How Do Young Children Learn?

Monday, December 17th, 2012

Babies and young children learn about their world through sensory exploration. Sensory play and access to natural and suitable materials are important as they provide young children with their first tangible experiences of the world. We call this type of experience Heuristic play.

We promote heuristic play in babies and young children by providing them with a number of things, and especially a treasure basket, which is defined below.

What is a Treasure Basket?

A treasure basket is a wicker basket containing a variety of objects that have been carefully selected for their sensory appeal to children. The idea of a treasure basket came about in the 1940s when Elinor Goldschmied observed babies’ fascination for household objects and the items commonly found in a handbag or utensil drawer.

Using a treasure basket full of these and other items is a great way for children to develop. Playing under supervision helps children learn sorting, matching and counting and helps them develop language and literacy skills. More sophisticated skills like problem solving come into play for older children when they start to use one object to represent another. Every child’s response to a treasure basket is unique and many babies will keep themselves occupied with one of these for long periods of time.

Making a Treasure Basket

– Find a sturdy basket, ideally about 10-14 inches in diameter and 4-5 inches deep.
– Fill with a variety of objects perfect for small hands.
– Try and avoid toys and plastic materials as children are surrounded by these materials elsewhere.
– Ensure that objects are safe and easily cleaned
– Place the basket on a cosy mat and allow the child the time and freedom to explore

Suggested Items for a Treasure Basket

Paper and Cardboard – small boxes, mini board books, kitchen roll tubes. Children can find all sorts of uses for these items and enjoy them even better if you work with them.
Wood ג€“ wooden spoons, egg- cups, blocks, pegs these things help children to build and in doing so acquire spatial awareness.
Brushes – pastry brush, nail brush, hair brush, shaving brush
Metal ג€“ spoons, whisk, bowls ג€“ only let very young children have a whisk under supervision.
Textured Material ג€“ wool, string, ribbon, fur
Natural Objects ג€“ shells, stones, leaves, pine cones, don’t give these to very young children as they may attempt to swallow them.
Scented Objects ג€“ muslin bags filled with lavender, mint, or dried orange or lemon
Shakers-made from dried pasta or beads to make noise

Use your own judgement as very young children shouldn’t be left unsupervised with some of these items! Items should be regularly changed to provide children with variety. Nursery and teaching staff have observed that changing the items regularly helps to meet a child’s developing needs.

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