Having a treasure basket, with few items for baby to explore, is a great way for whānau to stimulate baby's development.
A ‘treasure basket' offers baby a small collection of items to select and explore. It might include household items or things from nature with a range of shapes, colours and textures.
Exploring and discovering
Baby is exploring and finding out about the world using their senses, and the treasure basket means they are free to choose what and how they’ll investigate.
- What have you and baby been enjoying playing with lately?
- What is baby interested in?
- Have you noticed how they’re discovering and exploring their play things?
A treasure basket is especially suitable for babies who aren’t yet mobile and are content to sit with their treasure basket in front of them and follow their natural curiosity to explore.
It doesn’t have to be a basket, just something to keep the items together – like a box or tray.
Safe items for baby’s treasure basket
At first baby will explore the objects to find out about them. After that, baby will see what they can do with them.
- Do you have some things around the house that might be suitable for baby’s treasure basket?
- Are they safe, that is, hygienic, too big to swallow, with no sharp edges?
- Because we know they’ll want to put everything in their mouth, what do you think is a safe size for baby?
If an item could fit inside a paper towel tube, it’s too small for baby. As their hand–eye co-ordination develops, give baby items that offer more challenge, for example, containers that fit inside each other or blocks that can be stacked.
In the Whakatipu booklet Te Pihinga 2 (page 5), whānau say:
‘We notice the types of toys pēpi likes to play with. We try and make our own with simple things from around the house.
Pēpi likes to explore different colours, shapes and textures and is interested in different sounds he can make.’
Making a treasure basket
Collect 4 or 5 items, put them inside a container and watch what baby does with them. Examples could include wooden spoons, small containers, a piece of sponge, fake fur, a large smooth shell, driftwood, pinecones, a napkin ring or suitable ornaments.
Enjoying the basket with baby
Encourage parents to talk about what baby is doing. Are they looking, touching, sucking, licking, banging, picking up and dropping?
The contents of the treasure basket can change over time. For example, a large smooth stone might be very interesting for a while, then ignored as baby has found out all they need to know about it.
It’s important to supervise baby when they’re playing with the treasure basket, especially if there are other siblings who might want to explore the items in different and possibly ‘unsafe’ ways.
Helpful resources for whānau
Playcentre Aotearoa: The magic of heuristic play
Play is how children best make sense of the world. Read more on heuristic play from Playcentre Aotearoa.