While activity ideas for older kids seem to be plentiful and easy to track down, sometimes it seems harder to find things you can do at home with babies and young toddlers, doesn’t it? Enter discovery baskets! These simple little collections of everyday objects can be pulled together countless ways and make a great go-to activity for little ones starting from the time they can sit up.
What is a discovery basket? A discovery basket, also called a treasure basket, is a container filled with a small collection of real-world items for little ones to explore. The items inside usually vary in shape, size, and texture, and appeal to the curiosity of babies and toddlers.
What is the purpose? Discovery baskets encourage babies and toddlers to observe and investigate new things without being told what to do or how to play. This type of play is open-ended, child-led, and allows little ones to develop their creativity and imagination, refine their motor skills, engage their senses, and learn about the world around them.
How do you make one? Making discovery baskets is incredibly easy and shouldn’t require anything new! You only need three things: a container, a collection of real- world objects, and a theme (if you want one).
Here’s how to make a discovery basket
1. Find a small container. You’ll want something shallow and with a wide opening so your little one has easy access to the collection of items inside. A natural wicker basket or wooden dish is lovely, but a box top, bowl, or tray will do just fine.
2. Think about what you’d like to put inside. A loose theme can make it easier to select objects to include. This could be objects of a certain material, color, or shape, objects from a particular part of the house, or objects of a certain type. Babies and toddlers are fascinated by everyday objects and the things you already have on hand or find outdoors will work perfectly. If choosing objects that are used daily, wipe them down with a gentle cleaner (I like Babyganics all-purpose wipes) to ensure they’re fresh and ready for play. Try including objects of varying sizes, textures, materials, and shapes but, of course, the most important thing is selecting items your little one can explore safely. As far as how many objects to include, for a younger baby, you may want to include a few things (say four or five). For an older toddler, you may want to include several things (perhaps 10 or more).
3. Set the basket of treasures out for your little one to discover and explore. Somewhere low and easily accessible is best.
During playtime, allow your little one to explore their collection of treasures while you sit back and observe. As much as possible, let them play without interrupting or showing them what to do with the objects. This is a fantastic opportunity for child-led play. After a while, if your little one looks to you while playing, feel free to add simple vocabulary to the objects (“ball,” “spoon,” “paper,” etc.) while following your little one’s lead.
Discovery basket ideas (as long as it’s safe, anything goes!):
For more engaging, child-led play opportunities for your baby or toddler, check out the Babyganics Playbook, babyganics.ca/en-ca/babyganics-playbook.
Jen is a kindergarten and Grade 1 teacher and the mama of two gorgeous kiddos, Gracen and Sam. She’s passionate about play, loves a good DIY project, adores traveling, and collects children’s books like it’s her job. Find her at mamapapabubba.com and on Instagram @mamapapabubba.
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