10/01/2010 22:47 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Treasure Baskets For Babies

We all know that babies need to explore and be stimulated in order to make sense of their world, and most of us help them do this with a variety of toys, many of them plastic and brightly coloured.

While there's nothing wrong with these, you can look around your sitting room and feel a bit heavy hearted. Do all children's toys have to be loud and plastic?

There are alternatives and they don't have to cost the earth, in every sense. Treasure baskets are a thrifty, green way to provide stimulation for your little one.The idea of filling a basket with everyday items that stimulate your child's five senses was thought up 30 years ago by child psychologist Elinor Goldschmied.

Baskets already containing items can be bought from places like Contented Child or you can search through your house or buy a variety of things especially for your child, adding to them every week.

Suitable items include: shells, feathers, pumice stone, natural sponge, ribbon, velvet powder puff, a plug on a chain, a wooden honey dipper, cotton reel, wooden egg cup, curtain rings, whisk, egg box or a toothbrush.

Remember that it is very important to supervise your baby while they explore the items, as all of them will end up being mouthed. Only include things in the basket that you're comfortable with your child having and don't forget to regularly check them, removing damaged items.

The perfect age to introduce the basket and its contents to your child is between six and nine months, when they can sit up unaided but before they start crawling.

The basket should have low sides to enable your baby to reach in for the objects unaided. Choose a time when they are rested but alert and let them explore.

Sit with them but don't interfere as you don't want to break their concentration. They may well end up exploring just a handful of items, or may pick the same ones each time.

You can take it one stage further and introduce themes to your baskets: smells, nature, sounds. Whatever you include, you can be sure you'll be introducing the world to your child in a thrifty, green and fun way.