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Montessori Activities for Toddlers

Recently, I have been trying to gradually introduce a series of Montessori activities to Hercules. He recently turned 2.5 years so I thought it was a good age to start. I cleared out the toy room (except for the books) with the intention of slowly filling his cubby holes with new Montessori materials.

Here are the contents for the first cubby:

  • A felt mat for his “workspace”
  • Coloured buttons
  • Coloured Lego blocks (yes, I’ve been trying to be economical with materials by using what we already have)
  • Coloured plates (from IKEA)

Montessori Materials

We used the buttons for counting. Although Hercules knows his numbers up to 100, I thought this physical exercise was good for him to cement the concept of physical quantity rather than abstract quantity which was how I had been teaching it previously. Maria Montessori said that young children needed to learn the physical before they could comprehend the abstract. Hercules knows that “36” is thirty-six, but I wanted to make sure he understood what that meant in a physical sense with physical objects.

Counting 1

We only had 40 coloured buttons, so I added some Lego blocks. We ran into some problems because Hercules only likes red and didn’t want me to use them. He kept taking my red buttons and bricks.

Counting 2

We used the same buttons and Lego blocks for colour sorting. Again, he wouldn’t let me sort the red objects because he wanted them for himself. He also seems to get the idea for sorting, but he’ll only do the colours he likes and ignores the rest. Recently, I got him to sort coloured pompoms into coloured IKEA bowls and he only does the orange and green but not the rest. When I try to show him the rest need to go into their respective bowls, he gets cross. Yes, I’m still working out how to get his full cooperation.


We also used the same buttons for the threading game to improve fine-motor skills in preparation for writing.


Aristotle found a new use for the materials and turned it into a picnic for Mickey, Donald and Pluto.


Yes, it seems a contradiction to what we wrote recently on quality materials to be using plastics and cheap materials. These were all materials we already owned or recycled from way back – the Duplo pieces and plastic buttons were Aristotle’s toys from when he was Hercules’ age, the IKEA plates we bought for the kids to play pretend cooking, the plastic jars are actually my breastmilk containers that I no longer use, and the felt mat is the RM5 felt sheets from Daiso (which Aristotle has been using as a Superman cape recently). Since we already had the materials, I thought it was a good lesson on recycling. I also like to encourage Aristotle’s creative and imaginative use of the materials.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

4 thoughts on “Montessori Activities for Toddlers

  1. With the price of quality wooden toys and Montessori materials, who can blame us for resorting to plastic? A lot of Montessori moms either make ther own materials or recycle toys as well, especially blocks like Legos.

    I can see the logic of investing in quality materials if I am to have a dozen children or running a childcare/montessori. With the plan of having just two, hmmmm…

    I’ve had the same problem with DS’s Tot Trays/montessori materials when we first started. Usually, it was because the tray was too difficult or too easy. When he isn’t engaging in the activity, I would usually switch it with something else.

    I try not to reuse the same materials for different activities in the same setup. I find that it confuses DS. For exmple the buttons for threading and sorting.

    Sometimes, it is the presentation of the materials. It may sound strange but even at 18 months he would choose the aesthetically pleasing trays compared to something that I simply throw together 🙂


    1. Jessica – yes, it is definitely the presentation of materials. Unfortunately, for Hercules, it is the colours that attract him. Anything red is always a “go”. He goes for the red Lego bricks, red buttons, red cups, etc. I have this colour sorting activity for him where he has to put all the like coloured pompoms into the same coloured bowl and he’ll do it for the orange and green bowls but the rest he’ll throw out. We have made some progress in the sense that he now puts the rest of the remaining colours back into the main container rather than leaving them scattered on the floor.


  2. Over here, I separate work materials and play. For instance, Vee isn’t allowed to pretend play with the work materials. Because once allowed, he’d try to be creative with all the work materials, mix them up, change the positions, etc. Karen addressed something related to playing with materials or creating “new” presentations before being shown how to do it. He’s allowed to be creative with toys during play-time (after lesson time), and art materials.

    I like the empty breastmilk containers. Where did you get those from? 🙂


    1. Hi MieVee,

      Sorry for the late reply on this! Regarding the breastmilk containers… They were the ones I used for Hercules when he was a baby. I would pump milk for my MIL to keep on hand while I sent Aristotle to school or to Heguru. They are by The First Years.

      You’re absolutely right about separating work and play materials. I think the problem is that these are all familiar play materials for Hercules (since they are “recycled” from his toys) so it is difficult to change his perception of them. Also, Aristotle likes to take things and do his own thing with them – which happens when I’m busy with housework. It was something I encouraged when he was younger so the habit has stayed.


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