Many parents have been fans of the Montessori Method of child-learning and rearing for decades, after its originator Maria Montessori, an Italian doctor and educator working in the early 1900’s, developed and proved its efficacy in early childhood. New to the Montessori Method? The gist is this: Children are respected; their environment should be conducive to learning and exploring as their minds develop at their own pace; the whole child should be educated and nurtured; and a balance of freedom and limits should be created and upheld. 

So, what does this mean for your baby or toddler? Essentially, they are always learning, and their learning spaces should be geared toward experimental and baby-led growth and discovery. Whether you Are planning a Montessori-style nursery and eventual Montessori preschool, or simply looking for easy and fun ways to try out the Montessori Method at home, a discovery basket for babies is a great place to start. 

What is a baby treasure basket?

It is basically exactly what it sounds like. This will be a basket or lightweight bin placed on a low shelf or the floor within the reach of your baby or toddler. The basket will be filled with items that are safe for Baby to hold, touch, and put in their mouths as little ones are apt to do. A variety of items is always best, but you can theme the basket, too.

When is the best time to use a Montessori treasure basket?

Once your baby is sitting independently, you can try a Montessori treasure basket. This sensory learning tool is mostly geared to babies ages 6 through 18 months, but older toddlers and preschool-aged children can benefit from them, too. 

Once your baby is no longer putting small objects in their mouth, and as they become more independent and verbal, you will want to switch out your items with more age-appropriate things that interest them at that time, including new objects they have not seen or used before. As babies, it is a lot easier to make these interesting, because everything is new to your 6-to-18-month-old!

Montessori treasure basket filled with red toys. 

Photo: Instagram/makeitmontessori

How will a Montessori treasure basket help my child?

The Montessori discovery basket is a veritable treasure trove of learning with so many benefits for babies. On top of the joy and accomplishment of having dug through the basket or bin and checked things out on their own, your baby will love discovering new textures, weights, colour grouping, and cause-and-effect. 

As Baby grows, you can tailor the learning to more themed baskets like things that are one colour, things that make noise, things that are soft, etc. These types of laidback, baby-led 'lessons' are quintessential elements of Montessori learning. They promote freedom and discovery within limits, keeping Baby safe while allowing them to make their own way in their little world of newness.  

While looking through the basket, Baby is also working on fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination; developing early language (let them explore on their own and do not hover, but when they look quizzically at you, tell them the name of the object they are holding); and setting the stage for independent play in the months and years to come. 

Baby and panda-themed Montessori treasure basket

Photo: Instagram/jacks_playtime

How do I build a baby treasure basket?

Components of your baby basket will vary depending on a lot of factors, most importantly… what you have lying around! While some parents will choose to go out and purchase specific items for the treasure bin, you can get started today with found objects you already have at home.

What you need to build a treasure basket:

  • A lightweight, wide-mouthed basket or round bin with no dangerous edges
  • 5-15 everyday items (including a few actual baby toys if you would like) that are not at all hazardous to babies

Montessori treasure basket ideas: 

Check out sturdy, wide-neck baskets like this set from Zulily, these colourful hand-woven rainbow baskets from Etsy, and these natural-look baskets from Amazon. But, any basket or round bin you already have is a great place to start! 

Examples of treasure basket items: 

  • Wooden spoons
  • Rubber bath toys
  • Soft makeup brush
  • Silk scarves or handkerchiefs
  • Large play 'eggs' and other wooden shapes / toys
  • Whole lemons, limes, and other citrus fruits for colour, scent, and texture
  • Socks, gloves, ties, and other daily-use clothing accessories
  • Stacking / sorting cups and rings
  • A mirror Baby can safely hold
  • Knitted toys or objects
  • Small toys with bells, ribbons, and other interesting components
  • Cars, trucks, dolls, and other toys that are safe for Baby to play with
  • Building blocks, hair scrunchies, and items of more diverse textures (Think: soft, hard, silky, bouncy, metallic…)

Basket filled with sensory baby toys

Photo & to Purchase: Etsy

Can I just buy a treasure basket?

Yes! Etsy is a great place to search for Montessori toys and discovery boxes or bins. Also check Amazon in the handmade section, nearby flea markets and baby shops, and call your local Montessori preschool for ideas on brick-and-mortar sellers that offer pre-assembled baskets. 

This mini basket has a variety of shapes and textures for Baby to explore. This one features bright colours and natural wood elements. And this kitchen-themed set will be perfect to use now for the discovery basket and later as Baby starts playing with their play kitchen. 

You can also buy basket fillings from Amazon, Etsy, and Montessori online shops, and assemble them in different ways to keep Baby entertained and guessing.

Kitchen-themed Montessori treasure basket

Here are some of our favourite items to place inside your treasure basket:  

Stacking cups for a baby

Photo: Bannor Toys

Shapes & Sorting Toys:

 

Wooden baby toys

Photo & To Purchase: Etsy 

Wooden Toys & Blocks:

Sensory ball toys

Photo & To Purchase: Crate & Kids

Balls & Soft Play:

All told, there is no wrong way to assemble a Montessori-inspired treasure basket for your baby, as long as you are using safe and nontoxic items. There will be trial and error, and some babies will prefer more or less of a variety of objects. Start with a few things and build your discovery bins from there. It is a big world, and there are so many exciting things within it. Get your little one started on a path to learning right at home and enjoy the wonder on their little face as they do so. 

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