Monday, 23 January 2012

God in Creche- helping children to enjoy being at church

By Catherine Ward

God in Crèche:  helping children to enjoy being at church
Eleanor Goldschmiede is one of the most respected writers on providing play opportunities for the under threes. Her work has shaped much of modern nursery provision. Treasure baskets and Heuristic play are two fantastic ideas which, simple as they sound, are not to be underestimated. Treasure baskets are intended for babies who can sit up but are not yet crawling they are intended to contain everyday household things and natural objects made from wood, metal, cloth, leather, cork or rubber, but not plastic. Unlike plastic toys treasure basket items have different weights, smells and textures.  Some feel cold to the touch, others make fascinating noises when they are dropped or shaken. Research into how babies learn has established that babies rely much more on touch, and smell than adults do to find out about their world. Babies have been observed to play, investigating treasure baskets for up to an hour. In my post on inviting awe and wonder I talk about seeing something of our creator God through natural materials like sand and water, pebbles and pine cones. The natural materials in the treasure basket clearly grasp babies’ attention. 
Heuristic play is intended for babies who can crawl and for toddlers, and it’s basically about providing open ended materials for children to experiment with. We have used baskets, tins, curtain rings, mug trees, ribbons and wooden spoons, with great success. Unlike slot puzzles, shape sorters and stacking ring toys these open ended resources have no single ‘right’ answer. Children can spend as long as they want finding out about filling, emptying, capacity, stacking, threading and patterns. Without the risk of failing to find a right answer they can practice using their God-given creativity.


  1. treasure baskets, essential in every place caring for babies. Sometimes adults need educating on their benefits and how engaged babies can be with them. Rather than reaching for the "bright noisy" toy. I have certainly experienced that in church

  2. At the moment all of our creche children are independent walkers. So the treasure basket that we've been filling for the past couple of months is sat on a shelf waiting for some of the new babies in the church to start coming to creche. It's a really exciting prospect after all I've read and seen about treasure baskets while I've been studying for my BA in education.

    We've done far more with the concept of heuristic play. The original authors on the subject (Goldschmiede and Jackson) recomend heuristic play being offered as a distinct session in a seperate room, but that's in the context of a full-time day nursery. We've had great fun seeing what the children do with a colection of simple, open ended materials, (avoiding plastic as much as we can) within the context of the rest of our provision for under threes. You should have seen how involved the children were this last Sunday. Really rewarding to see.