Treasure baskets for infants and toddlers are just wonderful masha'Allah. They are a complete sensory experience that keeps children engaged for long periods of time as they explore each item in turn: feeling it, smelling it, touching it, and even placing the object into their mouths. For this reason, you want to make sure that each object is safe for the child based on his/her age insha'Allah. Treasure baskets can be introduced to infants as young as six months old. Into your child's treasure basket you can place objects that have a theme (i.e. kitchen items) or you can collect an array of items for your little one to explore insha'Allah.
I've done a post on treasure baskets before but I realized that I wanted to extend the use of the treasure basket and incorporate a language activity as well insha'Allah. What I did was I took several wooden craft pieces and placed them into a basket. I invited the child to explore the contents independently after I had modeled smelling and looking at each object, etc. I then took selected objects and named them as I placed them on the work mat. The child attempted to say each name after I had named the object alhamdulillah. Ideally if you are doing this activity you do not want to use as many objects as I have pictured insha'Allah. Initially, you will introduce 3-4 objects to be named insha'Allah and add more objects as the child's skill increases insha'Allah.
I want to extend the activity further for older toddlers (15 months and older) by lying out and naming three or four objects only and then invite the child to match them to picture cards that show those same objects insha'Allah. These are the picture cards I will use insha'Allah:
So, in this activity I would only have the frog, turtle, giraffe and bee pieces in the basket.
There are also these two books that can be used with this activity insha'Allah:
We will use this book, 'Animals', for our activity insha'Allah but unfortunately, I cannot locate this book on the internet. If I am able to insha'Allah, I will update this post and provide the link insha'Allah. The book is wonderful as it is in Arabic and English alhamdulillah.
If you do this activity, try to place as few plastic objects in the basket as possible insha'Allah. The reason: plastic offers little or no sensory learning. Plastic is cold, usually smooth and virtually indestructible. These characteristics (among others) offer the child very little information about his/her world. The world is not always cold, smooth and indestructible; indeed, things in the environment have varying temperatures, textures, and can be broken.
I've read (and seen it for myself) that children treat plastic objects with little or no respect and do the opposite with non plastic objects. Children recognize and appreciate beauty and well crafted materials subhana'Allah. Wooden toys can be expensive yes, but I've found great buys at bargain stores, second hand shops, etc. The toys are often in great shape and need only to be washed and disinfected thoroughly before being presented to the child. In this way we are able to provide many wooden toys to children alhamdulillah.
Here are some examples of non-plastic objects (that can often be found around the house) that can be put into a treasure basket insha'Allah:
- Sea Shells
- Wooden spoons
- Metal or Wooden Spatula
- Ball of yarn
- Coconut Shell
- Jar lid
- Velvet Powder Brush
- Satin String/Scarf
- Piece of sandpaper
Aside from appreciating beauty in objects, when a toddler throws an object in frustration and it breaks the child learns something from that experience. As a parent (or teacher) you can use that as a teachable moment insha'Allah. Show the child the broken object and explain that when we are upset we do not throw things. Have the child participate in cleaning up his/her mess and in a calm voice explain that this toy will not be available to play with anymore because it is broken and unusable now.
Insha'Allah, you will find treasure baskets to be an excellent sensory and language learning tool for your infant or toddler. You can see a delightful treasure basket here insha'Allah get more ideas of what to place in a treasure basket here and here insha'Allah. If you'd like to use the same picture cards, you can download them here insha'Allah.