I love treasure baskets. They are so easy and quick to make, and can be changed or added to by simply using items from home. They also look nice on the shelf of our toy cupboard.
They are particularly nice for babies (from when they can sit up) right up to toddlers and young children. Having said that, my ten year old was playing yesterday, but using some of the items in her role play, pretending to make dinner for her younger sister.
They are an amazing sensory experience, and as there isn’t a particular way to play, children can make their own discoveries in their own ways.
In this blog I am going to introduce you to treasure baskets, why they are good for our children, and how to make one of your own!
WHAT IS A TREASURE BASKET?
A treasure basket is usually a medium sized wicker basket, filled with everyday things you don’t usually associate babies playing with. These items can be things like large feathers, pinecones, ribbons, sponges, pegs – the possibilities are endless.
Treasure baskets are a really simple, yet effective way for children to play and learn at the same time. We allow them to use their fingers, eyes, ears and mouths to enrich their playtime experiences. It is an heuristic way of playing, which means we are allowing the children to discover and understand the world by experimenting and solving problems by themselves.
My house, probably like most houses with kids, is cram packed full of toys. We have Sylvanian families and Playmobile, cars and garages, Lego and Duplo bricks. So why do they need a basket full of stuff? This is actually a basket full of carefully selected stuff. Most of our toys, like the ones I just mentioned are made of brightly coloured plastic. Treasure baskets give your child’s senses a break from the cold hard plastic and bright colours. Plastic toys don’t always offer a lot of sensory stimulation for younger children, as everything feels, smells and tastes the same – like plastic. Children are interested in the properties of other materials, just like when we used to play drums with a wooden spoon and metal pans, or when they like to play with the box instead of the toys!
The objects we choose to put in our baskets are chosen for their variety of sensory qualities. For example you have a walk around the house and find some old keys, a large sea shell, a large pebble and an orange, and give them to your child. Think of how your child will hear the bunch of keys jingle, the smell and taste of the orange, the cold smooth pebble and the bumpiness of the sea shell.
It’s a whole new world compared to the plastic toys we are so used to giving our children.
Of course they don’t only benefit from sensory development, but other areas too. Physically the children can be sitting or propped up, reaching into the basket, grasping, picking up objects, bringing them to their mouth, dropping them. Other benefits include making choices, exploring shape and texture, problem solving, concentration skills, making sense of the world, and that’s just a few! All from a basket of stuff!
I usually leave our basket on the shelf of the toy cupboard, as Little L is big enough to get it out when he wants it. But for younger children, make a clear area on the floor or rug and simply let them explore it for themselves. You can stay nearby watching for support, but allow your child to make discoveries for themselves, finding out how the objects taste, sound, and inventing their own little games in their own little world.
So what do you think? Shall we have a go at making your own? I will share how I made ours. It took a few days to find everything in it, as the girls helped me make some pompoms to go in, and I pinched a few things from my mum and dads house too! Here’s a step by step guide on making pompoms Make and Play 1 – PomPoms
HOW DO I MAKE A TREASURE BASKET?
Start off by finding a basket. If you don’t have a wicker basket a box will be fine to start with, as long as it isn’t plastic. I had this one hiding in a cupboard so I dusted it off.
Try to have your basket deep enough so the things on the bottom aren’t visible at first, and your children can route around and find surprises they hadn’t seen.
Then get searching!
Here’s what I put in:
I looked for wooden or natural things, and the poor earless, footless squirrel is what’s left of a pair I had til Little L got his hands on them and banged them hundreds of times! Along with a loofah, brushes and some pegs. Cardboard is very easy to find. I cut some hoops out of a cereal box, had a tube from some foil, and I cut a smaller piece from the end so there’s a big tube and a little tube, and an eggbox.
Our (messy) pompoms we made, and some metal curtain rings, measuring pans, egg cups and a small metal bowl. These make lovely jingly noises in the box, and in contrast to the cold metal, the pompoms are soft and warm.
This is what is in altogether and here is my filled treasure basket. As you can see I also made a sensory bottle, and I have added another one since. I will show you a picture, and will be writing a blog all about sensory bottles very soon.
Other ideas you could use are:
- balls and pompoms of different sizes
- colour – if you are teaching your little one about colours, why not fill your basket with things of that colour
- nature – pinecones, shells, leaves, natural sponges, large pebbles, wooden items
- cardboard – egg boxes, different sized empty boxes, a variety of tubes, cardboard hoops,
- materials – colour and texture – felt, cotton, wool, fleece, lace, ribbon, pompom, shiny material
- Themed – eg Halloween, Xmas, Easter, or Autumn, Summer,
As you can see, there are allsorts you can include.
You can add to your basket when its been there a while to add some new excitement, or change it altogether to a different theme. At the moment mine hasn’t got a theme, but I will plan one for in a couple of weeks – maybe a Xmas theme, I will have to wait to see what I find in our Xmas decorations box.
Just a few last important things:
Firstly, you must make sure that all the things you select for your basket are safe for your children to play with. No parts that are too small, that may splinter or break, no glass. If you include a pinecone or a large pebble or something from outside, its best to give it a wash before letting your little one nibble on it!
Secondly, please keep an eye on the things in your basket for damages. The wooden pegs I put in mine are easily pulled apart, leaving the small metal spring and I wouldn’t want Little L to choke. However, I removed the broken ones, but left the others in as he likes them, but I will check them every time he has them out and throw away any broken ones. Its just an ongoing thing as sometimes you don’t realise these things until you have them.
So that’s it! You now know all you need to know about treasure baskets, the benefits our children can gain from them, and how to make your own. I hope you found this blog helpful, and I would love to know if you made your own or if you already use treasure baskets. Please feel free to share some of your ideas for things to go in the basket too!
Thankyou for reading and happy exploring x