As designed by Elinor Goldschmied, treasure baskets are one of the best ways for babies and young children to explore the world around them. Once the treasure basket is provided, full of sumptuous natural objects, the child should have the freedom to explore the objects freely, with an adult nearby if they are needed.
I believe that if the child invites you in, it is okay for the adult to join in. Just don’t fall into the trap of leading the exploration; allow the child to explore independently, passing you objects and you can also comment, saying things like “this feels spiky” and “that’s a loud sound”.
Children are naturally inquisitive and will love squeezing, shaking, mouthing, rubbing, biting, looking and dropping all the objects. Treasure baskets are made for all the senses and the (natural) objects should provide a variety of textures, tastes, smells, sounds and sights. (No plastic, as it has limited sensory opportunity).
Treasure baskets are essentially for babies who can sit up and older children, who can freely explore by themselves. However, I have adapted this natural exploration for babies as young as 3 months. Using the same objects, offer a young baby 2 of the objects, close enough so he can focus on them. His eye will automatically be drawn to one of the objects and he may even reach out for it. He will then spend a few minutes exploring the objects, often with his mouth. This allows him to have a rich sensory experience.
It is very important to always check each item before offering it to your child, to make sure everything is safe, there are no broken pieces or sharp edges. Also, check for loose or small pieces.
You can change the objects to your child’s interests. You know your child best and if they are not interested in specific items, change them. (Or remove them and introduce them again at a later date). Also, if your child always chooses the brush, introduce different types/materials/sizes of brush to expand his learning.
From my experience in the baby room of a day nursery, the children cannot wait to see what has been added and to explore objects they remember from the previous activity. It is an amazing activity, which can be modified as the baby/toddler/child grows up.