Treasure Baskets & Heuristic play: Quick guide, Themes and Content ideas

10 treasure basket ideas for baby: ideas for themes, content and how to present them (trays, bucket, basket, treasure shoe box). Treasure baskets & heuristic play - what/why/how - from

Theme and content ideas for infant Treasure Baskets

I’ve decided to write a new post streamlining the Treasure Baskets and Heuristic Play post – in order to make a kind of:

Quick reference guide on Treasure Baskets: the what, why and how

– oh and with some more pictures of what me and the Little Lovely have been trying out too! Here’s 10 ideas on contents and themes




Treasure basket out of a shoe box. Balls. treasure baskets and heuristic play: what, why & how. psychology resource perspective babies motherhood & blog

Treasure Chest – make an old shoe box into a treasure basket! I filled this one with balls

The What:

What are treasure baskets? A collection of objects, presented in a basket/container, for infants who are old enough to sit up but not old or mobile enough to get about and explore. Hence – you bring the world to them and let them explore and experience various sensory aspects (touch, sound, sight, taste, smell) through exploring the items in the basket and discovery – alongside developing hand-eye coordination skills.


The concept was originally introduced by  Elinor Goldschmied. You can read a bit more about her here in this article from The Guardian where the author describes her as “one of the pioneers of early childhood care and education”.



The How:

Collect a range of items from around the room or house, that are baby safe, mouthable and excite the senses.

The parent/caregiver role is also important. After presenting the Treasure Basket to baby, sit close by, be attentive and available to the child if needed but do not direct the exploration or play; let baby explore at their own pace and make the decisions without giving in to the temptation to go through the basket yourself and show baby each item or demonstrate how to use them.
Resist the urge to impose your own ideas;
        • ⇒ Treasure baskets should be child-led and….
        • They offer very young children an opportunity to actually make decisions about what to play with and how  (an opportunity which they don’t usually get)
For my reflections on how difficult it was to resist, but how I experienced an interesting outcome, see “a personal case study” in the full treasure basket post here


Contents and theme ideas: 

Some themes we have tried

Treasure Chest:

  • Made out of a shoe box! (full picture above) – just be mindful of the corner edges, these aren’t soft and round like the baskets. I filled one with balls and LL enjoyed opening and shutting the lid
Treasure basket out of a shoe box. Balls. treasure baskets and heuristic play: what, why & how. psychology resource perspective babies motherhood & blog

Box of Balls (Treasure Box)

Kitchen set:

  • Lemon, orange, lime (smelly fruits), safe utensils from different materials like metal, wood (plastic if you are not being traditional)
     Kitchen themed treasure baskets and heuristic play: what, why & how. psychology resource perspective babies motherhood & blog

Baskets of Round and Circle shapes, and a basket of Assorted Shapes (in wood)

  • LL loves taking all of these shapes out of the basket, throwing, waving and bashing them around (9.5 months)

Assorted wooden shapes. treasure baskets and heuristic play: what, why & how. psychology resource perspective babies motherhood & blog

Round and circle shapes. treasure baskets and heuristic play: what, why & how. psychology resource perspective babies motherhood & blog


Treasure Tin: Mixed Circles

  • More shapes again

treasure baskets & heuristic play: how, why, what. mixed circles.


Treasure Tin of mixed colour fabrics

Treasure Bucket of different textured fabrics

  • Silky ribbon, thick fishnet, netting type material, cotton, and so on. LL enjoyed feeling all the various textures, the depth of the bucket (sticking his hand right in the the bottom and pulling the fabrics out), and the clatter of the tin and tin lid when the fabrics were presented in this.
treasure tin, mixed fabrics. Treasure Baskets: what, why & how. psychology resource perspective babies motherhood & blog
treasure bucket, mixed fabric textures. Treasure Baskets:  what, why & how. psychology resource perspective babies motherhood & blog

Wooden – or try grouping other materials, like metal

  • This set included some wooden kitchen bits such as a spoon, brush, a wooden rattle, baby hairbrush (soft goat hair), large coloured counters

    treasure baskets & heuristic play: how, why, what. Wooden.


  • A basket of mixed green items

treasure baskets & heuristic play: how, why, what. The colour green.

Noisy treasure basket- musical treasure box 

  • A little box of noisy toys, including a shaker, rattle, tambourine, cage bell

treasure baskets & heuristic play: how, why, what. Music box.

In general – we have used different materials and ways to present the Treasure Basket contents, including

  • tins

  • baskets

  • shoe boxes

  • trays (e.g. baking tray)

  • buckets

LL has enjoyed the noises he can make with different materials, like the sound the tin box makes when banging the lid against the box, and the kitchen implements against the metal baking tray. He experimented with reaching into the bottom of the bucket and pulling fabric pieces out.


The Why:

For development (senses, physical, emotional, and more), for exploring, for play, for fun….

Heuristic Play:
This is about discovery play–  used to described the activity of toddlers when they play with objects, how they experiment with objects and the environment. It’s called “experimental” because the child is interested in discovering what they can do with the objects. Treasure baskets are relevant here because they allow baby the opportunity to handle and mouth objects (sensory motor skills) so that they can find out more about them, and they offer new sensory experiences that allow the brain to grow and become more active (2). The term Heuristic Play is more relevant to children of toddler age, and Treasure Baskets to babies.



  1. Gascoyne, S. (2012). Treasure Baskets & Beyond: Realizing the Potential of Sensory-rich Play. McGraw-Hill. (access the introductory chapter to this book here, and read a more about sensory, heuristic play and Treasure Baskets)
  2. Hughes, A. M. (2010). Developing Play for the Under 3s: The Treasure Basket and Heuristic Play. Routledge


Other references influencing this post:

  • Goldschmied, E. & Jackson, S. (1994) People under Three. Young Children in Day Care. Routledge (see chapter 6 – The Treasure Basket)

Toy tray play

toy tray play baby

We had some fun today putting some of the Little Lovely’s toys on a large tray lid and letting him explore them all and push them around of the tray. Toys included a variety of textures, shapes and sound making items, and objects to mouth. It seemed to entertain him for a while! It was probably a novel experience for him as his toys and items are not usually presented to him like this. They are either on the floor, in a box or part of a treasure basket.
Rotate and alternate the toys for something different each week or day. psychology resource, perspective and blog on motherhood baby toy tray play

Having fun with toys presented on tray


Let’s go shopping

So the last few days we have been shopping for a sofa and other furniture. There are far too many sofa choices and it’s difficult with a nearly 7 month old. I also didn’t plan/time things well (as I usually find) when out and ended up having to feed him on a sofa in one of the furniture shops. At least it meant I got a good feel for the sofa though. Fortunately, the place was empty apart from me (not many sofa-shoppers around on a Friday afternoon, suppose they must all be at work and come out at the weekends, which is why I wanted to get to the shops before the hoards descended on the weekend).

Back to feeding for a moment though, this is a problem i’ve found with feeding “on demand”; it makes it difficult to plan and have a consistent schedule because you don’t know exactly when you will be required. That said, from monitoring the Little Lovely (LL) there are some patterns to his eating and sleeping so it is possible to predict his hunger and tiredness somewhat. I’m also trying to get more consistent “breakfast”, “lunch” and “dinner” time feeds in because we have started to introduce solids. I’m not replacing any milk feeds with a solid feed yet but I am trying to introduce a more solid lunch meal by giving LL some food after his lunch time milk feed. So far he has tried various fruits and vegetables including banana, carrot, pear, apple (puréed and mushed up) and baby rice (it’s a bit like instant porridge). He also quite likes rice cakes, however, these are meant for 7 month and older babies (he is almost 7 months and has 6 teeth) (please consult your health care professional and make up your own mind about whether your baby is ready for a particular solid food)

  • note to self – write about our weaning experiences – “weaning tales” sofa shopping with baby in tow

How to occupy a baby while sofa shopping?

Anyway, back to sofa shopping. It wasn’t that easy with a small child in tow. Fortunately, there were lots of faux living room “set ups” in the shop with sofas and a nice rug so I put him down on the rug with some toys (making sure there was no coffee table for him to bang his head on) whilst I tried out the seating options. It worked somewhat; he was safe on the rug and meant that I didn’t have to keep picking him up and flopping down on a sofa with him.

We were able to go shopping because one of our regular baby classes has finished. A lot of classes seem to stop for summer and run during school term dates. I’m not sure how relevant this is to babies as they do not have “summer term” because they are not at school. I also have no other children, so I don’t have any children at home on summer break that I need to stay home to look after so I don’t really understand why so many classes stop for the summer. It’s very annoying and disappointing because LL and I still need activities and events to entertain ourselves with. I keep meaning to write something on the psychological aspects and maybe benefits of these classes. This would include benefits for the parent as well because it gives you something to do, get out the house, is social, active, gives you ideas and tips for baby related activities, and many other things that I’m sure are connected to good mental health of mothers (and fathers too).

  • note to self – write about the benefits, or relevant psychological aspects of attending baby/toddler classes.

Anyway, after all his patience and visiting a department store to look at yet more furniture, I treated LL to a stroll into the toy department where he enjoyed some puppets and soft toys. psychology resource and perspective on motherhood - entertain baby after shopping trip with toys & puppets

Reward – toy & puppet fun

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