When it comes to the early development of babies, teachers and parents are always looking for ways to promote cognitive development. Heuristic play is a learning approach based in babies’ natural tendency to learn and explore through trial and error. In the period of time when babies are not yet mobile but can sit comfortably and play, treasure baskets for babies, full of ordinary objects, offer a wonderful introduction to heuristic play, promoting curiosity and growth in the littlest learners.
Laura Wilhelm’s Treasure Basket Explorations, is a wonderful resource for parents and teachers interested in learning more about the benefits of heuristic play. Wilhelm explains that treasure baskets and heuristic play were first introduced by the early education pioneer Elinor Goldschmied. She believed that babies deserved the same respect and attention older children received, especially when the topic of play arose. Many people think babies are helpless and incapable of play, but if adults observe how babies interact with treasure baskets through heuristic play, they can see how children explore objects through trial and error and visibly show their thinking process. Instead of defining infants and toddlers by what they can’t do, heuristic play focuses on the process of figuring things out and the process of exploration.
Here are a few ways you can introduce treasure baskets to your infants and toddlers!
How to Create and Introduce Treasure Baskets
- Start with a sturdy basket about 6” x 18”, without a handle if possible. Handles make the basket harder to tip over but may also get in a child’s way, preventing her from reaching something she’s after. Inside the basket, place a variety of items. Look for safe, beautiful, well-made items that appeal to the senses. Each treasure basket can be unique and customized for each child’s or group’s interests.
- What to Include: Treasure baskets should continually evolve as your inspiration and children’s interests change. Let your senses be your guide when selecting materials. A well-stocked treasure basket should be so inviting that you want o play with it yourself. Begin with visual variety. Even natural surfaces will have a variety of shades. Children are fascinated with unusual textures such as pinecones, large seashells, and spiky hair curlers.
- Introducing Treasure Baskets: Find an appropriate time in the schedule to try introducing treasure baskets; successful implementation may be a matter of timing. Consider, for example, offering treasure baskets first thing in the morning to help children transition away from their families. Some teachers expect a calmer classroom mid-morning when many children are likely to be comfortably settled in and alert, so they choose to introduce treasure baskets at those times.