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baby playing with a treasure basket

Treasure baskets for babies

Exploring a treasure basket filled with exciting everyday items is the perfect activity for babies! Treasure baskets are a fantastic resource that you can find at baby groups and nurseries but they also lend themselves so well to play at home. They are practically free to make and easy to put together as they contain a variety of everyday objects that you would find in your home anyway. The contents is refreshed regularly to keep the discovery interesting and stimulating. This all based around the idea of Heuristic play.

What is Heuristic play?

The idea of playing with a selection of everyday objects is built around the theory of child psychologist, Elinor Goldschmeid. This theory is called Heuristic play and it describes the process of child-led exploration of everyday objects. This allows a child to discover properties and reach an understanding about objects from the real world. Babies are always learning and play is widely accepted as the primary way that young children learn about the world around them, although adults may not always understand the purpose of their play. Treasure baskets are a brilliant way for adults to facilitate Heuristic play by choosing a selection of everyday objects that are safe to be explored, chosen for their various properties and exploratory possibilities.

The best way to organise this activity is to clear away other toys and place the treasure basket in a calm, tidy and familiar place. This way, baby won’t be distracted by other things going on. Then allow them to lead the play and join in if invited to do so. Your role as an adult is to sit back and watch as your child explores at their own pace.

Ideas for treasure baskets

A low-sided basket, box, bowl or tin is the perfect staring point because it is easy for babies to see and reach into. Refresh the contents of the treasure basket every so often to keep the learning exciting and interesting. Then have a hunt around your house for a wide variety of objects that have a range of textures, materials, properties and shapes.

wooden ideas for treasure baskets

Wooden items

  • Bowls and spoons
  • Pegs
  • Curtain rings
  • Comb
  • Cotton reels


  • Flannel
  • Coloured ribbons
  • Microfibre mitt

Metal items

  • Keys on a keyring
  • Whisk
  • Jam jar lids
  • Bangles
  • Small mirror
  • Cookie cutters

Natural materials

  • Pine cones
  • Cork
  • Large pebbles

From the kitchen

  • Cardboard tubes
  • Egg box
  • Bottle brush
  • Double sided sponge
  • Sieve or tea strainer
  • Pastry brush

ideas for shiny, reflective treasure baskets

Some treasure baskets have a theme and contain a variety of objects that are red, reflective or musical, for example. Take a look at these ideas for a reflective discovery basket. Some treasure baskets are more general and contain a selection of objects with widely different textures, properties and shapes.

Many children’s toys are made predominantly of plastic and occasionally wood. In contrast, treasure baskets that are filled with a variety of materials make a welcome change. As a result, babies can’t resist exploring all the different textures, many of which they may have never seen before!

Don’t forget the weird and wonderful

Always stay with your baby as they explore treasure baskets and be sure not to include anything that could be a choking hazard.

What are your favourite items to include in a treasure basket?

Category:Baby, Creative
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Natalie Cotton

Mum and early years teacher in the UK helping to make learning fun and creative.

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