The idea of the treasure basket was developed in the 1940s by childcare pioneer Elinor Goldschmeid. She later coined the term heuristic play meaning 'explore,' she describes heuristic play as a non prescriptive approach to learning, with no single way to play. Her approach was about offering children three dimensional, everyday materials that they can touch, smell, taste, bang and shake. It may seem like a very simple approach however the learning that takes place as babies and toddlers engaging in these everyday house hold items is so beneficial. They engage in movement, experimentation, exploration and problem solving. They learn and are exposed to a range of different physical qualities - soft, hard, spikey, smooth, cold, wet and shiny. These skills are profound for future cognitive thinking, concentration, manipulative skills, intellectual curiosity and setting a strong foundation for independent play. The traditional style of treasure basket is designed for babies old enough to sit and confidently reach and grasp at the items, however they hold a great deal of appeal and are just as beneficial to younger babies whom are reaching from their tummy, through to a forever moving active toddler.
To best support babies engagement with the treasure basket, it should be offered at time of calm when baby is well rested, changed and fed. It is advised that the treasure basket is set out for baby for a specific amount of time each day rather than an item that is readily available. This will ensure baby is engaged with each item and doesn't become disinterested. Providing baby time and space to explore each object without interfering in their learning is important in developing a sense of freedom. A space where they can be curious and make decisions about what item they want to explore, how long they want to explore and how it might make them feel. Stay close to baby and watch quietly as they play, you are their comfort and this will help them feel comfortable and supported. Not only is baby learning about a range of different textures, weights, shapes and sizes they are also learning how to manipulate these objects all while strengthening their fine motor skills, coordination and cognitive development.
"We can never truly know what it is like to bite into a ripe juicy peach until we have actually taken one for ourselves. Similarily, what do the concepts cool and smooth, prickly and rough actually mean unless we have caressed pebble, picked up a pine cone or fingered the bark of gnarled tree" (Quote from Elinor Goldschmied in 1990 from Developing play for under 3s)
Think of our treasure baskets as a starter kit, babies first delve into heuristic play by exploring the qualities of natural house hold items. Continue to add to this collection over time and watch it ignite the babies curiosity and desire to learn as they explore and learn about the world.