Looking for Montessori activities for 1-2 year olds? These activities encourage early literacy, educational games and practical life skills!
For many of us, the idea of young toddlers doing Montessori activities feels all but impossible. They’ll eat the paint, can’t sit still, and have zero concept of following directions.
But rest assured, toddlers as young as 1-2 year olds can still participate in Montessori activities.
After all, these activities aren’t a set curriculum, but are rather based on a philosophy by Maria Montessori. She believed that activities should be free-based with little adult guidance. Where adults follow the innate drive and natural curiosity in children, letting them pick and choose as they play.
At the same time, all this is only possible if we observe. We note the child’s abilities along with her frustrations. We offer activities challenging enough to motivate, but not so much that they’re frustrating. And we know when and how to move on to the next activity.
As you can see, you can begin practicing Montessori principles at home long before your child picks up a pencil or solves a puzzle. This also means you can keep your toddler busy with plenty of Montessori activities that are appropriate for her age and stage.
Montessori activities for 1-2 year olds
That said, many of these activities are best saved for when your toddler has mastered her gross motor skills. For instance, if she has been walking for a while, then now would be a great time to start with seated work to develop her fine motor skills.
But if she’s still working on her large motor skills, like crawling, walking, or talking, then everything else simply gets ignored. Wait until she has mastered those skills first before introducing these Montessori activities. (Check out this article about gross motor activities for 1 year olds.)
Once she’s ready, take a look at these ideas. I’ll share plenty of our favorite ones, from practical life skills to homemade activities to easy arts and crafts. Let’s get started!
1. Coloring (no earlier than 15 months)
Providing your toddler with art supplies is one of the best ways to encourage open ended play. Coloring with thick crayons also helps her practice her fine motor skills, even at an early age.
Get thick, washable crayons she can grip easily. Then, I suggest taping a large sheet of paper onto a surface or the floor and letting her scribble. The tape holds the paper in place, and the large canvas gives her more room to color.
Tip: Do you get a lot of packages delivered to your home? Flatten the cardboard boxes and use them as large canvases for her to color.
FREE printables: Grab these ready-made printables below! Join my newsletter and you’ll get a set of A-Z alphabet letters to play the matching game, sheets to glue by color, and printables to count with dot markers.
Plus, you’ll also get a sample of my handwriting and tracing workbook, Letters and Numbers! Download the printable pack below—at no cost to you:
2. Matching cards to objects
At around 18-20 months old, your toddler may be able to match 2D photographs to 3D objects around the house.
One activity to nurture that skill is to take photos of her favorite or most-seen items. Her lovey, pacifier, toy truck, or teddy bear are good items to start with. Then, print (preferably on a color printer or your local photo printing store) and glue them onto thick cardstock.
To play the game, arrange the items nearby and stack the cards. Then, show her a card and have her grab the matching item. You might want to start the game first so she knows what to do. This helps her understand that pictures are 2D versions of 3D objects.
As she gets the hang of the game, you can print a second set of duplicate cards for her to match. Now she’ll match one card to another with the same picture.
3. Squeezing sponges
Your toddler will love the sensory experience of squeezing water with sponges. Start with two bowls—one filled with water and the other empty. Then, soak a sponge into the water-filled bowl (the ones without the abrasive side is best).
Next, have her take the sponge out of the first bowl and squeeze the water into the empty one. Repeat until most of the water is now in the second bowl. You can keep going even then, squeezing the water back into the first bowl.
Bonus activity: Instead of sponges, your toddler can also use a measuring cup to pour water from one bowl to another. This was one of my kids’ favorite activities in their Montessori preschool.
4. Scooping puff balls
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links, which means I will earn a commission—at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase.
Like squeezing sponges, scooping puff balls is another great activity to help your toddler concentrate. Start with two bowls, one empty and another filled with puff balls like these. Then, give her a large scooper or shovel like this (a measuring cup works fine, too).
Show her how to scoop the balls from one bowl to another. When she has emptied the first bowl, repeat and put the balls from the second bowl into the first.
5. Pushing toothpicks
Older toddlers will enjoy this activity! Take several toothpicks and an empty parmesan shaker. Then, show your toddler how to put a toothpick into one of the holes so that it lands inside the container.
Once she has put all the toothpicks into the shaker, you can empty it once more and repeat the activity.
6. Stringing pasta
A fantastic way for your toddler to practice fine motor skills is through stringing dried pasta. Grab a box of large, short pasta like rigatoni, and a string she can easily grip, like a shoelace.
Then, have her string the pasta through the string, before tying the ends together to make a necklace. To make it even more festive, you can dye the pasta beforehand to make fun color patterns.
7. Playing with wooden toys
If you’re in the market for Montessori-inspired toys, look no further than wooden toys. Below are several ideas you can get for your toddler:
Montessori encourages self-sufficiency and an environment where kids can do plenty on their own. The same is true with doing chores. In fact, your toddler can participate in practical life activities as young as 13 months. She could help you:
- Wipe surfaces
- Bring an empty dish to the sink
- Water plants
- Place clothes into the dryer
- Help garden
- Wipe or mop spills
Make chores more conducive by setting up her environment for her size. For instance, give her a light stool she can easily move around to reach high items. Assemble her closet rungs so they’re low enough for her to pick her clothes. And get child-size cleaning supplies like these suited just for her:
As you can see, it may not be too early to start Montessori activities for 1-2 year olds.
Simple coloring, stringing, and pushing toothpicks can help develop fine motor skills. Matching cards will teach the relation between 2D and 3D objects. Squeezing sponges (or pouring water) and scooping puff balls allow her to concentrate and move things from one place to another.
You can always get wooden toys that promote Montessori principles, and of course, encourage her to do simple chores around the house. Now you have several ideas to introduce to your toddler—all without her eating the paint.
Get more tips:
- Awesome Mess Free Activities for 2 Year Olds
- 25 Easy Activities for 2 Year Olds
- Evening Activities for Toddlers
- 7 Useful Ways to Teach the Alphabet, Montessori-Style
- 31 Activities for 1 Year Olds
Don’t forget: Join my newsletter and grab these ready-made printable pack below—at no cost to you: