Montessori Inspired Toddler Discovery: Construction

A much beloved cousin passed down a handful of construction and construction vehicle books to Eli recently, and they have been the number one requested reading material ever since. I had a strong inkling Eli would enjoy discovering aspects of construction a bit deeper, so I pulled together a shelf devoted to this topic.

At 29 months old, here’s what I included:

Construction vehicles: language and matching. Three-dimensional small objects are a toddler’s best friend. Eli has enjoyed learning the vehicles’ names and examining their details and movement. I created matching cards for a simple object to picture matching invitation.

Construction vehicles: magnifying matching. I wanted to provide Eli with an additional matching challenge, so I minimized the size of the construction vehicle images, created cards, and added a magnifying glass. He, then, uses the magnifying glass to examine the tiny picture and matches them to the corresponding figurine.

Tools: language and matching. This set of tools and matching cards has been a favorite for so long, but they had been out of rotation for awhile, so I knew Eli would return to this work with fervor. Again, Eli is a pro matcher, so to challenge him, we play many games that require him to recall the tools after some time and distance such as asking Eli to choose a card, examine card, and then travel to the other side of the room to collect tool from memory. This is also great for toddlers because they are made to move their bodies. They can wiggle and jump and match all at the same time.

Invitation to build: blocks and hard hat. In the last few weeks, Eli has started to really enjoy building with Duplos and his large foam blocks, so I knew pulling out his wood blocks would be a popular invitation. I added a hard hat for a bit of an imaginative play element, and it was totally worth the $8: Eli has barely taken the hard hat off since the introduction of this discovery shelf.

Sticker art tray. Stickers have always been a favorite art tray for Eli, and it is so easy to put together. I found several sources for realistic illustrated and photographed construction vehicles (here, here, and here) and added brown (to represent dirt) and gray (to represent concrete) paper.

Hex bolt board. Such a favorite work! Eli’s concentration with this one is so fun to observe, and I love that he is working with a real screwdriver and screws, and it exemplifies the best of Montessori materials: isolation of skill; self-correcting; real, child-sized and natural materials.

Hammering tray. Another favorite! Eli so enjoys hammering the “nails” into the clay, and it’s easy to smooth the clay to reset work for the next time. Again, his concentration on this one is fun to watch, and I love that he has the freedom to work on his hammering skills with an age appropriate material.

Puzzle. Eli has yet to show interest in jigsaw puzzles. He still much prefers knobbed puzzles, so knobbed puzzle it is. I like that the image on the puzzle board is only a black and white representation of the colored puzzle piece. Gives him a bit more of a matching challenge.

Books. What would a discovery be without a few books? Here are a few of Eli’s favorites:

My Big Dump Truck. The book that started his interest in construction and construction vehicles. The cover is deceptively simplistic because this book is rich in construction vocabulary. Eli especially loves the pages with the construction vehicles in action at various construction sites.

Construction by Sally Sutton. Describes the entire construction process of building a library from start to finish. We love the rhythm and onomatopoeia in this one.

Roadwork by Sally Sutton. Like Construction, Roadwork describes the process of building a road with rhythmic and engaging language. Such a fun read!

Construction Sites from Usborne. Because Eli enjoyed the construction site pages in My Big Dump Truck, I thought he’d enjoy a book devoted to them. I’m a bit disappointed by the lack of language in this one, but luckily, we have our own construction background knowledge, so we spend a lot of time talking about what we see on each page and a lot less time reading the limited text.

The Toolbox by Anne and Harlow Rockwell. A lovely story of a son watching and learning from his father as he works with tools.  Beautiful, simple illustrations.

Counting Tools 1 to 10. Photographic images of tools that invite a toddler to count.  Eli currently counts all the things, so this book is quite popular.

I also added the construction worker from this Community Helper set and color copied a page from this book to create the poster hanging above the shelf.  And that’s Eli’s Construction Discovery!  Thanks for reading!


  1. These are great ideas! I was planning on doing a nature theme with my son in July but this is making me think I might need to do a construction theme instead. I’m definitely going to feature this page on my blog in the next few weeks because the ideas are so fun.

  2. Amanda Holliday

    So great. We have a Construction lover on our hands, too. We found a really great book Eli would probably like called A Year At The Construction Site. It shows the building of a school over the course of a year.

  3. So fun! I love these ideas! I have a 15 month old daughter, but she is currently fascinated with trucks and tools and I want to encourage this in her, too!

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