Baby Hints & Tips

Treasure basket – simple play ideas for babies

The treasure basket could be your saviour … a way to see the light through the mountains of toys, and a highly effective way to engage babies and toddlers. Amy from The Playful Learning Co continues to inspire Baby Hints and Tips with her simple play ideas for little ones.

Treasure basket - simple play ideas for babiesWhy the treasure basket?

We have accrued a HUGE collection of baby toys at our place. You know the type… the plastic ones that have crinkly material, bright colours (or high contrast black/white), material loops and some sort of rattle.  Despite the fact that these toys are designed for babies, my kids always seemed to get bored of them.  But, if they saw the car keys? Or a toothbrush? Wow!  They couldn’t wait to sink their toothy-pegs into these! If you have ever noticed your baby wanting to play with the wrapping paper of a present more than the present itself then you have seen how appealing and exciting open-ended resources can be!

For babies, touch and exploration by mouth are important as sight.  When I think of our giant tub of baby toys, although the shape of them varied slightly, the properties of the toys themselves were all the same. Grab a few of your baby’s toys and try it for yourself: close your eyes and use your other senses to explore (touch, smell, taste, sound).  Chances are, they will all be very similar!

What is the right time to introduce the treasure basket?

Once a baby can sit by themselves, consider offering them a basket full of different items to explore.  Different sizes, weights, textures and colours – the simpler the items, the better! The ‘Treasure Basket’ is something that all four of my children have loved and was developed by a child psychologist called Elinor Goldschmied after years of experience and research with young children.

Offering Treasure Baskets to babies who are sitting allows them the choice of what to play with – pulling things out of the basket is half the fun! The more often you offer toys in this way, the way they play and engage with each item changes.  Initially they explore items thinking ‘what is this?’ and then this changes to ‘what can I do with this?’ After exploring the weight, texture and taste of a spoon, they start realising if they move it around and hit another object with it, a fantastic noise could be made! This is building lots of important connections in their brain.

Want to know how to get started on your own treasure basket?

Here are a few of our favourite themed Treasure Baskets with a list of the items within each:

Colour Basket

This is a fun way to re-purpose toys that your baby may not have played with in a while!  Find a shallow basket (this one is a few dollars from Kmart) and go on a colour hunt.  If you have a toddler, this is a fabulous way to help them learn about colours too!

In this basket, we have included:

  • a yellow wooden car with spinning wheels
  • a large yellow spoon
  • a piece of yellow wooden fruit (the type you can ‘cut’ in half)
  • a yellow cup with handle
  • a yellow ring
  • a GIANT yellow pom pom (this is very large so it is not a choking hazard)
  • a board book with a yellow cover
  • an empty paint pot (lid glued down) filled with yellow pom poms and yellow pony beads, perfect for shaking.

The Siny, Bang! Basket

Treasure basket - simple play ideas for babiesThis is a fantastic sensory basket for 7-8 month olds. It’s perfect for exploring different textures as well as making fantastic noises when a baby BANGS them!  In this basket I’ve included:

  • two spoons (different sizes)
  • a toy Tamborine
  • a whisk
  • a toy pot (from Ikea)
  • a toy ladle

Wooden Basket

Treasure basket - simple play ideas for babiesI adore wooden toys, and have always bought wooden toys over plastic ones.  They are just so timeless and open ended, and last so much longer than plastic toys.  In this basket, I have included:

  • a wooden baby brush from the body shop (this has been a FAVOURITE item with all my kids)
  • a wooden rattle
  • a wooden dinosaur
  • a triangle colour block
  • a plain, wooden block
  • a Manhattan rattle toy
  • a Hape brand aeroplane

What do I do when my child is playing with their treasure basket?

Often as parents, we underestimate how incredibly inquisitive babies and children are – they are born with brains WIRED to learn! When your baby is playing with items in a Treasure Basket, your job is not to teach them about the physical characteristics of the objects or how to concentrate – your baby will do this on their own.  Think of yourself as a facilitator rather than a teacher.  You can’t teach someone what ‘smooth’ is, until you have experienced ‘smooth’ for yourself with your senses.  Be responsive to your baby, exchange a smile, offer a simple sentence (‘Yes, it’s soft!’) or return an item to the basket that has rolled out of reach.  By being supportive and responsive, your baby feels safe and is freely motivated to discover things for themselves.

Treasure baskets and safety

As with everything – you know your child best.  Always supervise your baby and make sure items are not small enough to pose a choking hazard.

More information on treasure baskets

Treasure basket - simple play ideas for babiesIf you wish to read more about Treasure Baskets, the book ‘Developing Play for the Under 3s’ by Anita M. Hughes (available https://www.bookdepository.com/Developing-Play-for-Under-3s-Anita-M-Hughes/9781138779198) is a fantastic resource with lists of items, perfect for baby play.

And if you’re wondering about our huge tub of plastic toys?  We gave them away!  Check out @playfullearningco on Instagram to see all of the different ways we play at our place.


About the Author:

I am a Mum of 4 little blondies (5 and under), a teacher-on-leave and Education Award winner; currently living in the Red Dirt of Australia's North West. I love playful learning, mess making and colour! Find Amy at Instagram @earlylearning101 and Instagram @playfullearningco.

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