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We’ve all had those moments after a play date at home, when you look around and it looks as if there has been a small earthquake! Toys EVERYWHERE! Toys you don’t even recognise or remember have been dug out and your little ones are far too exhausted (so they say) to help you tidy up and so the job is left to you! Why do we do it to ourselves?  Well… because sometimes soft ‘play’ is more like soft ‘OH MY GOODNESS – get me out of here!’  Once children hit three, they are more able to play nicely (ish) and I insist they help tidy before they go home! I’ll probably end up doing it again once they’ve left but it’s a lesson for them… You got it out! You put it back!

For the younger ones having a play date, treasure boxes are a great activity to keep them busy and it can all just be shoved back in the box at the end of it! It is also an open ended activity that appeals to a wide range of ages.  In the past, I have made treasure boxes as Christmas and Birthday presents and they have always been well received as it is something different to the ‘usual’ toys in the shops!

Here is one box I made; I tested it out with a one year old and three year old on a play date at home and then gave it to a friend for her daughter to have as a little treat.

There are some really lovely boxes around and one of my favourite places to buy them is ‘Home Sense’ which is the home section in TK Maxx.  It now has many of it’s own shops and the boxes and baskets in there are reasonably priced and different.

treasure box

The box included:

  • Large pom poms
  • Plastic balls
  • Fake flower petals
  • Two flower pots
  • A sparkly purse
  • A wallet with velcro flap
  • A pencil case with a zip
  • A silicone cake tray

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I then put all the items in the box and presented them in an attractive way to entice the children who played with it.

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Baby 1: (Ten months old)

I wasn’t around when Baby I played with her treasure box but Mummy assured me that she loves it and has played with it everyday.

Empty and fill treasure box

Part of the enjoyment with this treasure box and other you can make, is the whole ‘getting things out’ game!  Children love emptying and that, at it’s most basic level, is one of the reasons treasure baskets are so interesting.  Exploring the items in the box is fab for children’s thinking skills and exploratory development.  Baby I is having to work her fingers hard here to hold this ball and look at it more closely.  She is only ten months old and she is doing a grand job of exploring.

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One thing Mummy said was that Baby I enjoyed emptying, but hadn’t grasped the ‘filling’ bit yet. So although there are lots of containers, in the shape of the sparkly purse, velcro wallet, zip-up pencil case and flower pots, Baby I didn’t use them to put things in! She will though and this is why treasure boxes are so good, as they will grow with the baby playing with them.

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Baby Number 2: ( One year and one month at the time of play)

E’s Mum came round for a cuppa and I got E the Treasure Box out.  E began by emptying the box and generally scattering the contents all over the floor.

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Just being that little bit older than Baby I, E was very keen to put the items inside the flower pots. Collecting and filling, emptying and scattering was the main aim of E’s game and she did this over and over.

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Look at the gross motor skill involved in stretching for that pom pom!

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The contents of the box encouraged E to communicate too! Encouraging as much ‘early speech’ as possible is only going to improve our children’s language and so putting in objects that are unfamiliar will lead children to ‘talk’ about them at what ever stage of ‘talking’ they are at.

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Once E had scattered, filled, emptied. collected, talked and explored, she explored some more by trying to dress herself in petals!

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Baby Number 3: (Thee years exactly – okay, so he’s not exactly a baby but he’ll always be my baby!)

J began by emptying the contents of the box and declaring, ‘There’s no boy stuff in here Mummy!’  Where do they get this from?  Although, to be fair to him, I did make it knowing I would be giving it to Baby I so it was quite girl friendly!  I told him he didn’t have to play with it, but he said, ‘no, it’s okay, I have an idea!’

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He began filling the flower pots with petals and counting as he did so.  He managed to get to 16 and then just said random numbers.

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He then put the pot in the box, put the lid on and said, ‘I’ve got a present for you Mummy!’  Bless him.

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J then spotted a great opportunity.  Playing ball inside the house!! He lined the flower pots up and started aiming the balls into the pots! He is SO creative and imaginative. I’m so proud of him.

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He’s also a cheat who doesn’t like to lose! Hahaha!

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One box, three very different children at very different ages and stages of development enjoyed this open ended treasure box in their own ways.  How powerful is this then as an activity? Developing creativity, exploration, imagination and thinking skills! One that will grow and develop with them.  How many shop-bought toys offer that? Another positive, they are SO cheap to make!

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