Skip to Content

Montessori Toy Rotation – Categories and Toys We Use!

In the world of education, the Maria Montessori is credited with being the best of the best.  The Montessori philosophy believes in providing children with a stimulating environment that encourages self-directed learning and exploration. One key component of this method is the use of hands-on Montessori toys. These toys fall under different categories, each targeting distinct aspects of a child’s growth and understanding. Today, we’re going to talk about the Montessori toy categories and how I use them in our toy rotation with our 5 kids!

Related:  9 Best Montessori Balance Boards and Balance Toys!

Related:  30 Maria Montessori Quotes that will Inspire Any Mama!

mother and son working with Montessori geography map

How I Store It All

I just buy large clear totes, mark the front with the category (see below) and pull out a few for our Montessori shelves every time we rotate toys.

When I put them out on our shelves, I put them either in baskets or wooden trays.

I get almost 100% of these from thrift stores OR from Melissa and Doug purchases.

Everyone always asks how often you should rotate toys in a toy rotation system.

The Montessori method is very child led, so I just do what Maria Montessori would and “follow the child.”

When my kids seem bored or if they take an interest in something and I know I have the perfect toy that relates to their new ambitions, I’ll bring it out.

I rarely switch out all of the toys at one time.

It seems like they stay focused on their toys longer if I only switch out a few at a time.

Otherwise, everything seems so new and exciting that they want to run around and play with all of the new puzzles or toys at once.

I do try to rotate toys every 2 or 3 weeks, but that is as much of a toy rotation schedule as I’ve been able to nail down.

Honestly, I’m fine with that because it works for us!

Montessori Categories

These are the categories I follow because they are the categories that Montessori schools use based on the Montessori method:

Practical Life: The Foundations of Independence

Montessori Practical Life activities offer a great way for children to develop essential life skills. 

They’re not just toys; they’re tools for teaching our kids essential life skills while nurturing their independence. 

It’s like giving them a head start on becoming self-sufficient little humans!

One of my favorites is the Montessori Pouring Set. 

It’s perfect for teaching those pouring and transferring skills. 

My little ones started with pouring rice and dried beans.

Now they can pour juice or even help set the table – it’s a game-changer.

Montessori Dressing Frames are another favorite in the Montessori world.

We have tried a few and unfortunately, I haven’t found any that I really love.

I’d rather just have them practice zipping their own jacket or helping one of their siblings with theirs.

Then there’s the whole world of food prep! 

Getting meals ready is when I spend one on one time with each of my kids.

We have 5 kids, so we rotate who helps make meals.

The Montessori Knife Skills Set and the Chopsticks Exercise – they’ve turned meal prep into a fun activity we can do together. 

Plus, it’s a great way to promote fine motor skills.

So, if you’re looking to add Montessori practical life materials to your child’s playroom, 

I’d say go for it. They’re not just playthings; they’re building blocks for life skills, independence, and a whole lot of confidence!

Activities like pouring, buttoning, and food preparation not only align with a child’s interests but also support their quest for independence. 

Sensorial: Refining the Senses

The Sensorial category of Montessori education helps children refine their senses through toys and materials designed for sensory exploration. 

These open-ended toys, often made from natural materials, encourage imaginative play and hands-on learning. 

Rotating these toys on a weekly basis keeps a child’s play space exciting and dynamic.

One of my all-time favorites is the Montessori Pink Tower.

It’s a stack of pink wooden cubes in different sizes. 

While Montessori materials can be pricey, there are some options that are far more cost effective.

We have this Melissa and Doug Disney set that is way too colorful to be considered a Montessori material, but the concept is there.

 It’s not just about size; it’s about developing visual discrimination, and it’s such a fun way to do it.

Then there’s the Montessori Sound Cylinders are great for fostering a sense of rhythm and sound awareness.

The Montessori Rough and Smooth Boards are also a hit in our house. 

Feeling different textures helps kids refine their tactile senses. 

It’s amazing how much they enjoy exploring and discovering through touch.

Anything with multiple textures to explore will do.

And let’s not forget the Montessori Color Tablets – they’re like a rainbow waiting to be explored. 

Matching shades and learning about colors becomes a captivating game. 

It’s like an art class and a sensory adventure in one!

Mathematics: From Concrete to Abstract

Montessori mathematics materials make abstract concepts tangible for young children. 

Items like the Montessori Golden Beads teach them about numbers and the decimal system. 

By rotating these materials, you can introduce new skills and concepts as your child grows.

Montessori playroom with natural colored materials. Text overlay reads "Montessori toy rotation how to store and organize each category"

Cultural: Nurturing Global Awareness

Cultural studies in Montessori encompass geography, history, science, and the exploration of different cultures. 

The Montessori approach encourages toy rotation to align with your child’s interests and developmental stage, making learning a bunch of new toys and a variety of activities.

I love to just put out maps of other countries for the kids to find.

Puzzles are great for this too.

When they get interested in something, we take a deeper dive until that flame goes out.

Language: A Journey into Communication

Language development is a key aspect of Montessori education. 

Montessori Sandpaper Letters and the Moveable Alphabet are examples of Montessori toys that help children develop their spoken and written language skills. 

Toy rotation ensures that you introduce different types of toys as your child’s age and interests evolve.

Having fewer toys (the right kind of toys, as we discussed here) and then committing to rotate toys every so often ensures your kids get a well-rounded education.

Benefits of Toy Rotation

As a mom of five, I could go on and on to you about how implementing the concept of toy rotation has lessened the toy clutter in our home and has given me my living room back.

I could tell you how much time (literally over 10+ hours less a week) I spend cleaning up their play area now than I did before we limited how many toys our kids had.


The real magic of toy rotation comes in when you watch your kids actually play with their toys.

Not just the old ones that are bound to draw their attention and keep it longer.

I’m talking about watching our kids play with their old toys for such longer periods of time now that they don’t have access to them all the time.

My kids are so much better about putting their toys back where they go now that there are fewer objects laying around to clean up.

Maybe my favorite part is how naturally independent play comes to them now.

Whether they’re playing together or on their own, they are so much more creative with their toys and the stories they make up.

If they want to play with their doll house but realize the dolls are all put away, they use their problem-solving skills and make paper dolls instead.

Sometimes they use blocks as dolls or make some out of clay.

They use their favorite toys in new ways instead of insisting on toys that do the imagining for them.

I was once so skeptical of toy rotation and truly thought the only solution that was needed was a massive toy declutter and a yard sale.

Now I understand that while it is important to minimize toys and only keep quality, educational toys, implementing a good Montessori toy rotation system benefits our kids in all of these ways and so many more.

In the world of Montessori education, toys are more than just playthings; they’re tools for discovery and growth. By embracing these Montessori toy categories, children can explore the realms of practical life, sensorial experiences, mathematics, cultural studies, and language development, all while fostering their independence and innate desire to learn. While we only loosely follow the Montessori method, we do try to foster a Montessori environment as much as possible. Having a limited number of toys in these categories has helped me tremendously as I’ve tried to accomplish this goal!

Montessori playroom with natural colored materials. Text overlay reads "Montessori toy rotation you'll wish you read sooner"