You may have seen nursery staff playing with babies and toddlers with a collection of household objects. We call them Treasure Baskets, and it’s honestly not as daft as it seems!
What is a Treasure Basket?
Quite simply, a Treasure Basket is a collection of natural and household items presented together in one basket to an individual or group of babies. For safety reasons, you wouldn’t include sharp objects, but otherwise pretty much anything goes and if you want to create your own at home, you’ll have many of the contents around the house eg. bunch of keys, wooden spoon, nailbrush, coaster, metal whisk, dolly pegs, cardboard boes, loofah, large smooth pebbles, small fabric bags, short length of thick metal chain, pine cones, salad servers, fabric hair scrunchie, wooden bowls, curtain rings, cardboard tubes, oversize buttons, tea strainer, tin lids, garlic press, potato masher, large shells, shaving brush……the list goes on!
What’s the point when there are plenty of commercial toys?
Manufactured (often plastic) toys have their place but their play value is limited. Once a baby has shaken a plastic rattle and given it a good suck, they may not want to continue to do this for very long. A Treasure Basket offers lots of different textures, sounds and smells, which can be explored for as long as an hour or more.
For what age group are Treasure Baskets appropriate?
From about 4-10 months.
Babies show a natural inclination to explore from around the age of 4 or 5 months. At this point, supported by cushions of a “Bumbo” seat, they will attempt to reach for objects that interest them. They may not have the control to grasp and release at will, but more often than not a baby of this age will show their fascination with an object by sucking or licking it.
A Treasure Basket offers a baby the freedom to choose her own plaything. In a world which is characterised by plastic rattles and synthetic Disney toys, the Treasure Baskets contain a wealth of alternatives from which to choose.
My baby is over 12 months, but I still notice she plays with Treasure Baskets at nursery.
Between the ages of 11 months and 2 years old, we tend to use the items for Heuristic Play. At around the time a baby starts crawling or bottom-shuffling, they will start to show an interest in what an object can do. This is the age at which a baby will post credit cards into your CD player, push books in your video machine and hide toys down the back of the sofa. We give them plenty of opportunity to use their desire to discover an object’s potential with collections of differently-themed objects.
Heuristic Play can sometimes involve themes eg a basket of natural textures or of shiny metal ones, contrasting soft and hard textures, lots of containers, boxes and bags or a Guillivers’ basket to illustrate the concept of size with nexting boxes and Russian Dolls.
What does the baby actually do in Heuristic Play?
Some patterns of behaviour (called ‘Schema’) that you might notice in older babies are stacking, filling, sequencing, emptying, ordering, shaking, carrying, transporting, rolling, building and joining things up.
What does the adult do?
Apart from looking after the safety and hygiene of the collections, our role is to offer support. This should be largely non-verbal; maintaining eye-contact and exchanging smiles can be vital to some young children, especially if the Treasure Basket or Heuristic Play experience is a new one.