What is a treasure basket and heuristic play?

Today I want to talk to you about the treasure basket (scroll down to watch my video about the treasure basket and heuristic play).

It's aimed at babies between 6 months to roughly one year of age.

When your baby can sit unaided, you can introduce the treasure basket.

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What is a treasure basket?

But what even is a treasure basket?

It’s a collection of objects – everyday objects. It’s not specifically toys, it is a collection of objects that you would find around your house and also natural items.








These objects need to be interesting for your baby to explore, especially through the five senses.

Young babies like to explore things by touching, smelling, and manipulating. Obviously, they also see the objects and they would shake something that makes music to see if it makes a sound, but mainly they’re going to just manipulate with their hands.


Why is it important to provide this kind of sensorial stimulation? 

Because (usually) toys you find in shops will be made of plastic and will be in very bright colours, but for a child, young baby or toddler, there will not be any difference between two similar plastic toys.

They don’t have any understanding of what the toy represents yet.

For your child, it’s more interesting to explore objects that are made of natural material. 

So with that said, this is how to make your treasure basket:

  • A basket or any kind of large container. If you don’t have a pretty wicker basket, that’s fine, just use whatever you have – a salad bowl or a plastic container will do just as well.
  • You can, even today, gather objects around your house, and you will find many objects that are interesting from a sensorial point of view for your baby.
  • The idea is to have around 80 to 100  objects in your treasure basket so that your child has plenty to explore.
  • The key is variety: different textures, sizes, smells, and shapes.
  • Some examples: small boxes, lids, corks, a wooden spoon, a metallic whisk, bangles, a loofa, a pinecone, a starfish, napkin holders, wooden toys, fabrics, an empty spice jar, a lavender pillow and etc.
  • 2 books to help you go further: Developing play for the under 3’s, Treasure baskets, and beyond

I had the pleasure to talk about the treasure basket and heuristic play with Elizabeth Hugues from I don’t need toys.  Watch this very practical interview.

What is Heuristic play?

Heuristic play is the next step into exploring objects.

Heuristic play was a term coined by child psychologist Elinor Goldschmeid. Heuristic come from the Greek "find". Heuristic as an adjective means "enabling a person to discover or learn something for themselves". In Heuristic play for toddlers, when they have graduated from the treasure baskets, you give them a collection of objects that are similar with a collection of containers. Children will them make connection and observe the properties of the "objects". It could be a set of spoons and various boxes. It could be a set of blocks and various fabrics.... The possibilities are endless and you don't have to purchase anything special. I'm sure you will find many ways to offer this kind of play with what you have at home.

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Do you have a treasure basket for your baby?

What did you put in your treasure basket? Leave me a comment!

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About the Author Carine Robin

Carine Robin has a Master’s Degree in Psychology, specialising in child psychology. She worked for various social services in her home country of Belgium, before moving to Ireland in 2006. It was there that she started working in a nursery and discovered Montessori education. After having her first child, her passion for the philosophy grew and she qualified as a Montessori teacher and managed a preschool. Carine has been running a Montessori based parents and toddler group and coaching families for 9 years. She now also runs an online group for over 14000 parents, sharing her knowledge and passion with people from around the world. In 2018, Carine realised families needed more support and launched her popular online parenting courses and monthly subscription boxes, full of personally designed Montessori materials.

  • Cristina Martinez says:

    Hi, the name of the teacher who spoke about Heuristic play, her name is Elizabeth Hugues or Whirly Caulfield? I’m confused. Thanks

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