One of the best things to do for a child is to offer them materials that are made from natural elements; whether it's for learning or games or toys. Keeping safety in mind, any time an item made from glass, metal or wood can be given to a child rather than something made from plastic -- it's a beneficial and positive thing. Many people think children are naturally drawn to the plastic-like, colorful toys that are found in most toy stores. But given the choice, a child will choose to play with, and use, items that are made from natural elements because they like the idea of having, and using, items similar to what they see the adults around them using.
In Montessori inspired spaces, you will see that nothing really resembles the "toys" that are found in many other classroom environments for children that age. Lots of people think "real" things are dangerous and not fun for a child. But children learn how to be gentle with materials that are fragile. They learn that glass breaks. They learn that wood is heavy. Children learn that objects have different characteristics and that they are being trusted to have smaller versions of things that they often see their parents use.
For young children, an introduction to lots of everyday items can be given in something called a Treasure Basket. Treasure Baskets usually include 10-15 items, placed in a shallow basket, made from natural elements, that speak to the five senses. Baskets can be made a few different ways -- by theme (holidays, seasons, etc.), by sense (either sight, sound, taste, touch or smell), or a mixture of the senses at the same time. The idea behind Treasure Baskets is that young children (typically between 6-18 months) get a chance to explore natural objects and household items while making discoveries about their qualities. Does it roll? Is it heavy? Does it feel cold? Is it soft? Here's an example of what something like this may entail:
Some other ideas for objects are feathers, rocks, pine cones, bells, mini pumpkins, a loofah, a toothbrush (for older children), a handheld mirror, different textures of fabric pieces, and so on. The ideas are endless.