treasure basket

Its been a while since my last post about Teddy’s baby play space. In that post I mentioned his treasure basket, and I wanted to explain a bit more about the concept.

A baby’s treasure basket is a tool for heuristic play. This basically means play with ‘objects’ rather than ‘toys’. There are very few rules in creating a treasure basket, but here they are:

  • There should be an absolute minimum of plastic. If you can avoid it altogether, all the better. Instead, try to get a range of the other materials in the objects you choose.
  • Adults need to check the objects for safety every time they are used. I like to do this whilst I clear up when Teddy has finished so that I know I can just grab the basket next time. Check for small pieces that might be flaking off. Ensure everything that should be is securely attached. Avoid any objects that could cause a choking hazard. The general guide to this is anything that might fit into an old style 35mm film canister.
  • An adult must always supervise when a baby is using the treasure basket. Never leave a young child alone with the objects you have collected.

And thats it. Easy, huh? Here is Teddy’s collection of objects.

treasure basket collection

What can you spot? Objects made of wood, metal, fabrics… Yes, you can see ceramics and glass there. Many parents might try to prevent their baby from playing with these materials, but the stimulation they can gain from handling and discovering objects like this is so valuable. Of course they can be dangerous if chipped or broken, but that is why it is so important to supervise play with treasure baskets.

Why not have a closer looks at what is there…


nail brush, gauzy fabric, satin ribbon, glass lemon juicer, keysDSC_0041large shell, stone, wooden and metal bangle, metal dish, wooden blocksDSC_0042CD, wooden rattle, small baking tray, bangles tied together with ribbon, ceramic dish, frayed rope (actually a dog toy!)

Of course that is a lot of stuff, and actually not all of Teddy’s collection is pictured. (Little Bear took a fancy to a few objects whilst I was taking photographs). We don’t usually give Teddy everything at once, but select between ten and twenty objects at a time for him to explore. You might wish to try themed collections, which can be a valuable way for a baby to explore a particular property of materials.

You might try a shiny treasure basket…


This picture contains: CD, metal dish, shiny gift bag, metal spoon, metal business card case, keys, glass lemon juicer. You might also try: foil wrapping paper, a space blanket, a safety mirror

Or perhaps a selection of brushes…



This picture contains: body brush, paintbrush, baby hairbrush, make up brush, pastry brush, nail brush, whisk. You might also try: hog hair brush, scrubbing brush. 


…or fabrics…



This picture contains: satin ribbon, a flannel, pompoms, gauze, a net bag, a shoe lace, frayed rope, a bit of fleece. You might also try: fun fur, velvet, cotton sheeting, cord, denim, small piece of carpet, a knitted toy

Maybe your baby likes to test the noises objects make (Teddy does this with everything!)…noise


This picture contains: a rattle, baking tin and whish, metal dish and spoon, bangles tied with ribbon, bells, coins in a jar, a metal chain, keys. You might also try: seed pods, ball bearings in a jar, a tin can (with sharp edges sealed with tape)

Or you could collect objects from a particular room, such as the kitchen…kitchen


This picture contains: small baking tin, wooden spoon, metal spoon, pastry brush, whish, lemon juicer, cloth. You could also try: a tea towel, small saucepan and lid, sieve, a mug, a spatula, rolling pin

Perhaps you would like to keep objects as natural as possible… natural

This picture contains: wooden blocks, shell, rock, wooden stick, wooden spoon. You might also try: small turned bowl, knitted toy, fir cone, leaves (check they won’t cause rashes), large pebbles, seed pods, a lemon, a large avocado stone

The final thing you need to do is find a basket to put it all in. I would love a large, flattish, beautifully woven basket, but simply cannot find one at a price I am willing to pay. So Teddy’s treasure basket is in fact a wooden bowl. You could choose anything, really, but obviously avoid plastic, and make sure it is low enough for your baby to reach into. A metal baking tray, a cardboard box, a silver platter, a small wooden crate; all of these would be fine.

So now you have your collection, make sure your baby is sitting securely or is well supported, and present them with the treasure basket. A baby who does not yet sit could have a few objects scattered in front of them during tummy time, or next to them as they lie on their back so they can roll onto their side to reach. Once your baby is mobile, be ready for him or her to start to take objects to other areas of the room, perhaps to test them on the wall, chair, fireguard…

There is no need to interact with your baby whilst they use the treasure basket. In fact, it is best that they have a chance to explore in peace and quiet with no other distractions. Of course if they signal that they would like you to look with them then go ahead, but you will probably find your baby plays for a long time without any help. All you need to do is ensure they remain safe and be a comforting presence whilst they explore.

Have fun!


If you would like to find out more about treasure baskets, have a look here.


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