A reader recently emailed me asking for suggestions for an upcoming birthday in their family. Their son is turning two and she was wondering about good learning toys and suggestions for someone considering homeschool, possibly with some Montessori influences. I responded briefly, but I couldn't do the subject justice in one email so this post is my attempt to say more!
First, a few notes on homeschooling, Montessori, and toddlers. The Montessori method has a sequence for under threes. That being said, in my opinion, it is highly instinctual and is certainly not needed for a successful Montessori experience later. You can read books and buy manuals, but the key idea is that you are teaching your child to be a functioning member of his/her family. Your family.
As far as playthings, I like simple toys that do not entertain. I do not buy battery toys and when they come to our home in other ways they are enjoyed for a short amount of time and redirected to another source. We also have very little plastic. Our basic toys are wooden blocks (we have a couple varieties), soft baby dolls, a toddler kitchen (with a real metal pan and glass bottles in interesting shapes from the recycling), board books, a hammering/pounding bench, balls (although these usually need to stay outside), stacking/sorting toys, and simple puzzles.
We also have lots of trains, cars, and realistic animal figurines, and although those are mostly for the big boys, Kylee enjoys them occasionally as well. I buy many of our toys through Discount School Supply because I find I can get good prices on daycare quality things which is a big consideration for how long things last.
Simple practical life activities can also make good playthings for two year olds. Arranging fake flowers in a bud vase, clipping clothespins onto a basket, or stringing beads. Two year olds can spoon and pour with practice, but many of them require supervision to ensure things are not going into mouths. I try to keep one or two practical life activities on the shelf for Kylee.
I continually find, however, that what Kylee wants is not things to play with, but things to do. She does best to be kept close by. Although her help is questionably productive at times, she likes to empty the dryer and clean the dryer vent, sort the silverware out of the dishwasher, put pan lids in the cupboard, pull all of the wash clothes or socks out a basket of laundry, hang diapers on the drying rack, push around our swiffer mop, and wash table tops.
We have a toddler toy shelf, which has anywhere from 5-8 activities at any given time, but what I find my toddlers want more than things is time.
Maybe I should have titled this post, "Time for Twos."