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Create Your Own Heuristic Play Basket

Create Your Own Heuristic Play Basket

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?

We reckon a Treasure Basket is the perfect starting point! Treasure Baskets / Heuristic Play Baskets are easy no-fuss way to introduce spontaneous play and 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. 

baby playing with objects


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? 

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

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. Treasure Baskets provide just the right environment for this.

baby playing treasure basket

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. 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, We suggest making it unique to your learners’ setting, experiences and interests.
We offer a variety of Heuristic Play resources and a Treasure Basket or Mystery Basket! You can also assemble your own at home.

baby playing heuristic basket

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:
      • Metal
      • Cane
      • Cork
      • Wood
      • Glass
      • Stone
      • Marble
      • Textiles
      • Paper
  1. Include mixed resources, some purchased and others used.
    You might like to include family in sourcing items from home. Some ideas are:
  • Length of chain
  • Jars
  • Lids
  • Wooden curtain rings
  • Pom poms
  • Large corks
  • Wooden pegs
  • Cardboard cylinders
  • Large sinkers
  • Textured balls
  • Small whisks
  • Bangles
  • Door knobs
  • Curlers
  • Rings
  • Pine cones

heuristic play basket ideas

  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. Identify an open and clean space with limited distractions to place your treasure basket on for playtime.  A flat and soft surface is advised and if you have a fluffly rug / fabric, it will add some sensory enhancement and prevent any round contents or balls from rolling too far away from the basket if placed outside. You can start by placing 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. This is also a wonderful group activity. Treasure baskets allow you to be a mentor, giving children the chance to learn alongside others. While children will be engrossed in play, you’ll notice they’re also aware of others around them and what they do with the objects.

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

View our range of beautiful and inspiring heuristic play resources!  Shop here.

heuristic play basket

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