Part 3: Montessori for toddlers (12-24 months)

This is part 3 in our series on Montessori from birth. You can find parts 1&2 below. 

Part 1 here

Part 2 here


As your child approaches 12 months of age, they will begin to learn how to take their first steps.  Toward the end of their second year, they will have developed enough stability to be much more mobile.  They may even begin to discover the joys of climbing! Giving your child the freedom to move around when they are younger will help their gross motor development thrive.  The ability to walk more will free up your 12-24 months old’s hands also which will give them more practice with dexterity as well.  

With a child on the go, it is important to keep safety at the forefront of your mind. Your child has a much higher reach now that they are up on their feet.  Keep sharp objects out of reach, furniture that can topple should be secured to the wall and anything that can put the child in danger should be stowed away in a safe place.  

Because of all of the dangers that furniture indoors can pose for your child, outdoor play is ideal at this age.  Children can safely climb trees with lower limbs and can also have the freedom to move around and explore.  We encourage that you allow your child to climb when they try - simply guiding and encouraging them from a distance. Falling is a big part of developing and learning and it is important not to discourage your child from building the skills of climbing because of the challenge involved.  

For activity and snack time, a small child sized table is the perfect introduction to your child’s environment.  


Provide toys that your child is able to accomplish with a bit of effort. This will build their confidence and sense of independence.  With all activities in the Montessori environment, it is so important to follow this phrase: “If you are demonstrating, do not speak.  If you are speaking, do not demonstrate”.  This will allow you to keep the attention of your child as you explain how to achieve any activity.  Describe to them what the activity is - based on the material you have placed in front of them.  Then do one demonstration.  After that, allow the child to try while you simply observe.  It is important that you do not jump in and “correct” the child as this can be very discouraging to your child.  Praise their effort.  When they have completed the activity, explain and then demonstrate again if they did not accomplish the goal the first time.  The idea is to always praise their effort.  Effort is the most important factor after all.  

  • Stacking rings are a wonderful example of a toy for a child of this age.

  • Wooden blocks are also lovely as they can be manipulated and stacked in many different ways appealing to the child’s sense of imagination as well.  The child will have a wonderful time trying to stack their tower higher each time.

  • With increased hand-eye coordination, small 3 piece puzzles are the perfect toy for the 1-2 year old child.  A puzzle that is too difficult to accomplish can frustrate the child, driving them away from the activity.

  • Provide the child with an art tray containing a piece of paper and a few crayons in a jar.  The background of the tray should be a dark shade to contrast with the paper.  This will show the child where they should be drawing.  Trays are wonderful in the Montessori environment because they contain a complete project within one space.  This allows the child to see what materials will be used and also gives the child a sense of order.  Later, you can introduce markers or colored pencils into your art tray.  Finger paints can also be introduced for a fun visual/sensory experience.  Art activities are a wonderful way to begin introducing proper pencil grip as well.

  • Practical life activities are very intriguing for the 12-24 months old.  Key and lock is one that can keep your child busy for quite a while.  You’ll be impressed with the determination your child has to insert a key into a door handle or lock and turn it for success unlocking the door.  

  • Provide your child with a  basket full of different items that they can practice opening and closing on their own for fine motor practice.  Zipper bags, a jar with a lid, velcro items or an object with snaps.  



For your 12-24 month old, your child is beginning to grasp the idea of communicating with their words.  From the time they are born, it is important for us to practice talking to our children (rather than at them).  It is important to tell them about their environment and not just tell them what to do.  

Speaking to your child slowly and clearly allows them to hear each sound that is made in a word. Baby talk is completely unnecessary and will only teach your child the incorrect way to pronounce words.  Books, singing and rhymes will encourage your child’s vocabulary.  Instill a sense of pride in your child by requiring them to communicate their needs and desires to you, rather than you anticipating their every need.  This will give your child a reason and desire to communicate.  When your child begins to point and whine for something that they want, name that item as you give it to them and encourage them to pronounce the object’s name before they receive it.  This will allow them to know the name of the object so they can ask for it rather than simply pointing to it next time.  Expose your child to a wide vocabulary early on and it will be easier for them to absorb the language.  You’ll notice that your child will quickly pick up on the language before they’re able to master vocalizing it themselves.  They will understand it before they can speak it, so continue to talk to them in a stimulating way.

Maria Montessori had a method called the Three Period Lesson - used to teach vocabulary to young children.  The idea is to use real objects that a child can handle and manipulate while learning about the item.  It is best to begin with real objects (fruit, vegetables, utensils) but can be extended to other more realistic objects (like miniature animal figures).  All you need, in addition to the objects, is a tray or a mat to delegate a work space for your child.   


  • NAMING: The first period of Maria Montessori’s Three Period Lesson is the introduction of the object.  Since the very beginning, you’ve been naming people, places and things for your child - clearly isolating and identifying objects with succinct descriptions.  Hearing about these objects will allow your child to begin to understand language but it is important to remember that learning takes place through all senses, not just by hearing. Show your child the object and vocalize what it is.  Say, “This is a green apple” and then proceed to place the green apple in the tray in front of them.  Allow your child to hold the object, smell it, taste it, push, manipulate and explore it.  Then repeat the name of the object.  Your child will then internalize the word through all of their senses with their absorbent mind.  Repeat this process with the other items (fruits, vegetables, toy animals, etc).  


  • RECOGNIZING: The second period of Maria Montessori’s Three Period Lesson is to ask the child to identify the object that you have previously named.  After experiencing Period One a few times, you’ll notice that your child will begin to look in the direction of an object that you name.  Just as you suspect, she is connecting the word with the object.  Montessori mentions how important movement is for learning which is where this period comes into play.  Say, “Show me the green apple.” The second period will be the longest period of learning for your child and may continue for months.  Don’t rush to the third period until your child has had the opportunity to fully experience and learn vocabulary through this second period of learning.


  • REMEMBERING: The third period of Maria Montessori’s Three Period Lesson is cognition.  Although some may refer to this period as the test, avoid asking your child vocabulary questions until you know he will be successful.  When your child can name something, it signals cognition.  Never indicate that your child has failed if you ask them what an object is and they do not know.  This will only tell you that more repetition and experience with the object is needed.  Play naming games, continue talking about what you see and what you do.  Enjoy watching your child’s absorbent mind blossom.  

As always, cater everything to what fits your child. Don't worry about milestones or what is "normal". Every child is unique and they are all exactly where they should be. 

Thanks for reading!