Treasure Baskets – stimulating play for babies and toddlers


I thought I would write a quick blog about this topic as, for whatever reason, this great idea never seems to get talked about much.  I learnt about ‘treasure baskets’ whilst undertaking my degree in Early Childhood Studies.  And now that I am starting to look after my second granddaughter, Lara, one day a week I am excited about making and sharing these baskets with her, as I did with her sister.

Simply put these baskets are a group of specifically chosen natural (real world) objects collected together and presented to a child for them to safely explore (see photo above).  It is a form of heuristic play which means the child learns for themselves, without adult intervention ( unless for safety reasons). It is very cheap, can be easily changed, adapted, themed and provides wonderful stimulation for a young child.

So why bother when there are a plethora of toys on the market? If I were to challenge you to close your eyes and touch, smell and feel many of the modern toys they would probably on the whole elicit the same results..smooth, plastic, cold.  Many are excellent and certainly earn their place in the toy box. However,  the contents of a treasure basket are textured, scented, noisy, hard, heavy or light etc and are more interesting because of it. 

This week when I looked after Lara I presented her with a ‘touch’ treasure basket…she simply loved it.  She physically shook with excitement when she picked up some of the items.  Whilst she totally disregarded some things, conversely she spent absolutely ages on others ( her choice) specifically touching, tasting, scrunching and comparing grease proof paper and baking foil.  She also loved rolling, sucking, lifting and squeezing the lemon…repeatedly returning to it.  I can’t wait for next week so we can repeat the experience.  I get so much pleasure from simply observing her as she explores, frowning with concentration and then giggling with delight, all the time learning.  I am grateful to her parents who gave me kind permission to include photos of her playing with her basket so you can get the idea.

Below is an excellent book should you want more information about how to make up these baskets.  I often include it as part of my present to anyone who has just had children.

Or alternatively here is a website with more information about them