By the time your child has become a toddler, they have already learned so much! They can stand, walk, and use their hands, and they are expressing their independence and thinking in new ways. They have spent the first year of their life doing the hard work of transitioning from baby to toddler, and now they are ready to refine their gross motor and fine motor abilities, as well as their independence and cognitive abilities.
At this point, your child is ready for a new level of learning toys for toddlers. But what can you give them to let them practice their skills? Thankfully, the Montessori curriculum has a well-developed program for your toddler, complete with activities and toys to help them with this important work.
Learning toys for toddlers that promote gross motor coordination
Ideal toys for toddlers are those that encourage balance, standing, and controlled movement that challenge them at exactly the right level.
Introducing a toy known as the “tracker” will help your child fine-tune their balance by isolating their center of gravity. First, they will squat to pick up a ball from the base of the toy, then they will stand in order to put the ball in the hole at the top of the toy. When the ball finishes traveling down the tracks and reaches the base, they will squat to get the ball and start the activity again. Each time your little one squats and stands, they are refining their sense of balance by locating their center of gravity in order to move vertically without falling over.
Next, you can offer a pull-toy to your child. The toy will drag along behind your little one as they toddle and work to refine their walking skills. Your child will engage their core muscles and fine-tune their balance every time they turn to check on the toy.
The push-toy will travel ahead of your child as they push it on the ground. This, again, encourages the practice with walking and gives your child a slightly more elevated challenge so that they refine their gross motor abilities as they move along with the toy. Once your child has mastered the push toy inside, you can take it to new terrain outdoors for a new challenge.
Toys that help develop fine motor coordination
Now that your little one can use their hands purposefully, manage several different grips, and release objects at will, they also will need to work on their fine motor coordination.
The best toddler learning toys to accomplish this refinement all offer different ways of using their hands in precise ways.
Simple puzzles and rings with dowels are the ideal beginning toys for refining the use of a child’s hands. Your little one will experiment with how to fit puzzle pieces into frames and how to manage rings onto the dowels by rotating their wrists in different ways and holding their fingers in various positions.
As they master these simpler activities, they will be ready for more complicated learning toys. You can offer puzzles and dowels with shapes that are more challenging. And, your toddler may begin simple beading tasks. Putting large beads on a string will require a new level of dexterity and precision.
Once all these activities are mastered, the Montessori curriculum introduces new toys that provide more opportunities for fitting shapes together and using string or other small tools precisely. A lacing set and the gluing set, like the ones included in the Level 7 and Level 8 Monti Kids boxes, respectively, are both excellent examples of ways to maintain your toddler’s interest in activities that further refine the use of the hand.
Toys that encourage independence in toddlers
Your toddler will want to do many things on their own, and it is in their best interest that you support them in this desire. They want to dress themselves, but clothes have so many parts! Now, you can look for learning toys that support this desire.
A great example is the set of dressing frames that Dr. Montessori designed. The dressing frames offer isolated opportunities with built-in repetition to practice different clothing enclosures— velcro, snaps, and buttons. Your toddler can practice with one dressing frame at a time until they master each type. Being able to practice these parts of clothing in isolation will help them when it is time to get dressed on their own.
Toddler toys that develop cognitive skills
There are two main ways to support the development of your toddler’s cognitive skills. The first is to look for activities that involve multiple-step processes.
Baking is an amazing way to involve your little one in a simple process with a satisfying product. Introduce a set of baking tools as a way to engage your toddler in the baking process.
They can help dump the ingredients into the bowl, mix, roll out the dough, cut out shapes, and then transfer the shapes to a baking sheet. It may seem simple to an adult, but to a child, it is a complicated process with many steps. All of the logical steps will help them think through what order the work should happen in and how one part of the process relates to another. This is important for supporting their cognitive development.
Here are other practical life activities that will help you include your child in processes with multiple steps.
The second way to support your toddler’s cognitive skills is to find toys that allow for experimentation, pattern, and consequences. Many of the toys that satisfy their urge to refine their fine motor abilities will also provide this opportunity.
As they try to figure out which object fits through the circular hole, they will experiment with different shapes, ruling out the ones with straight lines, and eventually determining that it is the cylinder that goes through the circle.
Similarly, the peg board, which consists of 25 pegs of 5 different colors, will look different depending on how they replace the pegs back in the board. As your toddler plays with the pegs and puts them back in different ways, they will discover how their choices affect the way the board looks. And they can think through how they want the board to look as they choose where to put the pegs.
Toddlers are ready to do so much! From gross motor activities to fine motor coordination to helping around the house, they are learning how to anticipate next steps and adjust their movements. We can support them by preparing play experiences and the best learning toys to challenge their developing minds and bodies.