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What Montessori Parents Do Differently - Realistic Toddler Puzzles

Real farm animal puzzle at How we Montessori 

I recently stumbled upon a couple of really beautiful puzzles and it made me stop and think. As Montessori parents, we often search high and low for the best materials we can find but what does this mean for puzzles? Puzzles for toddlers are reasonably affordable and can be found at most discount stores. But I've found many puzzles are often sold on the popularity of licensed television and movie characters or are heavily stylised or cartoonish.

Here are a few things that I look for in toddler puzzles: 

Realistic images not heavily stylised or cartoonish. This is perhaps the most important to me. These can be photographic or illustrated but I want them to be life-like, nature is amazing and there is no need to embellish. I want for my child to be able to tell what they are looking at, and for it to be something that is real. A cartoon chicken doesn't look like a real chicken, how is the child able to tell which is real, it can be confusing. We want the toddler to absorb the real world before introducing fantasy and at this age, I want to avoid commercialized products (advertising) on my children's toys and materials. 

Images of animals or objects the child is familiar with, this is why with puzzles with images we often start with pets, farm animals, fruit and vegetable puzzles. We want for the child's first experience to be with the real 'concrete' thing, for example, a real cat before cat puzzles or books. The same applies to model animals or language cards, we allow the toddler to see and know the real before we use images. 

Images of animals or objects that follow an interest, for example, if the child is interested in diggers we look for construction type puzzles or if the child is interested in dogs, we look for dog or pet type puzzles. In this way we can also use puzzles as language work and teach the child the names of the objects "front end loader", "bulldozer" or "dalmatian", "labrador", and so on.

Ethically made/fair trade. Regionally and culturally appropriate. Gender neutral. 

 "By showing care in the toys you choose for your child, you are showing him that he is important to you. You are sharing what is beautiful and meaningful to you in life. You thereby help your child in turn look for beauty and logic in the world around him. Parents sometimes forget in the stress of daily living how magnificent, inspiring and magic the real world actually is to them. Making conscious decisions in what we make available to our infants and young children in every area of life can help us to recapture that awe and appreciation." - Montessori from the Start
It's taken me a long time in two different countries to find some really good puzzles. To help you I've made a list of some of my favourite - realistic toddler puzzles. 

United Kingdom


United States

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