Treasure Baskets and Mystery Bags: Integrating Multiple Senses and Building Language through Natural Exploration
Small children love being able to explore everyday objects, and infants will often engage with an object for long periods of time, exploring it tactilely, looking closely, and even tasting the objects. Over time, children can develop their logical reasoning, tactile sense, and vocabulary by playing simple games with just objects you have around the house!
Stage I – Treasure Basket (roughly 6 months to 2.5 years).
In this stage, the purpose of the basket is to provide rich sensory experience. Put 3-5 everyday objects in the basket for your child to explore. Choose a collection of round objects, fabrics with different textures, kitchen utensils, self-care items (comb, brush, toothbrush), or choose items that are all the same color. Watch your child to see their interest grow, peak, and wane to guide when it’s time to change items in the basket. Encourage your child to explore objects with multiple senses through modeling. One extension (for kids with emerging verbal skills and up) of the Treasure Basket is to play a game of “I Spy” with the objects. “I spy with little eye something ____” choosing a unique characteristic of the object for the child to pick. Start with objects that are quite different, and this activity could be modified to search for even the most minute detail for older kids.”
Stage II – Treasure Basket and Mystery Bag (Emerging verbal skills – 3 yrs). In this stage, the purpose of the basket and bag is dual, sensory experience and memory exercise. Start with the objects in the basket; allow your child to explore each object (the amount of time for exploration will vary with the child’s age). Let your child watch while you place items from the basket into the bag. Model and narrate while exploring items, “This one feels smooth and round, it must be the ball!”. Start with a very familiar set of items that are quite different from one another and work toward items that share more similarity. Early example: wooden spoon, small ball, and a shoelace or ribbon. Later example: toy giraffe, elephant, and lion (these examples work for stage III also).
Stage III – Mystery Bag (Intermediate verbal skills – 6 yrs).In this stage your child is using their senses and their memory together to determine which familiar objects you have put in the bag. Place items in the bag while your child is not around. Model feeling the items and describing what you feel (without giving away the contents of the bag). Let the child feel the items and describe them. Gently encourage your child to guess without looking at the objects, however at this stage some children will get frustrated and want to look, you can always repeat the activity and modeling later. Once your child has had success with basic objects, group objects by a common property and have them guess each object and what they have in common (see extensions below).
Extension: Geometric Shapes (fun way to introduce these mathematical concepts).
Extension: Color Bag (All objects of one color, let them name the commonality after seeing objects).
Extension: Literacy Bag (All objects that begin (or end) with the same sound, have your child come up with other objects that share the sound).