I really like some of the Montessori materials for little kids. If purchased, they can be very expensive, but many of them are very simple to make. I just finished making a color and shape sorting stringing toy for The Sage for Christmas. This was truly a family affair. Mom picked up 5 different shapes of wooden beads (about 1 cm in diameter) from a big box craft store. The cubes didn’t have holes in them, so Dad drilled little holes for me. Then I painted them with acrylic paint. I tried stringing them on a wire so I could paint all sides at once but it seems easier to paint most of it, sit it down on clean plastic (not paper that will tear) and then paint the other side when it’s dry.
After all of the beads were painted, I used gloss Mod Podge to make them shiny. Again, painting 3 sides and sitting the pieces on clean plastic to dry worked the best.
The last step was simply to make the pattern cards for The Sage to work from. I cut card stock into 2 inch strips then drew the shapes and colored them in with markers. You can always trace the beads instead of free handing them. I already had the 2mm stiff plastic cord to string the beads with. (We also like to use it to string shells with holes from the beach.)
Many of the ideas for Montessori type activities, including this one, that I make for the kids come from the Nienhuis catalogs.