Baby Play: Treasure Baskets

Not long after T was born, I came across the concept of a Treasure Basket. I’m always keen to develop my knowledge and understanding of play and learning so I was keen to give the idea a go. As far as I could tell, the idea was to provide a baby with household items to explore, made from natural materials, with the aim of providing some sensory play. I had a go at putting together a few objects for T, and although she enjoyed them for a while, it was a bit of a half-hearted attempt, and she soon lost interest.

In the past few months, I have been learning a bit more about the concept, and this time, I have done a little more research into the theory behind it.

The Treasure Basket is a concept created by Elinor Goldschmied, a British educationalist. It uses everyday, household items to create a broad sensory experience, and advocates the use of natural materials (such as wood, metal, leather, cork, rubber, wicker or cotton) rather than plastic.

What they are learning

When a baby is presented with a Treasure Basket, it allows them to stimulate all their senses and learn more about concepts such as size, shape, weight, temperature. They can experiment with smell, taste, and begin to notice that some things are shiny, while others maybe transparent or translucent. Children who are given the opportunity to experience these concepts at an early age understand them “long before they have the language to express them or the maturity to use and manipulate them”.
The Treasure Basket is also great for developing concentration skills, and babies have frequently been observed concentrating on a basket for up to an hour.

Putting a basket together

Goldschmied suggests using a wide (35cm), deep (12cm) woven basket, made with straight sides and a flat base – sturdy enough that a sitting baby cannot tip it over if they lean on it. This size of basket is large enough that you can fill it with a broad range of items.
Creating a Treasure Basket does take a long time – hence why my initial attempt when T was a baby was rather half hearted. So far I have collected a number of items from kitchen departments, DIY stores and charity shops! It’s certainly something I will be building up over time. However, this is absolutely fine as it allows the Treasure Basket to be change and evolve, which will maintain interest.
In terms of safety, obviously anything small, sharp or pointy shouldn’t be put in the basket. Different people will have different concerns over one item or another, so use your common sense and only put in what you are comfortable with.

How to use a Treasure Basket

When a baby is playing with a Treasure Basket, it is suggested that adults should be attentive but not active. This enables the child to go at their own pace and follow their interests and curiosities, but the presence of the adult provides security which enables the child to “take advantage of the play materials and activities on offer” (Lindon, 2008)
The ideal setting for exploration of a Treasure Basket is a quiet environment, free (as far as possible) from distraction. In a nursery setting, there could be a ‘Treasure Basket time’, rather than it being just one of a number of activities. The baby should be comfortable and refreshed (ie not just before a meal time or nap time).
Older children will want to intervene – T has been fascinated by watching A play with his Treasure Basket, and excited to see what he chooses! She has been keen to join in and has actually enjoyed playing with quite a number of the items herself. I love seeing her play with A but I’m also aware that it is good to allow him some time to just explore in his own way, so will give him the Treasure Basket at times when she is not around or when she is otherwise occupied.
We are really enjoying putting Treasure Baskets together for A, so I will be sure to share inspiration as we go! If you aren’t already, do follow me on Instagram to see more pics.

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