When I look at materials for my children I ask the same basic questions as everyone else, what is it made of, is it good quality? But my focus isn't on the materials. It's never really about the materials. It is about what the child can do with the materials.
Yes, our brooms are wooden, high quality. But what can a child do with it? The child can participate. They can clean up a breakage. They can tidy a space or a room or a house. They can feel empowered, trusted. What about a lovely Butterfly mobile. They are designed by Holly Zucker and handmade in the Pacific North West. But what can the child do with it? They provide a very young child their first opportunity to work. They provide opportunity for concentration, for beauty, for tracking, for visual discrimination.
Here are my picks for gift giving from HWM Shop with international alternatives provided where possible, ages are not always relevant but I've broken them into three general categories.
1. Three Shape Puzzle. Once a baby can sit independently they will like to work with their hands. This is the same Australian made shape puzzle we used in our home. Otis worked out the circle first and then spent time working at the square and triangle. Puzzles promote hand eye coordination, visual discrimination and allow the young child to concentrate and complete a task. (Similar available by Kid O).
2. & 3. Butterfly and Whale (Mother and Baby) Mobiles. Mobiles are the child's first work. Butterflies and whales would have to be two of the most beautiful animals to put on a mobile. The whale mobile was used both by Sara at Feeding the Soil and Meg at Sew Liberated. (Also available at Michael Olaf).
5. Pop-Up Toy. This little pop up toy has been loved by Montessori families for years for good reason. Coordination is required to put the little pegs in the hole (perhaps with some colour matching work) and then push down and track them as they 'pop' back up. (Also available in the US here)
6. This crochet rattle is divine. Otis used his for months and it's totally chewable. The young child can grasp the lovely tactile rattle and shake for the bells to ring. The child will begin to make intentional and coordinated movement to shake the rattle. (Also available from Pinkhouse on Etsy).
7. 9. and 10. Beautiful and simple wooden toys for the infant. A child who has just begun to grasp will like to hold onto the wooden ring (perhaps the most simple gift ever!), a little older and they can work on hand to hand transfer and wrist rotation with the interlocking discs and the egg and cup is perfect when they are sitting for hand eye coordination. (Similar available at Michael Olaf or Beginning Montessori).
8. A lovely soft hairbrush. For the care of self table or just for a gentle brush. Some child just love the soft and relaxing feeling of having their hair brushed.
1. Montessori Toddler Christmas Gift Pack. I have found that toddler love to bake. They love to cook and stir and watch their creations come to life. Aprons help to set the scene and little tools are easier to the child to use and control. It's also great for children to use a few basic tools in the kitchen that are just theirs, that they can have ownership of. (Apron available from Handmade Montessori, lots of other child sized kitchen tools are available at For Small Hands).
2. Wallet Cards. Durable and educational. Fun for children starting with letter, colour, shape and number recognition. These are popular all year round but fantastic for small/family/friend gifts and stocking stuffers. (Also available at So Awesome).
3. Matching Cards. Matching cards that can also be used as vocabulary cards. Animal and plant cards are always my favourites for toddlers. These are beautiful, bright cards which children can use for matching promoting cognitive development and concentration. When aligned with your child's sensitive period/developmental needs and interests, children will use these repeatedly. This is one of my favourite posts of Otis using the matching cards. (Also available at Michael Olaf).
4. Transport Puzzle. One of the reasons I like this puzzle is because of it's difficulty and size. As it is actually four puzzles in one box, I present only one puzzle at a time. The puzzle can be challenging for an older toddler however because only one puzzle is offered the child can complete it in a short period of time. The transport subject appeals to many children and it's also a lovely puzzle a couple of children can work on together. (Also available from Amazon).
5. Australian Animal Packs. Children are attracted to animals and small models. Australian animal models allow children to explore, examine and get to know the animals in their natural environment, perhaps the birds they see in the tree or animals they have only observed from afar.
6. Child sized Bucket, Broom, Dustpan, Window Washing Set. For the toddler at home I feel it's all about practical life. Enjoying the physicality of pushing a broom or swishing the window squeege. Children enjoy having their own materials and to be able to work along aside their care-givers as they attend to the home environment. (Many similar available at For Small Hands).
7. Matching Baby Animal Game. A beautiful cardboard lotto game. Very young children can use the card to recognise their favourite animals. Later the game can be used for matching or lotto. (Also available at Amazon).
1. Miss Rhonda's Readers. Preschoolers can feel a sense of success and pride once they start to read words, then sentences, then an entire book by themselves. Readers such as these are a great way to promote and encourage little readers. (Also available at For Small Hands).
2. We love our movable alphabet. From learning to write their own names, to learning how words are formed. Once children know (most if not all) the letters they can have fun forming/constructing words then putting a few words together to sentences. This movable alphabets comes with a lesson plan included. (Also available at Michael Olaf).
3. Geometric solids. A little more interesting than usual blocks. Great for learning geometric forms. Put these in a Stereognostic bag and have the child feel and guess what's inside. The stereognostic sense allows the child to discriminate size and shape through the use of touch.
4. Child of the World Floor Puzzle. I love the global feel of this puzzle and it's great to work with a small group of children together on a table or on the floor. For team work, visual discrimination, because it is large it will require concentration and patience, and possibly could be considered cultural work. (Also available at Amazon).
5. Lyra Ferby Colour Pencils. Lyra are our favourite brand of pencils and the Ferby are great for little hands. The pencils are really high quality, highly pigmented and we will never go back to cheaper brands - you will see and feel the difference. These are also good small gifts or stocking stuffers.
6. Australian Ochre. We love Ochre for a unique and authentic art experience. They can dry up and be used over and over again. A different feel and experience to paint and it's completely natural (it's straight from the earth) and non-toxic. Sourced ethically by Indigenous educators. A great way to lead to Indigenous or Australian studies or stories of the Dreamtime.
7. and 8. Leaf Rubbing Plates and Shape Stencils are fun for those learning pencil control and may be looking for some quiet work to concentrate on. The stencils are also fun little gifts, perhaps paired with a pack of pencils. (Although not similar these are lovely shape stencils at For Small Hands).
I'll also be posting about what will be under our tree. Our gifts to the boys are not so exciting, some are practical (think books, new lunchboxes and pajamas) and others fun but I'm always interested to hear what others are getting so, I'll be posting here!