Discovery baskets are a wonderful way to provide your baby or toddler with a variety of interesting materials to explore and talk about. Here are some favourite ideas for how to use discovery baskets for sensory play and language activities.
Discovery baskets for baby and toddler
To make a discovery basket for your baby or toddler all you need is a container, and some interesting things to go inside.
You don’t need to buy a special basket, as you can use what you already have. A wicker basket, picnic hamper, shopping bag, or even a cardboard box, are all good for the job.
It’s nice to have a container that has a lid, so the contents can be hidden and you can share the excitement of a big reveal with your child, as you lift of the lid of today’s basket to see what’s inside this time.
Once you have a container, start thinking about what you might put inside. You don’t need to buy anything new, as things that you already have will be new and interesting to your baby or toddler.
You will need to supervise your child all the time they explore the basket, and make sure the items you put inside are things that are safe for your child to handle. Within these guidelines there are lots of fantastic things you can use to offer your child a wide range of discovery experiences.
Here are some suggestions.
A discovery basket for colour
This first basket is set up to explore the colour orange, and includes lots of different textures, shapes and even smells. In it we have:
plastic beakers (great for stacking) :: an orange :: a pumpkin :: ribbons :: wooden rings and shaped tiles :: a ball of wool :: some plastic balls :: fabric scarves
Take out the items and touch, turn, feel, roll and talk about them all. There are no rules about how to use a discovery basket. It’s an invitation to explore the contents and to allow your child to respond to them, their own way.
A discovery basket for smell
The same basket could be the container for items grouped around the theme of smell, next time you use it. In this basket we have:
herbs from the garden including bay, rosemary and chives :: a lavender-filled fabric heart :: an orange with some of its skin scored to help release its scent (lemon, lime, and grapefruit would be good too) :: some pots from the kitchen cupboard, including cocoa powder, oregano and mild curry powder ( they are empty and have been lightly rinsed clean, but still retain the smell of the previous contents)
A shiny discovery basket
A quick look through the kitchen cupboards gives you some goodies for a shiny-themed basket.
When you group objects together on a theme it often makes the differences more noticable. So, in this assortment, which at first all ‘match’ it’s really interesting for children to look more closely and notice the different sizes, shapes and dimensions of the objects.
In this one we have:
a ladle (great for using like a mirror) :: a balloon whisk :: a spatula / fish slice :: metal spoons in a variety of sizes :: a potato masher :: a vacuum flask (good to have a cup lid which you can screw on and off) :: a metal bowl
A discovery basket using fruit and vegetables
The simplest things we barely notice can be amazing items for play to a baby or toddler. A basket filled with some fruit and vegetables offers lots of colours, shapes, scents and textures to explore. In this basket we have:
an apple :: a pumpkin :: a parsnip :: a sweet potato :: an avocado :: an orange (along with other citrus fruits you can score the skin slightly to release the fragrance)
After you’ve had some discovery time the contents of this basket (perhaps without the avocado) would make a delicious soup. Peel, chop, cook and eat!