Infant Treasure Baskets

“All around the baby is a magical world of objects just waiting to be discovered.”-Tim Sedin

Post Inspired by all the women in my life currently who are expecting magical tiny humans: My sister Kelly and sister-in-law Denise. Also, by my students who so passionately support infant learning in childcare  centres during placements.

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Once your baby is able to sit and hold things she will love to explore a ‘treasure basket.’ This is a low basket or sturdy box you have filled with lots of interesting household objects and things from nature. The objects must be large enough not to be swallowed and free from sharp edges or anything else that might be harmful when they are touched and quite possibly mouthed by a young child. Older toddlers enjoy the treasure basket, too – just keep introducing new objects.

-Tim Seldin, How To Raise An Amazing Child the Montessori Way

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Using the Treasure Basket gives babies the opportunity to:

  • Explore with all their senses: they can feel, taste, hear, smell and see a variety of textures, experiment and make choices.
  • It provides early experience of sorting and classifying items.
  • It develops fine motor skills.
  • It helps babies develop concentration.
  • Enrich their experience of objects around them
  • Help them to gain confidence in making decisions.
  • Promote open-ended and independent play

The Montessori teaching method is largely based on learning through touch, taste and sound and has proven that children can benefit from learning in this way.

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Try to include lots of different textures in the items you put in the treasure basket. Some things you might like to include:

Metal: measuring spoons, colander, whisk, large keys, jar lids, tea strainer, sauce pan, bells tied on a string

Natural materials: wooden spoons, bowls and blocks, sponges, large shells, fir cones, twig spheres, woolen pompoms, large pebbles, whole fruits and vegetables

Wooden: blocks, rattle, small crate, egg, little wooden shapes, wicker spiral ball, ridged instrument stick.

Fabric: scarves and pieces of material including knitted items, cotton, silk, velvet, leather, chiffon, terry, fur

Colour Recognition: {could be done in any color}: various sponges, opening/closing tomato container, foam letters, jar lid.

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Infant Conversation: Exploring Treasure Baskets

Exploration from Birth
When babies first interact with the world, they don’t have words to describe what they encounter, but they do absorb information through their senses. A newborn’s sight is limited at first, but as they get older their sight becomes more finely tuned.

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While babies may not have the words to describe their experiences, sensory play can help babies build vocabulary and understand language. By using words and questions that relate to the child’s experience, a parent or ECE/ECA can link sensory experiences with cognitive growth.

Newborns and infants won’t be able to gain much information from the textures that they touch. However, you can stimulate the sense of touch in babies with simple materials like a large pom-pom. With the baby in your lap or on a floor mat, show the pom-pom and describe its color, size, and texture. Tell the baby that you’re going to rub the texture on the arms, legs, and face. Watch for the baby’s accepting responses (smiles, waving arms, and kicking feet) as an invitation to continue the activity. If the baby turns away or squirms uncomfortably, acknowledge (and label) the emotion and discontinue the activity.

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Using descriptive and action words such as cold, hot, bumpy, shiny, smooth, pour, dump, scoop, sift, and splash in the context of experiences will help solidify the meanings of these words in a young child’s mind.

  • Describe the infants actions with the materials? (turning, mouthing, dropping, looking, feeling the object).
  • Offer descriptive vocabulary for the material including color, texture, and other appropriate features.
  • Ask the infant how does the material feels, describe it to the infant?
  • Talk with the baby about the sounds and encourage rhythmic shaking with simultaneous full-body movement.

  • Observe as the infant engages with these materials spontaneously or if you need to introduce the object to the child (you may have to place it in their hands).
  • Does the infant find it more pleasurable to mouth the object rather than looking at it?
  • While the baby is sitting on the floor show the treasure basket. Position the basket within the baby’s reach and watch. Is there an effort to reach the basket? Does the baby use both hands to reach and grasp? Can the baby repeat your shaking motion?

  • Does the infant pick up the objects with one hand or both?
  • Position a infant on the tummy and point to the treasure basket. Encourage the infant to balance and reach the object. Watch how the infant uses their hands— sweeping, making contact, grasping and pulling?
  • Notice infant’s preferences of materials. What did the infant seem to notice in each?

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Choose Materials that Appeal to all Senses:

Thinking about children’s tactile experiences are perhaps the most important, but it is also useful to consider the way sensory materials look and smell, and the noises materials make when used together. Some smells may be inviting, while others may be too strong or otherwise undesirable. Some children may be resistant to things that are cold or warm. Infants and young toddlers are also likely to mouth materials at the sensory table, so be sure materials are safe and comfortable for mouth exploration.

Make sure that all materials are clean and free of potential hazards, such as loose parts, sharp points, and toxic chemicals.

 

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