When my LO was born, friends and family couldn’t wait to help out and buy things, especially my mum. She’s retired and is enjoying having a grandson she can spend more time with. As my LO had colic my mum was buying toys to distract/ soothe just to help. As well as when there was anything in the sale she would buy. I didn’t want my house overrun with plastic or toys that were too old for him but didn’t know what to suggest. I began the Bluebell group and it was a lifesaver but also gave me some ideas. In the crèche the babies were playing with spatulas, sponges pumice stones and it wasn’t until the worker said that all plastic feels, tastes and smells the same that I though how boring. I chatted about my mum and that she was now asking me for Christmas presents. They suggested that my mum make a treasure basket. I didn’t really know what that was and I needed to give my mum clear guidance otherwise she would get stressed. The workers suggested things that have texture like fabric, leather nail brushes etc.
I also Googled (love Google) printed off some sheets which explained that this was heuristic play and how to build a treasure box. I gave my mum the challenge and she flew with it. She put together a basket with kitchen utensils, a metal egg cup, pine cones, springy things, a honey thing, as it was Christmas she made mini stocking containing vanilla pods and cinnamon. There were loads of different things.
My LO loved it, he didn’t have access to it all the time so that he could focus on it more when he did play with it. It was great to explore new tastes, smells and textures with him. He soon had his favourites. We would also take some of the items with us if we were going out which meant he was always entertained and started conversations with friends. Now my LO is older I have my mum making busy bags to help entertain my velcro baby. Possibly I might drink a cuppa while it’s warm!
Emma's tips on Treasure Baskets...
Sometimes, with a long day stretching ahead, the thought of entertaining your baby all day can seem like a daunting task….
Treasure Baskets can be a very useful resource at any time, having many benefits for both you and your child.
Treasure Baskets provide stimulation for your baby, giving them the opportunity to use all their senses and can hold their attention for long periods . They are easy, cheap (and fun!) to put together, using items that are often readily available from around the home.
Getting Started :
- A Treasure Basket is a basket or box that can’t easily be tipped up and is easy to reach inside.
- Fill the baskets with objects, the fuller the better.
- Seat the baby sideways at the basket, so they can rest an elbow on the edge of the basket .
- Sit nearby so you can watch. Only intervene if your baby clearly needs your attention. However, it is important to maintain some eye contact. This means that far from being ignored, babies have the chance to play independently, often engaging for long periods with the items in their basket, secure in the knowledge that an adult is nearby. If s/he decides to spend half an hour exploring the qualities of a wooden spoon, that is his/her decision.
- Treasure Baskets are particularly beneficial for babies who are able to sit up unaided and make their own choices ( approx. 6 months). Younger babies will need more help, but you will soon find which items really hold their interest.
Further benefits :
- Babies have a natural curiosity for exploring objects and finding out what can be done with them. Treasure Baskets enable them to do this and introduce them to a wide range of materials.
- Natural resources are frequently more calming to babies than brightly coloured manmade materials.
- Plastic toys can be limiting as they are always going to taste and feel the same. They do not encourage the use of all the senses.
- Attention and concentration skills are given the opportunity to develop.
- Babies can practise their fine motor and eye/hand co-ordination.
- There is the opportunity to make simple choices and develop preferences.
- The chance to use their imagination.
- There is no right or wrong way to explore the objects in a Treasure Basket, making it a particularly good resource for children with Special Educational Needs.
What could go in a Treasure Basket? :
There is no end to the list of objects that could be put in your basket, and they can be gathered over time. Resources could be stored in different bags under different themes, which can save on space. It is a good idea to rotate the contents of the basket to stop your baby from getting bored.
Here are some suggested resources and how you could categorise them .
Natural Objects :
- Wooden spoon, loofah, natural sponge, brushes (various types), pumice stone, pebbles, corks, leather, rope, wooden clothes pegs, small rolling pin, coasters, salad servers, cotton reels….
Metal Objects :
- Spoons, keys, plug with chain attached, small whisk, tea strainer, tin lids, small baking tins, small saucepan with lid, potato masher, dog chain, metal jug, door knob….
Sense of Smell basket :
- These items could be placed in old jewellery bags :
- Nutmegs, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, cardamoms, cloves, coffee beans, herbs, soaps, lavender bags, perfumed candles….
Light and Colour basket :
- Hand mirror, foil, shiny spoons, small coloured glass jars, paperweights, sunglasses, CD cases, torch, tissue/greaseproof paper, bubble wrap, black paper, plastic bottles filled with coloured liquids….
Feely basket :
- Fleece, cotton, fur, net curtain, leather, suede, satin, wool, plastic, sand paper, ribbons, corrugated card, cellophane, chiffon, towelling, fabric with beading, embroidery and sequins….
Safety and hygiene of objects in the baskets :
- Babies at this age may be able to grasp and hold objects but are unlikely to be able to hit or poke with them.
- If you are unsure about an item then don’t include it.
- Make sure items are washable, wipeable, or disposable.
- If you feel you could swallow an object then don’t use it.
- Stay close by.
Further reading :
Elinor Goldschmied was an Educational Psychologist who first introduced the concept of Treasure Baskets. She spent many years watching how children played and how they gained knowledge of the world around them.