This 'Shark Tank’ toy subscription costs almost $300—is it worth it?
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As kids grow, it can be hard to know how to actively engage with them in a way that’s both creative and educational. In other words, we as parents know we’re supposed to play with our kids, but sometimes we might not know how we’re actually supposed to be doing that. What toys are good? Which ones are more annoying than stimulating? And are you doing all that you should be doing for your child’s brain development?
Monti Kids seeks to help parents stop the guesswork by providing quarterly deliveries of high-quality, Montessori-approved toys specifically targeted at your child’s age range. With toys and activities for eight different age groups, from birth to 3 years old, Monti Kids aims to help parents support their child during the most critical period of intellectual development.
It doesn’t come cheap, though: A box costs $297, and is meant to stimulate your kids week by week for about three months. So, is it worth it? We received a box, and tested it to find out.
So, what are you actually getting for your money?
Each Monti Kids box is filled with truly high-quality wooden, Montessori materials. The box we received, level seven, was meant for ages 23 to 28 months, and came with six different toys or play sets, each individually boxed within a larger container. We received:
The Push Toy, which is basically like a wooden version of those “popping ball” Fisher Price things we all had when we were little.
The Dressing Frames, which encourage kids to learn snaps, buttons, Velcro, and perseverance.
The Cylinder Drop, which teaches problem solving through size differentiation and fine motor skills.
The Baking Set, which is basically a cute little cook set perfect for inspiring your kid to investigate the finer points of, say, filling one of your measuring cups full of dry rice.
The Ring Slide, which is intended to teach your child “predicting consequence,” or cause and effect.
A lacing set, intended to teach kids patience and precision through mock-sewing.
Younger and older kids get boxes appropriate to their ages and abilities, and the toys do really feel durable and long-lasting.
The Monti Kids website boasts that the items are, “Designed and created by internationally-certified Montessori educators and used in Infant/Toddler classrooms around the world,” and that sourced materials are “manufactured at an award-winning factory that uses only sustainably-forested wood, non-toxic paint, and 100% recyclable packaging.” In other words, you don’t have to worry about your kiddo putting one of these toys in their mouth. They’re safe, and they’re ethical.
What else do you get for your money? Credit: Reviewed / Lisa Lawrence
This push toy would be a good fit for a toddler.
Beyond just the items, though, Monti Kids offers parents a rollout plan for play, lest the box’s contents overstimulate your kid right away. Each week, Monti Kids subscribers get an email from the site offering a plan for which item to open that week, and how to play with it. There are videos on the website for parents to watch and different ideas for the play. They show exactly how to introduce items to kids, and reinforce Montessori-friendly ideas, like the benefits of repetition and problem-solving.
Before our box arrived, for instance, we received an email with videos about how to get started and how to set up our play space for optimal Montessori benefits. That, of course, is easier said than done with limited space, resources, and a million other toys around, but if you’re committed to making this work, it’s doable. Of course, Monti Kids is also happy to sell you a shelving unit perfect for this purpose, should you need one.
Emails also offer tips on how to praise your child for their hard work. For the dressing frame, for instance, Monti Kids says, "provide verbal encouragement, rather than praise", suggesting that parents offer “support like 'You worked so hard!' rather than 'Good job!'—acknowledging their effort, rather than emphasizing the end result.”
The emails also instruct parents on what kids are actually learning with each item, and why. So, though teaching your toddler to bake during week seven might seem like a total hair-raising mess waiting to happen, Monti Kids reminds dubious parents that: “Activities like baking demonstrate for children that a little effort and patience now can lead to better things later—helping them to explore the difference between short-term and long-term gains. Learning how to wait patiently for a desired goal requires your child to exercise willpower and self-control, which have been shown to be better predictors of academic and social achievement than IQ.”
So, yeah. Your kid’s going to spill flour on the flour. Deal with it. They’ll pay you back later one way or another.
In addition to the emails, parents also receive access to a private Facebook group with 4,000 subscribers, a parent resource guide on the Monti Kids site, and access to Montessori-fluent counselors who can answer quick, complex, or even bigger questions about raising smart kids.
There’s an online chat function for smaller issues, but Monti Kids subscribers also have the ability to schedule a 30-minute session with an educator to talk about setting up a learning space, using the tools correctly, or even more general questions about child development. It’s an invaluable resource for those of us who are occasionally insecure in our parenting, and who have maybe done a little too much Googling and not enough listening to actual experts.
So what did our kids think? Credit: Reviewed / Lisa Lawrence
The Cylinder Drop uses size differentiation to teach problem solving.
When our sample box arrived, our twin testers were already on the older end of the spectrum for their age range. That meant that some of the items, like the push toy, were already much too young for them. They’d been gracefully pushing bubble-blowing lawn mowers around for a year, and though the toy was beautiful and special, they were more likely to use it to hit each other than actually get the benefit that was intended.
Other items, like the cylinder drop and baking set were more successful, though, and our testers are still trying to fine tune their work on the lacing and dressing frames. Our kids loved the weekly rollout of the items, as well, and were able to really take their time with each item, returning to old favorites weeks later.
Because each item was beautifully, sturdily made, we were able to take the ones our kids quickly mastered or had grown out of, like the push toy, and pass them on to our other parent friends with kids who were just entering the right age range. With our kids inching closer to 3, we’ve now got our eyes on box 8, with items like a gluing set and a fabric winder that we just know our rapidly growing kids would absolutely love.
So, is Monti Kids worth the money? Credit: Reviewed / Lisa Lawrence
Monti Kids toys aim to teach young children motor skills during early development.
Honestly, the most valuable thing about Monti Kids for us was that it took the guesswork and the pressure out of productive play.
While we still love reading and doing puzzles with our kids, it was also nice to be able to whip out a new, fun item every week, knowing that we were teaching them appropriate skills for their age range and that, though it might not look like much, the things we were helping them learn—patience, cause and effect, balance, and so on—would become the cornerstones of even more learning down the road. It made us feel like good, responsible parents who had a handle on things—especially since, so often, toddler madness can make us feel like we’re losing control.
Ultimately, that could be one of the biggest ulterior benefits to Monti Kids: the simple reassurance it provides to parents that, yes, they’re doing the right thing. Watching kids learn using these items can remind us that, yes, our kids are creative, intelligent, and stimulated, no matter how much we might kick ourselves for feeding them mac and cheese yet again. We’re all just trying to do the best we can, and Monti Kids is here to help.
Sign up for Monti Kids Related content feature We tried a toy subscription box for preschoolers—is it worth it? feature My toddler is obsessed with this toy subscription box—here's why we love it
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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.