The way babies learn about the world is directly through their senses- by picking things up and looking at them, feeling them, listening to them, mouthing them, smelling them. The treasure basket, also called a sensory basket is a Montessori concept, it’s a low round basket that is filled up with various items to stimulate baby’s senses.
In strict Montessori tradition, the basket contains 60-80 items of various materials and textures. The contents can be of any material except plastic. The treasure basket it not a static thing, the items can change and be added to as baby explores and changes interests. Baby is always interested and ready to explore as the contents of the basket change. The best thing about treasure baskets is that most of the items can be found around the house.
I have a couple sensory baskets. One sits front and center in the living room where baby can crawl right over and get into it. The basket came from the thrift store and the items inside were found around the house.
Most of the items in the basket aren’t “toys”- wooden spoons, cardboard tubes and pieces of paper are all good items to include. Our baskets even have a couple lone socks in them because the baby really likes to chew on socks. I’ve even included a wool hat- it’s perfect for baby to try on, to chew on or to use as a bag.
In addition to the main basket, I’ve placed some other baskets on other shelves in the house that the baby is allowed to get into. My hope was that these baskets, set there appealingly with interesting items in them would catch his attention and keep him from getting into other, less desirable things in the room. So far, it’s working! He dumps the baskets out and I come along behind a while later and pick them up, and then he gets to dump them out again. He seems to like the dice basket especially.
Baskets can have a large variety of items in them, or they can be themed. I have a basket of large dice and a basket of silicone baking cups that all stay in their own basket on a shelf. In the kitchen, I have a basket of kitchen tools similar to ones he might see me working with. The three main baskets though, are a conglomeration of items. I try to change some of the items in the baskets every week so that it stays fresh.
Here are some ideas of items to put in your sensory baskets:
Metal Items, like:
a small tin
mini muffin tin
Paper Items, like:
cardboard tube (toilet paper or wrapping paper)
piece of cardboard
sturdy lacing card
Wooden Items, like:
play people or figurines
large beads on a rope
peg clothes pin
Natural Items, like:
natural sponge or loofah
a small stone or pumice
small straw broom
Cloth & Yarn Items, like:
small stuffed toy
fabric that is soft (flannel or fleece), shiny, rough (burlap)
ball of yarn
large pom poms
Odds and Ends, like:
silicone baking cups
instruments – jingle bells, maracas
brushes- pastry brush, hair brush, paintbrush…
spice jar with a few spices or things in it to make a little noise
Of course, be sure that all the items in the basket are safe for babies and kiddos who put things in their mouths!
Chrissy Leiberan-Titus writes for Muse of the Morning.com