Monday, February 27, 2012

Treasure Baskets: What to Add, What to Keep, and What to Remove?

I've shared quite a few of Q-ball's treasure baskets on the blog.  They seem pretty simple, but I do try to put some effort into figuring out what should go in her baskets.  I wanted to share some of the questions I ask myself when assembling a new treasure basket or, more likely, updating a current treasure basket.

1) What is Q-ball doing developmentally? 
One of the primary reasons I started my Watch Her Grow posts was to be able to answer this question.  Conducting these observations allows me to figure out what new skills she is working on.  Some examples:
  • A few weeks ago, I noticed she started "sorting"- picking up objects and then setting them down again.  So, I added a large deck of cards to her basket, and she loved getting the whole deck in her little hands and then picking out individual cards. (WARNING: likely goes without saying, but this activity required quite a bit of post-Mama-clean-up, and cards were quite tasty to Q-ball.)
  • Very early in treasure basket introduction, Q-ball was still mastering her Palmar grasp, so I avoided putting small of items in her basket.  Large spoons and other utensils are perfect for this time as an entire, tiny hand can reach around nearly all parts of the object.
2) What is something that she hasn't played with in awhile?
As I learned in this post and as all parents know, babies and children like lots of new things.  They get bored with stuff they've seen and played with for the last few weeks (or days, or hours...)  If I see an item that Q-ball used to play with all the time that hasn't been touched in about a week, I remove it from the basket.  The hope is that she'll be excited when it is later reintroduced.  An example:
  • As I mentioned, my early treasure basket was full of kitchen stuff. She got bored after awhile and wasn't playing with anything.  I dumped the whole basket about 2 months ago, but just this week, I reintroduced a rolling pin, and she was very excited to play with something "new"!
3) What is something that she hasn't every seen/manipulated before?
This is my favorite question!  How excited to see the world through a baby's eyes!  A few weeks ago, Daddy decided that Q-ball's treasure basket needed a re-do, so we took a trip to Cost Plus World Market (super awesome for treasure baskets!) and loaded up.  Some examples of novel items for Q-ball:

  • Color!  Most of her previous baskets had been a little on the bland side, so we got some colorful juggling balls and colorful silicon prep bowls. (Yes, typically Montessorians lean towards natural materials, and I work to avoid most plastics, but I like some silicon. First of all, it doesn't have the "bad" chemicals in plastics, and a lot of the items are squishy, and Q-ball loves squeezing them into different shapes.)
  • Metal! For banging!  I love this tiny Bundt  cake pan from World Market!  In addition to playing with the sense of sound, this is a new tactile experience- a smooth, cool surface.
4) What items has she yet to master?
When considering whether an item hasn't been played with for awhile, it's also important to remember that maybe baby just hasn't mastered the item yet.  Basically, she doesn't know how to play with or manipulate the object.  Example:
  • Q-ball's early treasure basket had a ball of yarn. I thought she'd love it, but, really, she rarely touched it.   But, I didn't want to remove it because I knew that there was potential, and she'd eventually come around.  Finally, last week (after months!) she picked it up, and hasn't wanted to put it down!  
5) What item is beyond her current level of development?
Some items are attractive to Baby but Baby lacks the physical or cognitive skills to use the material.  I've placed items in the treasure basket that Q-ball wants to play with, but they lead to some tears and yelling because they are just too frustrating for her.  Notice this is different than the situation with the yarn in that, here, Q-ball is actually working with the material vs. just looking past it.

These questions may seem like a lot, but it's really not that hard- and, your babies are pretty forgiving! Treasure baskets can be fun for parents and babies!


  1. These are fantastic questions to ask. I took a similar approach to treasure baskets when Annabelle was younger, but you put a lot more thought into yours. It's really great to get a sense of your process!

  2. What a great post full of useful information. I love the photo of Q ball with the yarn

  3. Wonderful suggestions ... and the photo is adorable! Thanks so much for linking up with Montessori Monday. (If you could add the Montessori Monday button or link back, that would be awesome!) I featured your post at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page and added it to my treasure baskets post at

  4. I found this post
    really informative in helping me assemble appropriate treasure baskets for my 6
    month old in terms of thinking about his developmental stage, current and
    developing skills, and what objects
    are going to be appropriate and novel for him! I've been reading about the
    theory behind treasure baskets, their history and about heuristic play for a
    psychology related blog entry on treasure baskets. I've made reference to and
    linked to this page in my post ( because I
    think it outlines some really useful questions to ask when developing the
    baskets, and to help guide item choice! Thanks, Emm from

  5. Thanks for stopping by! And, thanks for the link- I really like the idea on your blog about having special time set aside for the baskets. Now that my second baby is almost 10 months old, I'm much worse about rotating objects in my baskets! You have reminded me of it's importance!


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