Are Melissa and Doug Toys Montessori aligned? My favourites and alternatives

In today's blog post, I want to explore the toy's brand "Melissa and Doug". It's often recommended by Montessori parents and teachers as an affordable option for Montessori aligned toys. 

When my daughter was born 12 years ago, there were not many options regarding wooden toys so Melissa and Doug was what was available in the local toy's shop. At the time, we didn't have eco-friendly online toyshops and Amazon was only selling books!

Melissa and Doug was established more than 30 years ago but they got a bad press about the safety of their toys in 2009. Many of their toys were recalled. For sure, other brands, even ethical and eco-friendly companies, have product recalls from time to time. Still, many parents are cautious about Melissa and Doug. We had that discussion recently in my FB group, and many have commented that the paint was chipping, and that the wood was broken as soon as it was out of the packaging. 

I personally notice that their newest design is more cartoonish than before.

Yet, they are an affordable brand and on their website, they claim that they are safe. You can even find their conformity certificate for each of their product. 

While I will not be able to settle the debate about their safety, I wanted to write a blog post with what were/are my favourite Melissa and Doug products and an affordable "safe" alternative. I choose an alternative that has a better track record regarding sustainability and safety and/or that is made in Europe.

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House of Keys:

I like the Melissa and Doug version because it is a lock and keys activity. From 3 years old, a child would be introduced to a simple locks and keys activity in the classroom (with regular locks and keys, you don't need a toy).

But if it's the house that you like, the Small foot version is more eco-friendly

(and who remembers the Chicco lock and Keys from their own childhood?)

Fishing game:

Many brands have a fishing game. The Melissa and Doug is very cartoon-like.

The other brand is Janod. Simpler in my opinion. The only skill is fishing and the box is just so cute!


I used to have two sets of the same magnets from Melissa and Doug. We were playing matching games with them. The magnets have been very resistant as we played with them for 10 years. 

The alternative is a set from Janod which is considered a good quality, ethical and eco-friendly brand.

Cutting fruits:

In general, I would encourage  you to let your child cut real fruits and vegetables. But it might not be possible to repeat that activity as much as your child would like to.

So a cutting fruits or veg toy can be a good option.

Many brands have one such set! The one featured here is the Hape Brand.

World Floor map:

The Melissa and Doug jigsaw has 33 pieces. There are animals on each continent.

The alternative is the brand Petit Collage and the jigsaw has 24 pieces. 

Spelling game:

The Melissa and Doug is quite popular. I have one and I present one board at a time with the corresponding letters instead of the whole set.

The Orchard alternative is very similar just made of cardboard instead. (so much cheaper!)

Learning clock

The Melissa and Doug one is really well done with the digital and analog time cards.

The alternative is from the Absorbent Minds website.

Latch board:

It's a very popular toy.

Melissa & Doug version is very busy but can be hacked easily to make it more neutral (a lick of paint).

6 single latches boards from the Absorbent Mind website

Cleaning kit

The Melissa and Doug might seem a better option because it's made of wood but the other set is in fact Made in Germany! And it's a small version of the adult's cleaning set with a mop bucket, and the trolley as well!

Peg Jigsaws:

I like jigsaws with realistic pictures and with a big then a small peg. It helps your child to refine his tripod grip so it's a preparation for writing!

Most Melissa and Doug jigsaws have a sound effect. I have 3 of them and I have never added the batteries. The ones I have are from 10 years ago and are very realistic. The newest version have cartoon-like pictures which I don't like as much. 

The Hape puzzle is realistic and on this one, you can even see that the vehicles are in their corresponding element (land, air or sky). Hape is an eco-friendly, very affordable brand.

4 puzzles set:

Melissa and Doug has different sets of wooden puzzles in a box: farm, transport, dinosaurs, ...

Orchard toys is a UK brand that still produces their puzzles and board games in the UK! We had the old version of the Farm 4 in a box and it's still very similar. I like that it's progressif from 4 to 12 pieces.

Pattern blocks:

The Melissa and Doug set has the advantage to have the boards to inspire your child. 

The alternative is a big bucket of pattern blocks by Learning Resources. You can find many printable patterns mats online.

Alphabet Jigsaw:

Alphabet jigsaws, IMO, are often a hit and miss.

But I like this one because they are lowercase letters, you cannot match by shape so it's more for children who already have a phonetic awareness (so they don't guess where the pieces go by trying on in a shaped hole). At first, you can take off the letters tiles and use them as an alternative to the sandpaper letters (as they are 3D). Ideally, I would have preferred all the letters in blue and red to match other Montessori materials but that will do!

Stamp game:

I like that the stamps are about a topic and that the pictures are realistic.

A very similar set from a more eco-friendly brand.

I hope this list is helpful for you! No matter what brand you buy or where you buy toys, the main point is to be mindful. Remember that ultimately, it's always up to your child to enjoy the activity!

Do you have a favourite brand? Are you ok with the Melissa and Doug brand? Let me know in a comment!

This blog post contains affiliate links at no extra cost for you. Thanks for supporting my work.

The alternatives can be found on Yes Bebe website, a small UK based Ethical toy shop, on the Absorbent Mind website (Montessori materials specialist) or on Amazon.

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About the Author Carine Robin

Carine Robin has a Master’s Degree in Psychology, specialising in child psychology. She worked for various social services in her home country of Belgium, before moving to Ireland in 2006. It was there that she started working in a nursery and discovered Montessori education. After having her first child, her passion for the philosophy grew and she qualified as a Montessori teacher and managed a preschool. Carine has been running a Montessori based parents and toddler group and coaching families for 9 years. She now also runs an online group for over 14000 parents, sharing her knowledge and passion with people from around the world. In 2018, Carine realised families needed more support and launched her popular online parenting courses and monthly subscription boxes, full of personally designed Montessori materials.

  • Mariana says:

    The problem with these puzzles is that the pictures (printed on paper and glued to the wood) come off. This happened to my puzzles shortly after purchase, in fact after one week. The puzzles were not chewed or exposed to dampness. I was so disappointed.

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