Diaries Magazine

Sensory Play: Treasure Baskets

By Sjay235 @naturalmommainm
I mentioned in my last post that Isabelle has a "treasure basket", so today's post is all about treasure baskets - what they are and what's in ours. I first read about treasure baskets over at The Imagination Tree (a great resource for lots of play ideas), and have heard lots about them at my Baby Sensory class, and had been meaning to make one for a while, but never quite got round to it. A friend shared with me some pictures of the amazing treasure basket she made for her son, and that spurred me into action to finally get Isabelle's together.
Treasure baskets (or as my friend calls it a 'box o' crap'!) are based on the idea of heuristic play - basically that babies and children have a natural curiosity to explore every day items. Ever had to wrestle your phone/remote/keys off your little one? That is a perfect example of a little creating their own heuristic play experience - they are taking an everyday object and exploring it. What does it look like, what does it feel like, what can it do?
Sensory Play: treasure baskets
A treasure basket is basically a load of 'everyday items' that you have gathered together, and deemed safe for your little to play with. They are items which they are free to explore, play with and learn about in whatever way they see fit. While doing that, they learn about different textures, colours, sounds, weights, sizes and smells. They can explore how things fit together, and learn how to put one thing inside something else, or simply how to throw lots of different things! The whole time, they are perfecting their fine motor skills while picking things up, and making independent decisions about what they want to play with, and what they want to do with each item. To make it, simply choose things you don't need or use regularly (or at all) and which you think your little might find interesting. You should try to include a vast range of items to include lots of textures, sizes, shapes, colours, sounds and purposes to help extend the sensory side of the basket. Traditionally, they basket should be round and low so a a little one can access it from all sides, and should be presented to your little just a few times a week so they don't get bored with the items. Similarly, most ideas say to regularly rotate the items, and you can even 'theme' the basket - for example circles, shiny, natural items.
To make Isabelle's treasure basket I used an old basket in which we had previously kept dog toys, then, I went round the house and poked in all the kitchen drawers, and anywhere I thought things may be lurking, and gathered up the bounty below! Literally....a box o' crap!
Sensory Play: treasure baskets
Amongst other things I included a hot water bottle stopper, a whistle, a fake flower, a cookie cutter, a cat collar, a Play Doh tub filled with rice, a flip-flop, wooden blocks, coasters, a flashing ball, a DVD, a duster and some teething toys.
I know I won't regularly rotate items, so instead I collected loads and I keep them in the larger basket, but present them to Isabelle in a smaller, round basket. That way, I am presenting different items each time, and keeping the play times fresh. Her favorite items so far are an old watch, a cup from a flask, the fake flower and the Christmas baubles! She is given play time with the treasure basket 3-4 times a week, and the items are great for distracting her for a few minutes during nappy changes, or while I dry my hair! I am now on permanent look out at home and in shops for extra bits to add in, as my treasure basket is seriously lacking compared to many!
Sensory Play: treasure basketsSensory Play: treasure baskets
Personally, two things I like about treasure baskets are that they are cheap, and they are very open ended. Unlike many toys, which do one or two things and that is all, treasure baskets have endless opportunities. A little can do whatever they want with the items, and interact with them in a variety of ways, which helps work their imaginations, and decision making.
So, a cheap and cheerful way to present your little with opportunities for sensory play, even just for a few minutes at a time. Next time they try to grab their phone, give them an old one from a drawer, and then drop it into your treasure basket for future use! You'll be amazed at how the explore the items we have deemed not worthy for every day use.

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