Category Archives: Toys

What are we learning at 18 months

“Education is a natural process carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words, but by experiences in the environment.” (Maria Montessori)

S and I have been doing alot of activities that require concentration lately. Besides working with the purposeful educational toys we do alot of activities that can easily be set up at home at close to zero cost.

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this develops concentration, hand-eye coordination, we are using pipe cleaners and colander

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We are using pigs and a chocolate tin for this activity. S is immensely engaged whilst developing a number of skills through this learning experience.

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This has to be one of our favorites at the moment. I find such activities to be hugely popular by young children. Photos speak a thousand words here. So much learning is being unfolded as the child explores each item of the treasure basket. I sometimes just sit back and watch S as she eagerly opens each bag to find the treasure hidden inside. It is fascinating to watch her enthusiasm and the amount of effort she puts in to overcome the difficulties.

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we are learning to peel an egg, slice it with the “egg slicer” and eat it.

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Soon I will write a post about gardening and how it helps the young child to learn about our mother earth and sustainability. All we do at the moment is watering our winter veges and daffodils. We are in a middle of a cold and wet winter, very much looking forward to spring so we can get out more often and plant some more veges. I have done a course on composting and that will also be next on our to do list.

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learning to use tongs, transferring activity and at snack table.

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Weaning table must be one of the best pieces of furniture we bought for S. I can not imagine not having it. She sits there and enjoys having her food in peace. She goes to the fridge, chooses what she likes to eat, and takes it to her low table and has it for snack. It is the most enjoyable thing to watch. I find it so reassuring that she is able to identify her needs (hunger in this instance) and find appropriate ways to meet them. I believe this gives her a strong feeling of security and belonging. When she is finished she cleans up after herself. It is so rewarding to see how an 18 months old is so capable and I am so pleased that our prepared environment allows this natural learning to unfold.


16-18 months

Besides working/playing with toys/Montessori materials, we do a range of other activities. There are days that we just don’t do much and there are days we are very busy. Here are some examples of what we have been up to!

very proud of our little herb garden, love the smell of our basil leaves, they are thriving and looking absolutely gorgeous, S loves to pick the leaves and smell them, feel them, and put them in her mouth, what great sensorial learning! We are right in the middle of a very wet winter, can’t wait for the spring, we got all our child size gardening tools ready and a huge front yard with a big vege garden that has been neglected lately!!!

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this is such a cool ride on toy

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rice and beans, exploring texture and sound, sorting (separating them, mixing them)!!!

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lots and lots of art activities

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S enjoys pushing her pram rather than being pushed in the pram!! yes our short walk can become rather long but let’s look at it from our little intrepid explorer’s eyes

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We are learning how to put shoes on and how to take them off independently! S can do it all by herself at 17 months. This is something that she has learnt all on her own (observing adults in the environment and imitating them in her self-formation journey). To find out what type of shoes is appropriate for children who are learning to walk see this post from Kylie from howwemontessori.

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exploring colours in different ways

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learning the concept of floating and sink, soluble and unsoluble

Sand, oil and water in one bottle, water and rocks in another

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sensory learning experience, coloured rice, got the idea from here

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we are refining our self-help and self-care skills, developing concentration, independence, and self-esteem through learning to self-feed at our weaning table

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a short walk on a cold winter day, the feeling of a gentle breeze,  feeling safe and secure with Daddy!


how much learning occurs by just being free in the nature? being able to feel the texture of sand with your whole body, walking,rolling,crawling on the leaves of trees on a beautiful autumn day, walking bare feet on grass, rocks, sand! take in the beauty of nature with all senses! We MUST allow learning to unfold naturally and what better place than in nature, our beautiful mother earth!!

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“As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth; to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen unself- consciously to the soughing of the trees.”

Valerie Andrews, A Passion for this Earth

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learning to play on the beat with our African drum!

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ball skills, throwing, catching, kicking, very important for coordination, gross motor and cognitive development

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the dirty dishes go in the dishwasher after finishing our snack (we are in the process of setting up a washing station)

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Please share with us some other DIY activities you do with your toddler?

On our shelves at 16 months

S is now 16 months old and I am constantly thinking of new activities to set up for her. Most of these are easy and cheap to make and offer great learning opportunities for our young ones.


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Top shelves left to right:


Car tracker racer, S and her dad play together and love racing the cars down the track.

Basket of farm animals, at the moment we only look at each animal, talk about their body shape, we name them, and we learn what sound they make. This is an activity that could be used for many months to come from easy to complex. Some extensions for this activity are to learn what each animal eat, which continent (country) they are from, names of female, male, and babies, and to match them with picture cards and name cards (3 years old plus). Schleich is a great brand, expensive but quality. I went with a cheaper type thought.


Opening and closing lids, S shows so much interest in getting into my makeup bag to open and close makeup containers. So here I have a basket of empty containers for her to explore. This keeps her engaged for a long time.


Wooden board with pegs (Montessori material). It develops child’s hand coordination. It needs a great deal of concentration and perseverance. I introduced this to S yesterday and I could see how much effort was needed to hold a small peg and put it into a small hole holding the right end. To help S with this activity so it is not too hard I worked alongside her and put one in and let her put another one in. It was so lovely to be able to do a difficult task together with each other’s help.

Bottom shelf from left to right:

Balls in a muffin tray, for now we are only taking them out and putting them back in, but this could be used for sorting colours and counting later on.


Sensory fabrics, here I have put together a box of different type fabrics with different texture for S to explore (two of each fabric). Extension is to try to match fabrics and later on learn the name of each fabric and maybe even try to identify each fabric using a blindfold.


Pompoms in egg tray, to put in each compartment and take out, helps with hand-eye coordination, recognition of colour, pinch grip, and concentration.


Depositing coloured sticks, Daddy drilled some holes on the lid and sanded it to make it smooth and safe to touch. It is used to deposit small thin sticks into the jar. It helps alot with concentration, hand-eye coordination, and pinch grip. This is a great activity even for older children.

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Here is another cheap activity, fun and engaging and keeps my girl busy while I am cooking dinner, I first started with one tube, now there are two and as I finish using a roll of paper towel I will add another tube to make it harder and to keep her interest.

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S Loves her Russian Dolls, still trying to figure out which one goes in which but she can open them and finds it so exciting to discover a smaller doll inside



More toys ideas at 14 months

Some of these toys could be used well before 14 months of age (e.g. bead maze, deposit boxes, etc). I researched and bought these toys well before S was ready and kept them in the toys cupboard and brought each one out when I felt the time was right. S was using the bead maze since she was 6 months old. At the beginning she would only move one bead at a time and now she manipulates them in different ways. some of these toys such as the puzzles and the deposit boxes could be used together to make the activity more complex as the child becomes more capable. e.g. to provide more challenge we can simply combine the rectangular and square prism activities.  Image

Top shelf left to right:

discs on horizontal dowel and vertical dowels, these were designed by Montessori, purpose: hand-eye coordination, practice with different finger grasps, Indirect purpose: colour recognition, sorting and categorizing

Wooden pounding bench:

purpose: hand-eye coordination, basic of cause and effect, motor skills

drawing activity,

a selection of felt pens and a paper, I chose a brand that is easy for a 14 months old to hold and easily makes mark on paper

object permanence box with drawer and a single circle puzzle (Montessori materials)

I have explained about puzzles here, object permanence box purpose: develops hand-eye coordination, and indirectly allows child to experience object permanence, works on precise hand movement, wrist and finger control

Bottom shelf left to right:

Mommy made object permanence box with tray and ball (Montessori material)

purpose: the child has to drop the ball into the hole, the balls rolls down into the tray, she becomes familiar with the object permanence concept, refined hand movement meaning control of wrist and finger grasp

Montessori puzzles as explained here in this post

deposit box with rectangular prisms, I used formula tin to make this, purpose: to fit the prisms into the hole, preparation for shape sorting activity and shape recognition, this idea was to provide similar experience that an imbucare box provides, I could not justify spending hundreds of dollars to purchase all these Montessori materials.

deposit box with square prisms

on the left side of the shelf there is a box of Lego, a basket of musical instruments, bead maze which S loves and spends considerable amount of time working with, and a wagon as explained here


top shelf

a small bead maze (manipulative skills, hand-eye coordination, concentration, shapes and colours recognition, etc)

twisty worm (can be twisted at the joints, good for motor skills)

pull along toys

sound jars (rice in one jar and spice in the other, early sound recognition, preparation for using Montessori sound boxes, look here for more details)

bottom shelf:

treasure basket with kitchen utensils, just to explore different items in the kitchen and to become familiar with the way to hold them, preparation for using them later in the practical life activities, learning their names (language lessons)

chalk and blackboard for drawing


I try to select toys that are age-appropriate, durable, good quality, educational, and made of natural material (e.g. wood).

We have two shelves, one in the main living room of the house and one in S’s bedroom (to display/keep the toys). I only leave few toys out at a time, making it easy for S to choose from. I do not like clutter and too many toys out could make children frustrated (when there is too much stimulation children may totally loose interest). Therefore, the rest of our toys are kept in a cupboard and are rotated every couple of weeks, I keep the ones S shows more interest in and introduce some new ones and bring out a few that she used to work with. I tend to present new toys to S as I add them on the shelves and then I leave it up to her to explore them in her own way. From my observations, I have realised that S first tends to explore a new toy in a different way that I showed it to her but gradually finds her own way to use the toy for the purpose it was made for. For instance, the pop up toy, for days S only took the cylinders out, chew on them, and rolled them on the floor. after that, she discovered how to push them down with her fingers to pop out (she needed my help to put them back in), in a couple of weeks she could put the cylinders back in by herself and continue the cycle on her own. It is amazing to watch how learning unfolds and how children are capable of their own learning.

This shelf is in our main lounge


Top shelf from left to right:

Musical instrument basket, pop up toy (develops hand-eye coordination, strenghtens the musles of the index finger, helps with colour recognition), rainbow stacker (to promote hand-eye coordination, recognition of size and sequencing)

Bottom shelf left to right:

transferring activity (transferring pompoms from one bucket to another, to practice pinche gripping, develops concentration), object permanence box with drawer and a single circle shape puzzle, depositing activity (used a formula tin, painted it, made a hole on the lid big enough to fit cylinders through), and a xylophone

Shelf in S’s bedroom


top shelf:

nesting cups, drum and shaker, shape sorter

bottom shelf:

selection of balls, a few blocks

Transferring pompoms


look what arrived in the post today 🙂 S is right into it


Mummy made deposit box




First puzzle:

Montessori’s first puzzle is an individual circle puzzle with a large nob, the reason to introduce this before any other kind of puzzle is, all Montessori work materials are designed from simple to complex and this definitely is the simplest and the most appropriate one to introduce as a first puzzle, circle is the simplest shape as it has no corner and a large nob makes it easy to hold, and the fact that there is only one shape and one hole to fit it in makes it the least complicated puzzle. Montessori believed that children should only be given activities that are just a little above their capabilities. If an activity is too hard for their age/capabilities they loose interest in it and if it is too easy there is no challenge. After just a couple of weeks of working with this puzzle S is ready to be introduced to a more complicated puzzle. The next inline is a single square puzzle and then a single triangle puzzle followed by the 3 circle puzzle and three shape puzzles as in the pictures.

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