Although it is not a Montessori toy per se, in my opinion, it is a toy that every child should have. I was so obsessed with "organic" toys and toys made from wood - I was so set in my ways against anything plastic, that I have deprived my daughter during her first four years of life of pleasure of being creative and using her imagination with LEGO! (Yes, LEGO! She still enjoyed the wooden blocks, puzzles and so forth.. but there is nothing like LEGO!)
So, with my husband's persistence, I had given in, and for Julia's 4th Birthday, she received LEGO DUPLO Cinderella's Castle. Then for Christmas, she received DUPLO Ariel's Underseas Castle. However, we realized that DUPLO series (2-5 years) was not challenging enough for her, so we decided to try FRIENDS Series (6-12 y). We started with a Rehearsal Stage, just to see how she would do. Well, alongside with BRIO toys, it was the best investment in a "toy"! I could not believe that my "always going/never sitting still child" would sit for 2-3 hours straight: assembling, tinkering, following instructions.... I applaud any "toy" that can develop stamina, instill persistence and meticulous attention to details, foster independent work and advance the ability to follow detailed and tedious assembly instructions, not to mention promote hours of concentration ... and then offer the joy of seeing the creation come to life! Just like when Julia had just finished building FRIENDS Dolphin Cruiser from 600+ pieces at 4 1/2 years old! And that was the beginning ... since then, she would not stop with LEGO ... Lol.
p.s. Just to clarify, I am referring to the original LEGO (made in Denmark); the knock-offs did not work for us - don't try to save your money as you will be saving your aggravation :)
Julia at 4 1/2 years independently assembled LEGO Friends Olivia's House
Adrian, on the other hand, was exposed to LEGO since birth. Since being few months old, we would position his floor-mat nearby, offering him a good observation point of Julia's meticulous work. He knew since then, that if Julia could be so engulfed in something for so long, it had to be good! He could not wait to try it out by himself. We started with really simple ones (which were a gift). In the beginning, he would just build tall towers ...
With Julia's help, the "dogs" emerged.
To LEGO DUPLO, Adrian was introduced at 2 years old. He started with Julia's DUPLO series.
Food for everyone - even for the horse:)
Seeing Adrian's growing interest in LEGO and knowing how much he loves cars (fire-trucks especially), we started to expand the DUPLO collection.
Town Fire Station is his favorite!
Just like with BRIO, Adrian uses few sets simultaneously.
He still builds tall towers ...
Adrian sorts the sets after he is done playing (if he used more than one at a time), and he puts the pieces back in their respective boxes. The entire process: from sorting and organizing - to creating and imagining, instills in him creativity, attentiveness, and sense of order. But most importantly, he gets to express himself - every time in a new and creative way!
Knowing Adrian's admiration for fire-trucks, we purchased a LEGO City Fire Utility Truck Set for ages 5-12 (300+ pieces), which Julia (at 6 and a half) gladly assembled for him.
The ladder rotates, allowing versatility of play.
Firemen - to the rescue!
Here, kids are also using LEGO CITY Fire Starter Set.
With the CITI series, Adrian likes to tinker, but at 2 and a half, he cannot assemble it yet independently according to the instructions; but he tries, and that is what matters. Also, he is very respectful of it, knowing that he has to work with trays at a designated area, and that no piece shall ever leave the table. So, since we kept it organized, and enforced the rules, LEGO (even small pieces like that) has been a pure joy :)
p.s. Read here about Julia playing with LEGO at 7 years old.