I created a treasure basket for Poppet when she was a baby, much to my mum's amusement who assumed I think that I could not afford proper toys and rushed off to the Early Learning Centre to buy some for us. Now Little is sitting well (and crawling and pulling herself up to standing, yikes!), I set about making one up for her too. Treasure baskets provide rich mental stimulation and are a really enjoyable experience for babies. I find that a treasure basket occupies the girls for far longer than any bought toy, and they are far and ahead Little's favourite past-time.
Treasure baskets are based upon the concept of heuristic play. This was a term coined by child psychologist Elinor Goldschmied and describes the exploration of the properties of everyday objects through the use of the senses. It is a type of play that comes naturally to babies - their instinct is to explore objects by mouthing them and touching them in order to find out about their physical characteristics.
A treasure basket is simply a ridged low sided basket, easily accessible by a sitting baby, that is filled with a large number of different everyday objects (about 50). The baby is allowed to play freely with the basket without adult intervention. They should be allowed to explore the objects in their own time, and make their own decisions about what to play with. In fact that is the best part - observing what objects capture your baby's attention and which they discard!
The objects can be any small object from everyday life, providing they are not choking hazards. Plastic should be avoided, as all plastic looks, tastes and feels the same so does not offer much in the way of sensory exploration. The baby should never be left alone with the basket and an adult should always supervise the play. Importantly, the basket should not be left out 24/7, or the objects will become boring. To keep it novel, present it to your baby once a day or every couple of days, and regulary update objects.
Our treasure basket contained the following:
a teaspoon, a whisk, an empty golden syrup tin, a dessert spoon, a metal lid, a little sieve, an egg cup, a tea strainer ball, a set of bangles
a large comb, a small comb, a plastic measuring cup, a frog bath toy, a toothbrush, a plastic cup
a wooden train track piece, a wooden orange toy that splits into segments, a wooden spoon, a small wooden dish, a wooden train, a wooden spatula, a wooden cube, a little wicker basket, wooden cubes on a ribbon, a large wooden bead, a toy wooden mallet
an empty glass spice jar, a toy mirror, a CD, a silicone pastry brush, a make up brush, a soft toy flower with little mirror, ann egg box, greaseproof paper
a crochet coaster, a dishcloth, an organza sash
a large shell, a pine cone, a cork coaster
We had too many plastic and metal things but I tried to make sure they were different colours and shapes. At some point I am going to make a trip to Poundland and add a loofah, some brushes and more wooden bits and pieces to balance things out.
At first Poppet was rather too helpful and wanted to 'tidy up' whatever Little took out of the basket. She doesn't like the mess you see. Eventually I convinced her to let Little play freely. One of her favourite objects to fish out and put in her mouth was the sieve - I find this funny because it was Poppet's favourite thing too - what is it about sieves that babies like so much?! Her other favourite thing is the silicone pastry brush, she just loves sucking on that, and makes very loud noises with it.
When she got a hold of the wooden spatula, she started to bang her forehead with it repeatedly - now I didn't know how far I should be abiding by the 'don't interfere' principle of heuristic play - did that include not intervening when baby starts walloping themselves on the head with a wooden instrument? She did not look to be enjoying it but wasn't cottoning on to the fact it was her own actions that were causing it. Anyway, I just observed, and she ceased soon enough, so an important lesson was learnt. Don't bang own head with spatula.
Poppet : 2yrs 4mos