Things We Love! – Five DIY Montessori-style Gifts for Infants and Toddlers

As a working mom to a 2 and ½-year old and a 9-month old, I don’t think there is any time more awe-inspiring, wondrous, or stressful for me than the holidays. Not only am I dealing with the everyday strains of a busy fourth quarter, but I also have to find the time to figure out what to give my girls for Christmas. And, I’m always trying not to break the bank while doing it. (I’m finding this to be especially difficult because I’m trying to create the best First Christmas EVER for our youngest!)

Additionally, it’s always important for my husband and I to provide our girls with fun and interactive books, toys, and activities that encourage their independence and allow us to spend lots of time together as a family. As a working mom, it’s especially important for me to spend real, quality time with my daughters. I definitely see the value in technology; however, I want the time that I spend outside of the office to be filled with memories that will last a lifetime. For me, that means spending time playing dress up, running around, and getting my hands dirty with my little girls.

We’re Montessori parents, which means that we’ve carefully planned out our home as a learning environment. When we moved into our home a year ago, we designed a playroom that promotes independence and free play and caters to our girls’ natural curiosity. We packed this room with discovery stations and toys, and we spend lots of time playing with them in there. This Christmas, we’re looking to expand this environment into the rest of our home and have spent lots of time researching how best to do this. It’s going to take a little creativity, DIY, and effort on our parts, but we’ve discovered that we can easily expand this Montessori learning environment into the rest of our house without breaking the bank. And, we couldn’t wait to share our research with you!

The list below contains our top five Montessori-style gifts for infants and toddlers, and we hope that it’ll give you some gift ideas as we sleigh ride into this holiday season!

  1. A Star Box for Infants

Star Box.jpg

For the cost of a cardboard box, some extra Christmas lights, and a pair of scissors, you can create a Star Box for your infant and/or toddler. I can’t wait to put this together. I really think our youngest, Emily, is going to get a kick out of it. She’s mesmerized by anything and everything bright and shiny! All you need to do is poke some holes in the top of the box, stick your Christmas lights through the hole, plug it in and let your little one crawl around. I even think our oldest, Mary Pat, is going to love it!

  1. An Animal Discovery Box

Animal Discovery Box

If I’m being honest, it doesn’t take much to entertain our toddler. Sure, she loves her YouTube Kids app on my phone, but she’s just as thrilled by books, flash cards, and figurines. She’s going through a phase where she LOVES animals. So, this Christmas, we’re going to make her an animal discovery box. Print out some pictures of animals, paste them to index cards, and get some animal figurines, and you’ve got the makings for a GREAT Montessori discovery box. I’d even recommend laminating the index cards. If your toddlers are anything like mine, they’re going to want to play with these while drinking a juice box or eating a snack, and laminating them protects them against ruin! For about $15 maximum, you, too, can give your infants and toddlers hours of great learning and fun!

  1. A Kitchen Prep Station and Table

Kitchen Prep Station.jpg

My husband is a classically-trained chef, and Mary Pat always wants to help him cook. We’re super excited to set up a prep station for her this Christmas because she’s finally hitting the age where she can get involved in the process. We’ve been working with her on her listening skills, and she’s beginning to take directions very well. We’re going to set up a little wooden table for her in our kitchen and put a cutting board on it. That’ll be her “prep station.” We’re also going to set up a drawer in our kitchen where all of her kitchen utensils will be. She’ll have plastic knives, measuring cups, a vegetable peeler, etc. We envision her using this prep station when my husband cooks at night, as well as during meal and snack times throughout the day. The goal is for her to learn to feed herself. I think this is a great idea and learning tool, and I can’t wait to get her started!

  1. A Pull Up Bar

Pull Up Bar

I am most excited about setting up this pull up bar and mirror for Emily. We’re currently in negotiations about where to place the pull up bar in our home; however, I’m thinking we can modify the version above to be more portable. I’ve seen some renditions of this on the Internet where parents make a free-standing pull up bar in front of a mirror, rather than attaching it to a wall. Emily is just getting to the point where she’s starting to pull herself up on anything she can find (couches, steps, the dogs…). She’s also enchanted by her own reflection. I truly believe this will be one of her most favorite gifts this Christmas. And, the best part about this is, the whole thing costs about $10! It’s the perfect gift for our little angel baby!

  1. Locks and Latches Sets

Latches and Locks

We’re going to try to make some of these a little bit more complicated for Mary Pat, but you can get a sense for what our plan is from the picture above. I think we’re going to make these on our own to keep the cost down; however, you can totally find them on the Internet by searching for “Montessori locks and latches.” The goal of the toy is to get your infant or toddler to use his/her natural curiosity to figure out how to open and close the locks. By making an easier and a more complicated set, we’re hoping that our girls can play with them together and teach each other how to use them. I think it’s going to be a great way to strengthen their problem-solving skills and foster some sisterly-love!

Portrait  (19)

Today’s post is brought to you by Lisa Marie Lanham, the founder of Mommy, ESQ. Lisa is also an associate in the Consumer Finance Regulatory practice of a large New York City law firm. She loves her job, her family, and helping working moms find a balance between the growing demands of a family and a successful, full-time career. She has trained with the International Maternity Institute and offers group and one-on-one maternity coaching to all working moms. If you’re interested in learning more, you can reach her by commenting below, e-mailing, or posting on any of Mommy, ESQ.’s social media pages.