A baby playing at a treasure basket

How to make a treasure basket

If you’re looking for a fun and productive way to entertain your child at home, a treasure basket may be the answer.

A treasure basket is easy and affordable to put together. It also has educational benefits for child as it encourages exploration and offers a sensory experience that benefits children’s auditory, visual, and tactile development.

Here we give you some treasure basket ideas guaranteed to keep your baby entertained.

Table of contents

  • What Is a Treasure Basket?
  • What Are The Benefits of a Treasure Basket?
  • What Should You Put in a Treasure Basket?
  • How to Create the Perfect Treasure Basket for Babies
  • How to Set Up a Treasure Basket Session
  • Final Word

What Is a Treasure Basket?

Our babies find everyday objects fascinating. You buy a toy only to discover that the box it came in is seemingly far more interesting. A treasure basket taps into this phenomenon.

A treasure basket is simply a low-sided basket loaded with toys, household items, and everyday objects that babies can use for sensory exploration. Child development expert Elinor Goldschmied is credited with conceiving the treasure basket. She got her inspiration from watching how babies love to play with everyday items, from saucepans to wooden spoons.

Elinor’s development of the treasure basket was accompanied by her discovery of the value of heuristic play for children — more on that below. Today, you can view Elinor’s original treasure basket at the Froebel Trust, a charity funding child development and education research.

Treasure baskets are primarily designed for younger children, usually infants. However, they can also be captivating for toddlers and preschoolers. Of course, you may have to adapt the items in the basket but the principle holds. In fact, the basket itself becomes optional. This is known as heuristic play.

What Are the Benefits of a Treasure Basket?

A treasure basket promotes heuristic learning, a type of exploratory play that allows children to self-direct their entertainment. It’s essential in young children, encouraging them to take agency over their education as they explore what’s in the basket. Babies also improve their sensory skills as they explore different objects.

Here are some other ways a sensory basket chock full of treasures helps children grow:

  • Spark curiosity
  • Foster concentration
  • Encourage decision-making
  • Improve fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination
  • Nurture conceptual learning
  • Create a foundation for independent play

What Should You Put in a Treasure Basket?

Now you know the benefits, you’re probably wondering what to put in a treasure basket.

When selecting your treasure basket contents, mix in everyday objects with your child’s usual toys. Try to put in items made from diverse materials, including metals, wood, textiles, and naturally occurring items like seashells.

Also, look for items with different sizes, shapes, colors, weights, textures, and smells. Why? The entire point is to create a sensory experience.

Here are some of the best sensory toys you can include in your child’s treasure basket:

  • Tennis ball
  • Clothespins
  • Rubber bath plug with a chain
  • Loofah
  • Hardware items
  • Pinecones
  • Wooden spoons or scoops
  • Small brushes (nail brush, toothbrush, hairbrush, makeup brush)
  • Curtain rings
  • Coconut bowl
  • Napkin rings
  • Small wooden bowls or dishes
  • Metal spoon
  • Bamboo straw
  • Keys
  • Mini sieve
  • Measuring spoons of different sizes
  • Baby-safe sheepskin swatch
  • Metal whisk
  • Unbleached sponges
  • Wooden blocks
  • Shells
  • Leather purse or belt

You can also add toys. Avoid so-called “predefined” toys like dolls or vehicles, however. These objects have a clear play purpose and eliminate the open-ended quality that makes the treasure basket fun to explore.

Many experts, including Elinor Goldschmied herself, also argue against including plastic items. Opt for recyclable, safe, environmentally friendly objects instead. For the basket itself, any wicker will do. It can be rectangular or circular. Just make sure the edge isn’t too high. Babies should be able to access what’s inside without having to reach.

This list is by no means comprehensive. Use your imagination, search around your home, and you’re sure to find additional items that will be of interest to your child. Remember, something that seems boring and mundane to you could well captivate your little one’s attention.

How to Set Up a Treasure Basket Session

Once you have your basket ready, you can put it to use. Choose a time of day when your child is alert and comfortable. They should be well-fed and not tired, ensuring they can devote maximum attention to their toy. Eliminate other distractions, like the television, before starting. Then, all you have to do is set the basket in front of your child. They will take it from there!

Set aside 15 minutes to let them explore. For maximum impact, you should let your child fully explore the basket and its contents on their own without adult intervention. You can observe but shouldn’t get in the way. You will likely be surprised to see just how engaged your little one gets as they concentrate on the objects, smelling, touching, tasting, and listening to them.

How to Create the Perfect Treasure Basket for Babies

A treasure basket is handy for entertaining babies who can sit up with the help of a cushion or ring but aren’t yet mobile. They have loads of items to explore at their tiny fingertips, no crawling necessary.

You can adapt a treasure basket uniquely for your baby. Of course, with babies, you have to be careful regarding choking hazards. Make sure that nothing in the basket is so small that your child could inhale, swallow, or choke on it. Since babies also like to explore with their mouths, also make sure to avoid hazardous chemicals, like toys with paint that can chip.

Additionally, check the items in the basket regularly to make sure they aren’t broken. You don’t want small parts to break off and present a possible choking hazard without your noticing.

The Final Word

A treasure basket is a cost-efficient and easy way to entertain your infant or young child. It also provides ample opportunities for learning and development. Use the above guide to craft your treasure basket, set it up for your child — and then sit back and enjoy the fun!