Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Heuristic/treasure baskets

Heuristic and treasure baskets are widely used within the Early Years settings, in the United Kingdom. The English dictionary (Collins Gem) describes the word Heuristic as;
                        "Serving to find out or to stimulate investigation" 
The main purpose of a heuristic/treasure baskets is to add only natural, metal, material and wooden objects. This not only provides a pleasant break from the all singing, dancing and brightly coloured plastic toys, but enables your baby/toddler to explore with all their senses, in a quiet, calm and relaxing manner.
The objects that are used are open ended and there is no need for an end result, just the fun in experiencing the textures and qualities. Babies/toddlers will enjoy mouthing, touching, smelling, tasting, listening and looking at the objects, helping make connections and future identification skills.

Who can play?
Babies who can sit unsupported and toddlers

What do you need?

Most items you can find within the home, but if you are struggling for inspiration then here are a few recommendations of objects I used in my daughters basket:

  • Wooden objects- A few building blocks, napkin rings, dolly pegs, spoons, spatula, rattle, bowls, castanets, mug tree, bangles and coasters
  • Metal objects- Bunch of keys, chains, jar lids, whisk, a spoon and a clean CD
  • Natural objects- Large feather, fir cones, large shell, lemon and a lime
  • Materials- Ribbons, hair rollers, small cardboard boxes,bath plug with chain, piece of fur and a leather purse
  • A fluffy blanket to sit on and cushions for extra support and comfort
  • For older children, who do not mouth objects, try adding lavender in a small pouch to develop their sense of smell and promote relaxation.
To store the objects you will need a low sided basket, so that your baby/toddler can gain easy access. I found mine at a local thrift store and just cleaned it up.
It is also important to note that you should change the objects inside the basket once in a while. This will keep the interest of the child, stimulate his learning and exploration skills.

Ensure that the objects are not too small as to be swallowed.
This activity requires constant adult supervision.
Check objects on a regular basis. Broken items must be discarded.
Use your own judgement and only use safe objects, that will not cut or otherwise harm your child.
Ensure the objects are cleaned on a regular basis.

How to set up the heuristic/treasure baskets:
  1. Choose a time when you know your baby/toddler is at their most alert. 
  2. Check the objects prior to offering them to your baby. Discard of any broken or unsafe items
  3. Create a comfy space by placing the blanket and cushions on the ground, and the basket next to your baby
  4. Allow your baby/toddler to explore the objects in their own time. Remember your role is to provide support and help if needed, but not to alter their play.
What could they learn?
  • Communication and language-Speaking and listening. Learning descriptive words such as shiny, smooth etc.
  • Physical development- Fine manipulative skills such as the development of the palmer, pincer and tripod grip. large manipulative skills, such as banging, pulling and dropping. Hand eye coordination, 
  • Personal, social and emotional- Making decisions on what they like and don't like, without the help of an adult. Making relationships, social skills, feelings and self help. Developing an interest. Independence and self reliance. Fun and enjoyment
  • Literacy- Developing the physical skills needed when learning to write.
  • Mathematics- Shapes, space, measurement and number counting.Sorting, matching and classifying objects 
  • Understanding of the world- Learning about the world around them. Making connections in the brain. Examining objects and exploring their textures. Learning through their senses. Exploring gravity when an object falls. Cause and effect
  • Expressive arts and design- Role play.
What could be done next?
  • Instead of using one basket to hold the objects, divide them into groups of wooden, metal, material etc and place them into separate baskets. Below are some examples of boxes that I made up;
Texture basket

Metal and shiny basket

Wooden and natural basket


  1. Excellent Kelly - keep up the fantastic blogX

    1. Thank you Pam. I have so many other ideas to share, but not enough hours in the day. Glad that you enjoyed it.