Montessori treasure baskets help parents create a rich language experience.

Montessori treasure baskets are a collection of objects for children to explore. These objects are related to a theme or have a common characteristic. Treasure baskets can be an inexpensive, fun, focused way to speak Spanish with kids at home or in a classroom.

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Montessori is the inspiration for this language activity, but there are two important changes to the original concept. The original Montessori treasure baskets are intended for babies and toddlers. Adapted for language learners, treasure baskets can be used with a wide range of ages.

In addition, in the traditional Montessori concept, a child explores the objects herself, and adult interaction is not essential. As a second language learning activity, treasure baskets depend on a teacher or parent providing language input.

Reasons to Use Treasure Baskets with Language Learners

  • Treasure baskets are inexpensive and easy to create using objects around the house.
  • Themed treasure baskets provide the opportunity for focused language and repetition.
  • Baskets are high-interest and can be easily changed when a child is ready for new items to explore.
  • A collection of objects engages children with the language for a period of time. The baskets hold their attention in the way a single object would not.
  • The activity is child-directed. You provide the basket, but the child decides how to examine and play with the objects. No matter how the objects are used, there is potential for comprehensible input and repetition because the objects relate to a theme.
  • Baskets make creating comprehensible input easier by limiting references. The language is naturally focused on the objects. It is less work to structure and repeat language as you talk to a child.
  • Treasure baskets let you use verbs, adjectives and prepositions with a limited set of references so that children understand.
  • Vocabulary can be repeated as objects are used in different baskets. For example, a red glove could be included in a basket of gloves and later in a basket of red objects.

As an example, consider a Montessori treasure basket of sunglasses. Playing with a basket of sunglasses would provide the opportunity to use vocabulary like lentes, ojos, orejas, ponerse, quitarse, luz, oscuro, etc.  A child might put on and take off several pairs of glasses. If you include a hand-held mirror in the basket, she will play even longer as you talk about what she is doing.

Tips for Using Treasure Baskets with Language Learners

  • With older kids, you may want to move to boxes or other containers depending on the objects you have assembled.
  • Designate a space on the floor or a tabletop to play with the collection. If children spread out too much, it is hard to engage them with the target language.
  • Consider adding an object that prompts an action. Add a hand-held mirror so kids can see themselves with scarves, for example. Include small objects to put in a collection of boxes or jars.
  • With groups, you can pass objects around or have children exchange objects after a short time. There is a fair amount of chaos, but also lots of opportunity for language.
  • Consider taking photos as you play. The pictures of your child or students playing provide another way to re-enter language later.
  • You can take photos of treasure basket collections for speaking or writing prompts. Treasure baskets are best as a hands-on activity, but displaying items and photographing them can also be useful.

There are wonderful photos of Montessori treasure baskets online to give you ideas. Do a search or take a look at Pinterest boards like this one or this one.

Here are a few more ideas for creating Montessori treasure baskets:

items of a certain color
items of a certain shape
items of a certain texture
nuts and bolts
magnets and metal items
magnifying glasses and small things to magnify
boxes and jars
jewelry and a mirror
noise makers, rattles, shakers, drum sticks and pad, whistles
eye glasses or sunglasses and a mirror
scraps of cloth
animal figures
old photographs
hats and a mirror
scarves and a mirror
beads and pipe cleaners
things with wheels
coins from different countries
stamps from different countries
flash lights of different sizes
decorative cut scissors and scrap paper

You may also be interested in this post: 5 Language Learning Concepts You Need to Understand to Raise a Bilingual Child

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