The most iconic Montessori toy for infants is probably the imbucare (that’s ‘mail’ in Italian) box and ball. The toy consists of a small box attached to a slightly larger tray. The box has a hole in the top, a hole in one of the sides, and a bottom that slopes toward the side hole. When a ball is dropped into the top hole, it rolls out the side hole and onto the tray. Somewhere between six and twelve months this activity will likely become very engaging for your baby as they become fascinated with exploring object permanence: what happens to an object when I put it out of sight?
Instead of dropping $30 on a toy that will only engage my child for a month and then having to purchase the next box in the series, I opted to use the materials I had on hand…
- Amazon boxes of all shapes and sizes, and
- A crafty mother with a lot of extra yarn
Whenever we get shipments from Amazon, I save any small boxes and cut holes in them of different sizes. Then I recycle the old boxes and put the new ones out for playing. Unlike the carefully, designed series of boxes found in Montessori Toddler and Infant rooms, my boxes are far from perfect. But they do provide my baby with
- Fine motor practice
- A variety of object permanence explorations
- Good times
Oh, and I almost forgot about the balls! My oh-so-crafty mother makes her own dryer balls by felting old yarn. We used the same method and made a bunch of small balls for use with the boxes. The gist of the process is:
- Tie up the ends of a ball of yarn – at least the outermost layer must be an animal fiber such as wool or alpaca
- Put the ball in a nylon and knot up the nylon so the ball can’t escape
- Run the nylon-enclosed ball through the washer a few times, or until the outermost yarn layer melds together into one solid mass
A more detailed explanation of how to make these balls can be found on Live Simply.