An invitation to play


Since Mila was a few months old I have been creating for her ‘treasure baskets’ to explore. The contents have varied depending on her age and current interests but they are still a favourite activity which she will sit and explore for long periods of time.

Treasure baskets are a way of presenting heristic play opportunities in an inviting way. The word ‘heuristic’ comes from the word ‘eurisko’ which means to learn, discover or reach an understanding of something. Heuristic play is about playing with real-life, everyday objects and providing children with an opportunity for open-ended discovery.

What I love the most about heristic play is the endless possibilities of what you can include in a treasure basket. Everyday items from your cupboards, house or nature can provide endless hours of play for infants and toddlers.

I like to set up Mila’s treasure basket when she is asleep so she can discover it when she is freshly recharged from a nap and ready to engage in this explorative play.

When setting up a treasure basket I try and make it look inviting, just dumping everything in the basket may look cluttered and uninteresting. In the past when I have done this I found that Mila took one look and it and quickly moved onto something else. I also try to find the balance between including enough objects but not adding too many. There needs to be enough things to be explored and hold her attention without it becoming too much which will often end in her just tipping it all on the floor and moving away to play somewhere else.

I find sourcing objects for treasure baskets is lots of fun, sometimes I do a colour theme, a specific topic for example a rainbow, different textures or objects that open and close etc. The option are endless be creative!

I find often how I think Mila will play with the objects is very different to what she actually does with them but this is the key in heristic play, as the adult I set up an invitation to play and then allow the child the time and space to enjoy this open-ended play.

It is important when children are playing with a treasure basket to not interrupt them but to join in only when invited. This allows them to discover on their own. I know when I am trying to figure out a problem or learn something new if someone is constantly interrupting me I get very frustrated and may in the end just give up on what I am trying to do to engage with them. I’m sure it is the same with children when we keep interrupting them no matter how well intended our questions or what we say may be. Instead sensitive observation of them playing by an adult who is ready to be responsive when they invite you in is a much better option.

How long I keep the same objects in the basket really depends on Mila’s interest in them. Sometimes I change them each week sometimes it is longer. But I do give her at least a few days with the same objects to allow time for her to explore and experiment with them.

I will be sharing some of my treasure basket set ups over the next few months on my instagram page. You are most welcome to follow along:  petalpocket_nz

I would also love to see some of your treasure baskets! Please feel welcome to tag me in your photos on instagram or facebook. I look forward to seeing your invitations to play for the little ones in your lives.


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