While training at Norland I had to make my own treasure basket for part of my creative option classes. I made my basket 7 years ago and have used it will all the families I have worked with. This activity is focused on babies from the age of 5/6months to about 18 months.
Elinor Goldschmeid developed the idea of a treasure basket in the 1980s. She realised that a lot of children’s toys were made of plastic. For babies who explore the world around them through all their senses, plastic is just an un-stimulating material. It may all look different but it all feels, tastes and smells the same. The whole idea of the treasure basket was to reintroduce natural materials through heuristic play. This is even more important today when we tend to baby proof our homes so that they can’t get into draws to play with what they find.
Babies should be able to sit unaided to play with this, and while obviously not left unsupervised, they need to explore the basket without interruption from adults. The baby needs to be able to make its own choices in which object to explore; you will find very out very quickly which textures, tastes, smells your baby prefers and which ones they don’t. They will have a much richer and stimulating experience if they can explore how they want to, rather than us showing them what to do with the objects. There are no right or wrong ways in which to explore a treasure basket.
The basket should be,ideally, a low sided, circular wicker basket. You can put any objects into the basket as long as it not plastic.
Objects you could consider are:
- Paper and cardboard objects – egg cartons, greaseproof paper, cardboard boxes
- Wooden objects – spoons, door wedges, bracelets, pegs, empty salt and peppershakers.
- Leather, textile, rubber and fur objects
- Metal objects – keys, measuring cups, spoons, bowls
- Natural objects – shells, pinecones, stones, sticks, flowers
- Brushes – Hairbrushes, cooking brushes, make-up brushes
- Other objects – hair rollers, mirrors, scent bags, ceramic bowls.
Before adding any objects make sure that it’s cleaned and that there are no parts that could be easily swallowed.
To get the most out of a treasure basket don’t leave it out so that it can be played with all the time, as it will lose its appeal. Instead bring it out once a week and let your baby play with it for 30-60 minutes at a time. Regularly change items to keep it interesting and stimulating.