What makes a good Treasure Basket

Curious Fox Company has been involved in making up Treasure Baskets and Collections for over 12 years now. We specialise in supporting play for little children who are eager to find out more about their world and adults who are keen to stimulate their learning and development, helping to give them a good start in life.

A Treasure Basket is a simple yet effective way of offering an alternative to the plastic toys so commonly available, and over the years we have given a great deal of thought to what makes a good one. We think that natural items such as seeds, shells and lots of things made from wood, metal or fabrics are a good starting point, but there is more to it than that. We aim to provide a balance of objects which appeal to the different senses and have a wide range of shapes, textures and movements. At the same time, we always ask ourselves what a child will learn or experience from handling an object. What experience, new or familiar, will it have? What can a child do with it? It is by repeating actions in their play that they begin to make sense of the world. They start to learn words, not only the names of objects but positioning words, ‘inside’ ‘behind’, and comparisons of size ‘bigger, smaller, longer’. They begin to make connections and comparisons and recognise colours and patterns of different kinds.

We need to choose good quality resources which are fascinating and intriguing but safe. We use natural and everyday objects or those made from natural materials wherever possible. Our traditional Baskets also contain some guidance linked to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS ). We try to balance the collections with a selection of things from different categories. From smell we choose lavender, herbs or spices in little bags; from sound we have a bell, a rattle, something metal to bang; from light and colour we have something to see through, something reflective shiny or flashing, a range of colours. We have containers with different fastenings which will hold different things – water, coins, seeds – things which move with different actions, twist or roll or flex, and in all this we include different textures making sure there are soft and fluffy things as well as hard or prickly things all of which can be combined to make a wonderful collection. From then on, the richer the play the richer the vocabulary and the more powerful the learning will be.

Our traditional Treasure Baskets are put together for little ones from the age of about nine months who can sit up (possibly propped up by cushions) and grasp securely. As they play, these babies ask themselves the question what is this, what is it like?’ and then - promptly – put it in their mouths!! Toddlers, on the other hand, want to know ‘what will it do?’ and then later on ‘what else can I do with it?’ The collection in the treasure basket needs to reflect this and can be changed and adapted to match their developing skills, both physical and mental. This is why we have developed different baskets for Baby and Toddler. We aim to be as innovative as possible to start with so that you can add the easier-to-find things from home, nursery or the High Street. You can add other exciting treasures as the child develops their skills and interests and as there is no ‘right’ collection you can feed their curiosity and desire to investigate.

By about 2 the toddler is beginning to develop language and make connections. Again, what you put in the Treasure Basket can feed that curiosity and development. They recognise patterns, colours, and can put together pairs, they recognise shapes and put them together to build. Their fingers are nimbler and they can thread beads, put rings on hooks or throw balls more accurately. For this stage of development our collections stimulate and encourage that progression and focus more precisely on ‘the senses’ or general ideas of early numeracy and mathematics. Other collections provide an exciting range of spoons, brushes or containers, with the potential for all sorts of talking points and potential exploration. About this time children use collections of objects in their imaginative play. Fir cones, shells, wood slices or dried seeds all become loads for lorries, food for dolls, artworks and buildings, treasures for pirates or secrets in a purse. Some of our Collections are of things which are all the same and they support this heuristic or discovery play which often forms an important part of outdoor learning - they are currently referred to as ‘loose parts’.

Treasure Baskets and Curious Collections offer a lot of opportunities to help children learn through play. Feeding the child’s interest and curiosity is the best way to help them learn so the broader the scope of the collection the more there is to learn and expand the child’s understanding of the world they live in. It is also an effective way to support the learning or practise of a second language, (however old they are). It suits small group work or individual sessions when a child needs particular help. Home visits, hospital learning and support for little children with problems all benefit from good quality and interesting collections. They are not bound by ability, culture or background situation, but can be universally applicable. Good Treasure Baskets and Collections sit very comfortably within the EYFS and offer opportunities to develop a wide range of the learning objectives for children learning on their own or sharing their play. Capturing a child’s interest is an important starting point from which to move towards engaging them in areas of learning you want to develop

A good Treasure Basket is a valuable resource for anyone with a small child, it is not just some stuff in a basket, a good one is carefully thought through and a powerful tool for early learning.

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