Balance bike - Balance bikes are a great option for toddlers as it helps them gain stability on a bike from the beginning. There are many to choose from so I'd recommend reading this blog to understand more about what to choose for your little one.
Shape sorter - Great for developing dexterity. If you want a more mainstream shape sorter, this Melissa and Doug one is a nice option, or if you're looking for a Montessori material, go with an imbucare box like these from Absorbent Minds.
Vehicles - Go for something realistic. Metal diecast cars and vehicles are great.
3 years +
Welcome to the preschool years! Your child's mantra for this phase of life is "help me to do it myself". They love the sense of achievement they get by completing a task all by themselves. Your child will also begin to show an interest in letters and numbers, so I've included some toys here that will tap into their new-found interests.
Dressing up sets - Choose something realistic like a doctor's outfit or a firefighter's outfit over a character or made up creature. This will play to your child's natural sense of understanding the real world. I love the range of Melissa and Doug outfits, but also, dress up doesn't need to be complicated or fancy. Head to your local charity shop and grab some fun hats, glasses or jewellery, or even buy some real tools like a stethoscope, some bandages or a forehead thermometer.
Small world play - Now your child is less likely to mouth their toys, you can safely introduce small world play. Playmobil sets are fairly realistic, robust and fun. See if you can get some second hand or if not, you can buy here.
Dressing frames - As your child really wants to do things for themselves, the Montessori dressing frames are perfect for practising those day-to-day skills that help them feel more independent.
Kitchen equipment - Get them involved in the kitchen with child-sized kitchen equipment. I love the Opinel knife set for a 3 year old. It's pricey, but in our house it get's a lot of use! Other popular knives in the Montessori world are the Kuhn Rikon knives, or you could get a cheap set of plastic knives like these. The main thing to be aware of is functionality. Of course, children must be supervised when using knives.
Gardening equipment - Go for realistic but child-sized. Sometimes European supermarkets will do sets, if you keep an eye out on their weekly stock. I like these metal ones by BigJigs.
Stacking puzzle - Some lovely alternatives to the standard 12 piece puzzles are stacking puzzles. There are loads to choose from but I love these growth puzzles from Absorbent Minds.
Finger puppets and hand puppets - Go for something realistic, like animals that are in the correct colours or people rather than made up creatures as this really taps into your preschooler's will to understand the real world. If you live in Essex, like me, the Essex Wildlife Trust gift shops do some gorgeous little puppets and soft animals. Otherwise, you can get some lovely hand and finger puppets here.
Torch - Get a real one that your child can use easily like this dynamo torch that doesn't need batteries.
Geo board - A great toy for developing finger strength in preparation for writing. It's a simple peg board that your child stretches elastic bands over to create their own design. When they're older, they can still use it to copy shapes and designs.
Number and counting tiles - Your little one may be starting to show an interest in writing numbers or counting. These gorgeous number puzzles by Lilou Toys help your child to form numbers accurately as well as count.
Alphabet puzzle - Choose an alphabet puzzle that enables your child to feel the shapes of the letters, rather than just look at them. This one by BigJigs is excellent.
4 years +
Oh hello 4! This is such a fun age. They're still young and excited by the world but they're getting a better sense of what to expect from life. They can control their bodies much more easily, have better dexterity and may begin writing or reading. Here are my favourite toys for the age of 4:
Tangrams - A simple maths toy that has endless uses. This natural one from Jeu Montessori enables your child to discriminate between shapes whilst not getting distracted by colour. It's also super cheap!
Hama beads - Great for fine motor and creativity.
Lite brite - Also great for fine motor and creativity!
Games - There are so many games out there! If you're looking for a game to help with letter recognition, I love the Orchard toys Match and Spell game. The Orchard Toys Game of Ladybirds is a lovely one for counting. We also love the Haba My Very First Games, in particular the First Orchard is a lovely cooperative game.
Ukelele - 4 is not too young to introduce an instrument. A ukelele is a great option as it's small for little hands and many of the chords only require one finger.
Geomags - Versatile and great for creativity.
Tool kit - This does need to be a supervised activity, of course, but allowing your child to use real tools over pretend ones means they can actually use them as they're intended. Go to a DIY store and you'll be able to find small handled screw drivers, small hammers, tape measurers and other tools that your child can use with success. I'd also recommend getting some children's safety goggles and small offcuts of wood for them to play around with. Alternatively you can get them a tool kit like this one, which has everything your child will need.
Kapla - A suuuuper versatile toy that breeds creativity.
Natural Grimms Rainbow - A gorgeous toy that does tend to make its way around the Montessori world (even though it isn't actually Montessori at all). Choose the natural version of this iconic toy for a more Montessori aligned approach.
5 years +
Your little one may be showing some signs of moving into the second plane of development now. The next phase of development is a period of relative calm
Lego - If your little one isn't into it yet, I'm sure they will be at some point! 5 is a great age to introduce Lego. The instruction booklets are super easy to follow and it's a great fine motor activity. We love the Creator 3 in 1 sets.