Supporting your Child to explore at home…

By Sarah D’Almeida, Ngā Pakiako Teacher, Chrysalis Early Learning Centre

During your time in your ‘bubble’ keeping those you love safe and sound, it does become a challenge to keep your younger children entertained and you and your child might be feeling the “stuck at home” feeling by now.  We are fortunate enough to be living in the age of the internet so we are able to search for activities to keep children engaged and entertained.  There are also times, where it is great just to be able to not spend hours searching for activities and get back to basics.  Treasure baskets, or heuristic play baskets are a great way for young children to explore and use their imagination. We give you some ideas on objects that you can use. Read on below…

Make A Treasure Basket

The world is a magical place. Even after 3 weeks of lockdown limitations, there are still many fascinating things for your child to discover at home. Treasure baskets are a fantastic way to introduce your child to new objects to explore. Exploration is done using our five senses. Encourage your child to use all their senses by introducing objects to touch, see, taste, smell and hear.

A treasure basket doesn’t have to be complicated. With children, you may have noticed that “the simpler the better” works every time.

As soon as your baby can sit, they can enjoy a treasure basket. Just make sure the objects are large enough to not be swallowed and do not present sharp edges.

  • Sit on the floor with your child and initiate the conversation: “What do we have here?… Ahhh… it’s a basket. What’s in the basket?…”
  • Encourage your child by picking an object from the basket and turn it around in your hands. Make short comments about what the object looks like: “It is a red, round ball,” or “It’s a soft ball.”
  • Smell the ball.
  • Shake the ball… does it make a sound? Maybe you chose a ball with a bell in it…
  • Hold it in front of a window… Is it translucent? Can you see through it?

Soon enough, your child will want to hold the object and experiment with it themselves. When the treasure basket has caught your child’s interest, sit back and observe. Do not feel compelled to feed the conversation. Like anyone else, young children need times of silence to be able to fully concentrate on their tasks.

A young child will most certainly explore with his/her mouth. This is normal. Just make sure everything is thoroughly cleaned before and after.

A few tips to help you put your first treasure basket together:

  • Keep it SIMPLE: No more than five objects for a child under two years old, no more than eight for an older child.
  • Keep it SAFE: No loose parts, sharp edges, nothing too small that could be swallowed.
  • Keep it SENSORY: No battery-operated things. The goal is to provide an active experience, not a passive entertainment.

7 Treasure Baskets that your Child will enjoy:

  1. Natural Treasure Basket: Pine cone, shell, rock, avocado stone, apple, celery branch, feather…
  2. Colour Treasure Basket: Collect objects of the same colour. Make sure to offer an assortment of different textures.
  3. Wooden Treasure Basket: Wooden spoon, wooden egg, block, little carving, curtain rings…
  4. Fabric Treasure Basket: Silk, cotton, satin, dishwash scrubber, velvet, carpet, mosquito net, polar fleece… there again, textures are the key.
  5. Metal (Pirate) Treasure Basket: Table spoon, bell, lock, measuring cup, small whisk, sink plug…
  6. Glass Treasure Basket: Tiny jars filled with rice, beans, lentils, salt, pasta… and tightly closed.
  7. Smell-and-Taste Treasure Basket: Lemon, Orange, Celery, Apple, Broccoli, Leek…

By providing open-ended objects for your child to explore, this will help them develop their problem-solving skills, satisfy any urges or schematic behaviours such as posting, transporting or enveloping and working theories like weight and how things fit together.

There is no wrong or right way to put together a treasure basket.  You know your own child, so you will know what is and is not appropriate for your child to explore.  While you sit and watch your child at play, you may observe the following dispositions that our trained ECE teachers always look out for and write about in learning stories for you and your child;

  • being curious,
  • showing spontaneity,
  • discovering new things,
  • showing resilience and perseverance, and
  • showing self-reliance or autonomy.

These all link beautifully into our Gaia (Earth) values, which you can read more about in our previous articles that summarise extracts from our international publication:

Let us know how it went at home, we’d love to see pictures of your amazing treasure basket creations and hear about all the rich learning outcomes for your child.

Find out what our teachers do every day including set up of Heuristic Play Baskets and much, much more: