Treasure basket play (also known as Heuristic Play) has been around for 60 years, it’s probably something you do without knowing, and the general idea is to provide toddlers with a collection of items made from natural materials (as in not bright plastic items) to explore on their own.
Treasure basket play is what is known as open ended play, which means that the item being played with has more than one possible use. For example, a wooden block can be used for stacking, rolling, putting into something else or used as an imaginary person.
A treasure basket works in the same way by being a large collection of open ended objects that can be used, manipulated and played with in any way the baby or toddler wishes to.
The role of the adult is to be attentive but not to intervene, it is suggested that the adult does not participate not even to start the play (opportunity to relax with a cup of tea). The object is for the child to explore the basket on their own . The basket should be put away after the session, this way the basket is a special activity.
To begin your own treasure basket at home, set aside a couple of days, where your main purpose is to build the foundations of a treasure basket for your child. Aim to establish a collection of 20-30 objects, which comprise a variety of textures and materials.
There are different themed baskets depending on age and ability. Suggested object groups are listed below.
- Paper / cardboard objects: Egg boxes, notebook, sturdy cardboard tubes, greaseproof paper.Wooden objects: Door wedge, small turned bowl, dolly pegs, egg cup, wooden egg, spoons, curtain rings, coaster, bracelet, block, napkin rings, dowel, empty salt and pepper cellars.
- Leather, textile, rubber, or fur objects: Small knitted toy, bean bag, piece of flannel, velvet powder puff, bags of herbs, bag of lavender, leather key ring, coloured ribbons, leather purse.
- Rubber objects: Ball, bath plug with chain, soap holder, door stop, and coaster.
- Metal objects: Honey drizzler, an egg cup, curtain ring, egg poacher, measuring spoons, tea strainer, whisk, powder compact, bells, lemon squeezer, small bowl.
- Natural objects: A lemon or orange, coconut shell, grass rope, sheepskin, pumice stone, loofah, shells, pine/fir cones, driftwood, avocado stone, large pebbles.
- Brushes: Scrubbing brush, pastry brush, baby’s hair brush, nail brush, makeup brush, paint brush, shaving brush, wooden toothbrush.
As your toddler gets older, you can change the collection of objects into themes such as; Light and heavy, Sense of smell, a basket full of colour, all sorts of shapes or a sound of music basket.