Treasure Baskets

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By Lorelli Mojica

Treasure baskets provide babies with a rich experience of sensory stimulation and give them a fuller understanding of the world.

child with basket

As their skills of sight and movement develop, a baby’s desire to learn and explore their world heightens. There are a wealth of commercial toys that provide great exploratory play experiences, however, an object like a box, a spoon or a feather can be amongst the many more everyday objects that fascinate babies just as a conventional toy would, if not more so. Imagine giving a young baby their first toy, beautifully boxed and gift wrapped. More often than not the baby would be just as interested in the wonderful sounds of ripping open the paper and banging together the polystyrene blocks that held the toy so neatly in place!

Whether it is the action of clanging a wooden spoon in a metal bowl, enjoying the feel of the soft feather against their skin, or hearing the crisp sound of tissue paper, treasure basket items are a fantastic way to feed babies’ development. They allow them to learn about the properties of objects by using their different senses and give them the opportunity to explore items that they may see every day in a safe way.

History of treasure baskets

English educationalist Elinor Goldschmied is known as the pioneer of treasure baskets. Her own childhood was filled with playing with natural objects with her siblings. In an interview she described her play with natural objects, saying, ‘every single thing became an element of interest’. In her adulthood, when working in a children’s home in Italy, she found the emotional states of many of the children to be very fragile. Her initial attempts of interaction with them, for example when offering them an object, were often rejected by those children who would pull away as they did not know how to respond. Her persistence and sensitivity began to pay off, and although reluctantly and cautiously, the children began to accept the objects she was offering them. She began to use more objects from the environment and she made play with these materials a daily routine. As a result she saw a reduction in babies crying and anxiety; bonds started to form between the children and staff using this method of play. It was her belief that children should have access to any type of natural material and consequently she transformed the nurseries and orphanages in Italy with her approach.

Benefits of treasure baskets

There are endless ways to create treasure baskets that will excite and inspire young babies and – as originally discovered by Elinor Goldschmied – there are many benefits to treasure basket play.

  • Practitioners and carers can provide a variety of accessible objects which can be continually adapted to suit a baby’s development, interests and age.
  • Practitioners and carers can create baskets which will offer opportunities, not only for babies to learn, but also for the adult to learn about the babies.
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