Treasure Baskets

Playing Heuristically

Babies and toddlers learn best through play and an important part of this learning is through interaction with objects. It is not as commonly known that it is vital for your baby to be able to learn heuristically, which means allowing you baby to discover or learn something for themselves. Your baby is surrounded by loud, colourful and active toys, but these toys lack texture, smell, taste and so have little sensory qualities. In essence they lack the sensory and heuristic properties needed for supporting and developing creative thinking and problem-solving skills. Heuristic play was conceived by a child psychologist Elinor Goldschmeid in the early part of the 1980's. She uses it to describe how babies and children play with and explore the properties of 'objects'. Mostly these objects will be found around the house, garden, and other places you visit. Treasure Baskets

Elinor formalised heuristic play by using treasure baskets. The idea behind the treasure basket is to offer your baby (who can sit independently) a range of natural, household, and recycled objects contained in a rigid low-sided round basket. She suggested that you offer 60-80 different objects, which over time can be added to, removed, and replaced. Sensory motor development is the main way that babies under the age of one learn about their world. Your baby's first instinct will be to explore the objects by handling and mouthing them to find out about their physical characteristics: is it smooth or rough? do they have a taste or a smell? etc. Make sure that objects you have included in your treasure basket are not be too small (not suitable) for being placed in your baby’s mouth. Always remember that you should let you baby play with their treasure basket independently, otherwise you are not enabling them to play heuristically. You should, however, stay close and remain watchful when they are playing. Treasure basket are brilliant as they can provide some of the first opportunities for your baby to make their own choices and decisions. There is no right or wrong way for your baby to play with a treasure basket and the objects inside. Below are a few ideas for items that can be included in a treasure basket for the under ones. At this time of year, you could also theme your basket to have some safe autumnal objects included (pine cones, large leaves, satsumas – all of these will require a higher level of supervision as they may not be very mouth friendly).

Every time you go somewhere new you can collect objects to go into the treasure basket (shells from a trip to the beach or pine cones from a visit to the park), so that as the basket grows it reinforces learning experiences and memory skills development.

Wooden objects – small wooden spoons, clothes pegs, egg cups, door wedges, coasters, honey drizzler etc.

Fabric and leather – pieces of silk cloth, flannels, coloured ribbon, leather key rings, small wallets, bean bags etc

Brushes: Scrubbing brush, pastry brush, small hair brush, nail brush, makeup brush, paint brush, shaving brush, wooden toothbrush.

Glass and metal – tea strainers, bath plugs, small strong class bottles (essence bottles), mirrors

Natural objects: oranges, lemons, limes, (all with care), fur, large pebbles, pine cones, shells, natural sponges (with care), objects made from bone


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