Children are naturally curious. When they are growing up, they just want to learn, they want to figure out how things work, how the world is made, who they are, how they were made, who their friends are, why some things roll and some others don’t… Why? Why? Why?
We (adults) might have some of the answers, or all of the answers depending on the questions, but is it good to give them the answer? Maybe for some questions, but it’s even better to LET THEM FIND OUT THE ANSWER! Encourage them to research, to investigate, to figure things out by themselves. Learning how to learn is priceless.
Children can start investigating the world around them from a very young age. One of my favourite activities for babies and young toddlers to promote this kind of curious learning is creating TREASURE BASKETS.
What is a treasure basket?
A treasure basket is a collection of items that are related between them (could be similar purpose, similar colours, similar shapes, similar material…) all placed in a container (a basket preferably) so the child can use their curiosity as a motivation to explore the different items and build vocabulary and understanding around them by exploring and experiencing each item through their senses.
It is important that the actual basket is welcoming and sturdy to the touch.
Who is it for and what to put inside?
A treasure basket is suitable for all ages, you just need to adapt the contents to the needs, interests and developmental stage of the child / children that will be playing with it. However, treasure baskets are mainly used with babies and young toddlers, always using safe items appropriate to their age (making sure they’re safe to put in the mouth) and always under supervision.
You can create a treasure basket and let your child explore it until they no longer have interest in those items, you know then it is time to replace them. It is nice to create a treasure basket with items you want your baby to get familiar with (kitchen items for example when they start feeding themselves, or shower items if they don't really enjoy bath time, or beach items if you are planning a day out to the beach, or afterwards with items you have collected…).
You can also create a treasure basket once a month for example and explore some seasonal items (when autumn comes you could have pine cones, leaves, autumn vegetables, etc. Or in the summer you could have suncream, sun glasses, a rubber duck, a sandal… all themed items).
How to guide your child
- Don’t give them instructions. Just watch. Imitate their excitement and emotions (if they feel curious and excited you copy that, if they don’t then you can create that too and ask “oh, I wonder what is in here!”
- Narrate what you see. Offer lots of words and description to what they do and the objects they find. They will acquire lots of new words by listening to you even if they can’t talk yet. For example, if they find a brush, you can say things like “you found a brush, it’s soft on one side but spiky on the other side, it’s brown and we can use it to brush our hair…”
- Don’t rush them. Allow them to take their own time and stop when they are not interested any more.
- They might just empty out the basket straight away and they start exploring, or throw the items away. Not all kids engage the same way, but practice is the key. Offer this activity regularly so they will feel familiar not just with the activity but also with this type of play.
What do babies learn with a treasure basket?
- They recognise and build vocabulary
- They learn new words
- They develop speech and language structure
- Developing concentration, observation and focus as they pay attention to each item
- They get a better understanding of their environment
- Bonding experience between the adult and the child
- Development of the child’s senses
- Stimulating curiosity and motivation that comes from the child
- Practice and improving sitting, grabbing, holding, throwing, stacking…
- Develop decision-making skills when they decide what item they investigate
- Independence as they connect with their own mind and play alone even if you are there.
- Getting to know themselves, what they like and don’t like as they explore different items
- Brain development as they create new connections between items, vocabulary, actions and space.
Types of treasure baskets:
BY THEME (here is a kitchen themed basket)
BY TEXTURE (here is a wooden items basket)
BY COLOUR (here is a blue items basket)
BY SHAPE (here is a square items basket)
DISCOVERY PLAYTIME FAVOURITES FOR TREASURE BASKETS
- Juggling scarves are great to hide the items, discover new colours and shapes, create vocabulary around the scarves like big, small, fly, up, down, throw, catch, square, colours...)
- Loose parts sets, with so many colours and shapes to explore, children can explore them, stack them, roll them and so much more. These toys will grow with the child and can be used in so many different ways during playtime and learning when they are older too.
- Rainbow paddle sets are great to change the colours of the world through them.
- Architect set (these shapes are also sold individually) can be used for playing and stacking, as pretend play gates for animals, or individually for treasure baskets, with playdough, etc.