It’s that time of year again…and I will admit I’m someone who listens to Christmas music nonstop and gets WAY into the spirit. Shopping for presents, especially for the little ones, is one of the best parts. Though I used to browse through stores while slowly sipping my peppermint latte, shopping has become a bit more expedited these days. ;) If I can’t find it online, it probably won’t make it under the tree. Now I understand why my mom had so many catalogs… With so many options online now though, it can be quite overwhelming. For me, following (or mostly) the Montessori philosophy helps to narrow things down a bit. Here are a few things I consider when picking Montessori gifts for Dakota or her friends. If you are also hoping for a Montessori-themed holiday, these might help you too!
The first consideration before buying or making a new toy/material for Dakota is what she is interested in or wanting to do right now. For example lately I’ve noticed she has been wanting to push furniture around, so I am looking for toys that she can push or pull around the house. I’ve also noticed that she has been taking my pens and pretending to scribble, so I’m starting to put together coloring and art supplies for her. It helps to observe your child when you are out and about, playing, or when they are digging through your own things, and think about what they are trying to tell you.
One of the things that first appealed to me in the Montessori classroom was the sense of purpose the toddlers showed as they busied around the room. Each material in a Montessori classroom serves a specific purpose, whether it’s learning about size discrimination, practicing the pincer grasp for writing, catering to toddlers’ need for order, or learning first sounds. Before I purchase something new for Dakota, I try to ask “what need or skill is this serving?” and if I can’t find a good answer, I skip it. If the answer is just “pure enjoyment!” that’s ok too! Especially for the holidays.
Simplicity & Beauty
Often when I’m shopping in a toy store for a new toy or a gift, I’m overwhelmed by the blast of color, noise, and action. A lot of the toys marketed to babies and toddlers are incredibly overstimulating for their small hands and minds. Montessori materials tend to look simple, but beautiful, and that’s on purpose. The simplicity allows children to use the toy independently, more easily knowing how they are supposed to use it. The Montessori materials also try to teach just one or two concepts at a time, e.g. color, shape, or number, rather than throwing too many concepts in together. Lastly, providing toys that are beautiful and made of high quality materials invite the child in and are much more likely to last and be re-used as your toddler gets older.
Sometimes as parents we want our child to be ready for a toy or activity before they actually are. It’s important to provide toys for our toddlers that are challenging, but not too challenging. If they are only given materials beyond their capability, they will feel frustrated and lack confidence to try again. If we give them toys that are too easy, they’ll grow bored and either ignore or throw things from their shelf. Sometimes we have to do a bit of trial and error with new toys to see what a good fit is. The more practice, the better you’ll be at picking something out at the right level. It’s still a work in progress for me!
With those considerations, here are the items on Dakota’s wish list (18 months at Christmas)…we’ll see which ones Santa brings!