I love watching my baby explore her surroundings. I get such pleasure from observing her delight in the little things, the small things… the things that are often overlooked by adults.

I recently stumbled across a wonderful article about Heuristic Play… simply put, “the activity of babies and children as they play with and explore the properties of objects” (Little Acorns To Mighty Oaks, 2011).

My excitement bubbled over as I read about assembling a “treasure basket” for an infant. The basket would contain a collection of “natural” materials and objects such as; an egg carton, notebook, fabric, rock, whisk, bells, etc.

Make a treasure basket for your infant and encourage heuristic play! #baby #play Click To Tweet

Heuristic play is very beneficial for little ones. This post explains heuristic play and shows you how to assemble a treasure basket for your infant.

This isn’t something new to me… I have used natural items in my child care playrooms for almost two decades, but I had never thought of utilizing items like this with an infant! I could immediately see the cognitive potential of such an activity!

In fact, I could envision my daughter’s excitement as she dug into the basket and pulled out an item to explore. I could imagine her delight and the wonderful connections she would be making by being allowed to safely explore such materials.

So, I sent out an e-mail to some friends and family, I included the link to the article and I asked them to be on the lookout for treasure basket items.

Then I scoured my house for materials that I could immediately use in the treasure basket. So far it only has a few objects… but my daughter loves it.

Items inside an infant treasure basket. Heuristic play

We have a half hour block of time in the afternoon (while my other child is having her rest time) in which my daughter explores her basket.

She interacts with the items in a variety of ways. She puts them in her mouth, she bangs them together, she bangs them on her head, she shakes them, she pushes them, she pulls them, she drops them and she picks them up.

My role as the adult is to observe. I don’t demonstrate or interfere… I let her completely direct the way in which she experiments with the materials. As a result, I’ve been able to videotape our play sessions and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my role as a quiet observer.

Infant playing with a treasure basket: Heuristic play.

I’m looking forward to seeing how my daughter’s exploration of these objects evolves and I’m eager to add new objects to her treasure basket. It’s amazing how a few mundane household items can instantly become so magical!


Little Acorns To Mighty Oaks (2011). Heuristic Play Part I: Treasure Baskets. Retrieved May 22, 2012 from: http://www.littleacornstomightyoaks.co.uk/Articles/Treasure_basket.


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Jennifer Bly
Jennifer Bly
Author of My Kitchen, My Classroom: An Introduction to Homeschool and creator of The Deliberate Mom. Jennifer writes about parenting, homeschooling, her faith, and life with her husband and two girls. Jennifer has a Bachelor of Applied Human Service Administration Degree with a specialization in Early Learning in Child Care.

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