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How to create a treasure basket to inspire curious learners

How to create a treasure basket to inspire curious learners

[A five minute read]

It’s a given that young children are naturally curious about the world they live in. They’ll look, touch, taste, drop, pick up and explore whatever you put in their path. So, how can we create a learning environment that encourages imagination, activates investigation and gives them the freedom to discover and learn through play?

How about a treasure basket? A creative way to introduce spontaneous play, a treasure basket is an easy, no-fuss way to ignite little imaginations. This blog article will show you how to create a treasure basket, how to use it within your teaching day and the benefits you can expect to see. 

Let our children play 

We all know that from the ages of 0 to 5, children need open ended play. This allows children to learn things for themselves by trial and error. With the right materials in a supportive environment, spontaneous play can support children’s cognitive development and provide excellent observation opportunities for teachers. All the while offering children a fun-filled, unhurried chance to learn, discover and problem solve. But how do we facilitate it? 

Curiate co-founder, Michelle Pratt says there are many simple open-ended play options to introduce.

“We don’t need to shape what children learn, they learn through experience and what they’re doing. Giving them open-ended resources and curating those resources to support learning through play is the goal,” says Michelle.

She believes the right environment, combined with appropriate materials for open-ended, spontaneous play are vital elements that support curriculum delivery.

“Places of beauty, planned, ordered, uncluttered, creative and fun-filled are essential for learners to thrive. With well trained teachers, this is a great starting point. With effective support these activities, derived from children’s interests, are planned and spontaneous.” 

So, what kind of ‘appropriate materials’ work best? How can we create the ‘right’ environment? Michelle suggests treasure baskets as a great place to start.

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What is a treasure basket? 

“A treasure basket is a carefully chosen basket made of natural materials, filled with a mixture of purchased and everyday household objects,” says Michelle. “The objects need to be safe, washable and offer children a variety of textures, sizes, colours and shapes. They can be made of paper, shell metal, wood… any natural material that offers a rich sensory experience. 

While exploratory play with treasure baskets can succeed with many ages and stages, it works particularly well with toddlers between 3 and 24 months. 

“They’re especially empowering when you give children of this age extra, uncluttered space, opportunities to experiment with transporting, cause and effect, posting and enveloping. They’ll start to problem solve, look at how objects fit together, test weights, textures and connections and use concentration and communication skills to find out more. It puts them into a rare leadership role.” 

While there’s no right way to put together the perfect treasure basket, Michelle suggests making it unique to your learners’ setting, experiences and interests.
Curiate offers a Treasure Basket bundle deal, if you're short on time, if not, you can assemble your own.


Create an effective treasure basket in five simple steps 

  1. Get prepared. Choose your baskets and source a large amount of natural, everyday materials that awaken the senses.
    These could include:
  1. Include mixed resources, some purchased and others used.
    You might like to include family in sourcing items from home. Some ideas are:
  1. Sort and combine your treasures in interesting ways and be prepared to rearrange on different days: by colour, by shape, form or perhaps use. Include items that encourage learners to fill, empty, stack, flip and sort. (Keep in mind there is no right way to use the objects, this is an open-ended experience with no sense of completion or testing of achievement applied). Use beautiful fabrics to line your baskets. 
  1. Choose an uncluttered, ordered space to place your treasure baskets and be prepared to offer them three times a week. Consider grouping some baskets together in their own area, perhaps in line with a theme. Or place a few items just outside the basket to see what happens. 
  1. Now step back. Settle into a comfortable chair and use your time for observation. Let the children imagine and explore as they learn strategies for thinking and reasoning through discovering the different properties of the objects as they touch, feel and manipulate them. Treasure baskets allow you to be a mentor, giving the learners the chance to learn alongside others in a group situation. While children will be engrossed in play, you’ll notice they’re also aware of others around them.


As an added bonus, tidying up is an integral part of the learning!


Keen to get started? Or searching for comprehensive resources to complete your science, art, outdoor or infant areas. We’ll help you put together a combination of beautifully crafted materials.

Contact us for a friendly chat and advice. 

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