I’ve been wanting to write about treasure basket play for babies for a long time now. The topic is timeless and I’m sure you’ll have come across many heuristic play ideas on line and in real life. Here’s my take on the ‘good old treasure basket’, I hope it will inspire you to create something unique yourself.
The Importance of Treasure Basket Play for Babies
Most children love to explore. I know my little man is at his happiest when he can roam through the house, pottering around. It’s not unusual to find him tipping out my spices or trying to get into my office supplies.
It’s how children learn: they touch, inspect, move, smell, manipulate and taste to make sense of each object. Then they test this knowledge in a different situation with perhaps a different object. They remember, compare and learn some more.
In many cultures throughout time children were given safe (well, “safe”) mini versions of adult tools to explore and experiment with. They possibly had more freedom to independently explore their environment than children have now. And I’m sure they spent a considerable amount of time outside, exploring nature.
Things have changed a lot in a short amount of time in these modern days. In a very well meant effort to invent the most amazing educational toys for children, plastic and bright colours took over. Modern toys often look and feel the same.
In 1994 Elinor Goldschmied pioneered Heuristic Play. Heuristic play is about giving babies and young children the opportunity for self directed play by providing them materials that offer different sensory experiences.
The idea is to present babies with a number of natural materials that can be found in and around the house. Then the baby has the opportunity to explore all the items in the basket, while the adult simply observes.
Why is heuristic play so important? Because heuristic play allows for independent and self directed play. By providing children with open ended materials and give them the opportunity to explore at their own pace and follow their own interest, optimised learning is taking place right before your eyes!
Treasure baskets are a heuristic play spin off: the definition of a treasure basket seems to be a lot broader than that of heuristic play. It comes down to the same thing though: a collection of items of interest to explore.
Treasure baskets can be anything, depending on the age of the children, their interests and your resources. I’d like to tell you about the little treasure basket we’ve got at home for our baby, (now toddler!)
What is in the Treasure Basket?
I set up this little treasure basket which contains a variety of treasures from our play area.
What is special about this treasure basket is that it contains parts of toys that the bigger sibling plays with. Our little boy always got very excited to find his sister’s play things in there. And allowing him to explore them in his own right has helped us a lot with avoiding sibling ‘incidents’.
Another thing that makes this treasure basket so special is that it has got a hole in the lid for baby to post items through. Yes. Genius, right? I found our cane ‘basket-with-the-hole’ in our local Trade Aid store.
Here are some of the items that over time have lived in our treasure basket:
It’s a collection of (parts of) toys, play kitchen items, animals and the odd random play thing. I’ve always try to make sure that the play things in the treasure basket offer a variety of sensory experiences.
The contents of our treasure basket would vary according to our little man’s interests. At one stage he seemed obsessed with his sister’s Playmobil, so I put a few of the bigger Playmobil animals in there. That seemed to temporarily satisfy his need to investigate our precious Playmobil collection. Much to his sister’s delight.
So you could put in there anything you want, have around or think would be suitable.
How to Play with the Treasure Basket
You don’t really have to do anything to help your baby engage in treasure basket play. There’s a good chance they’ll be happy to investigate the basket and it’s contents all by themselves.
Allowing your baby to grow in independent play has so many benefits, for the both of you. I wrote an entire article about the benefits of independent play, which you can read here.
Having said that, you could also enjoy playing together. There’s a time and place for both independent play and quality time playing with your child.
Posting Things through the Hole
Depending on the age of your baby you could play the posting game, by showing your baby how to post items through the hole and see where they went.
Around 9 months children develop object permanence, which is basically the understanding that something or someone is still there even when they can’t see it.
Games such as peekaboo are essential for helping your baby grow in confidence and resilience, knowing that you will always come back and that they can manage short periods of elevated stress.
The posting game gives young children the opportunity to experiment with object permanence, and gain that confidence in an environment they can control.
And it’s also great for practising those fine motor skills: grasping and purposefully releasing. It’s all crazy exciting for a 10 month old!
Learning about Objects and their Characteristics
I’ve noticed most parents will automatically do this: naming the different objects and talk about their colour, texture, smell, purpose, … you name it.
Children love to be a part of any conversation with you, no matter how small they are. Naming and discussing items is a great way to build language. I guess you can’t start early enough.
This might come naturally to you, but it didn’t to me. I like silence and didn’t always talk my way through the day with my small children. So when playing with my babies I grabbed the opportunity to purposefully make eye contact and talk about what we were doing.
Hide and Seek
Toddlers will like taking this little game to the next level and go looking for a certain object.
I used to hide things in the mini sleeping bags and ask my little boy to find me the rabbit for example. He thought it was very funny that I tricked him. Then he’d insist on hiding the same object in the same bag and ask me the exact same question. Of course I’d struggle and act surprised, much to his delight. Toddlers. Got to love them!
Treasure Baskets and Heuristic Play
There are no limits to what you can do with heuristic play and treasure baskets. It all comes down to what works for your baby in your home. And that will change over time as you both discover new interests.
Here’s a little list of blog posts about heuristic play and treasure baskets you might like to read, written by fellow kid bloggers:
150+ Items to Include in your Discovery Basket , by The Train Driver’s Wife
Heuristic Play – Treasure Baskets, by The Imagination Tree
14 Treasure Bins for Baby, by Wildflower Ramblings
Baby School Montessori Treasure Baskets, by The Kavanaugh Report
Thanks so much for visiting today, I hope you’ll enjoy your treasure basket play and please remember to always supervise your children when playing and be the own judge of what items are suitable for your baby to discover.
Feel free to share your feedback, thoughts and ideas about treasure basket play in the comments below. I’d love to hear!
Enjoyed this post? Pin it for later!