Play with Nature

Last week I met up with Emma Poppenborg to chat about her newly launched 'treasure basket'. I wanted to learn more about the concept behind 'Grasp and Gather' and find out what exactly 'open ended' play is...if you love natural toys, creative play and are as curious as me, enjoy this short Q&A with Emma. 

Can you explain the concept behind your toys?

 All of our toys are designed to spark a child’s curiosity and imagination. Our products can be described as 'open ended' in that there is no set way of how they should be used – there are no rules or limitations – and I believe that playing this way instils children with a confidence in their own abilities. The foundation of this play comes in the form of a treasure basket, which is designed for babies aged six months plus. 

A treasure basket is a low-sided basket filled with a variety of sensory items that is designed to be explored by a seated baby. And it is through grasping, mouthing and exploring the items that a baby learns much about the world around them. A treasure basket also gives babies the opportunity to develop their concentration skills – a baby will happily spend up to an hour completely absorbed by a treasure basket – and provides lots of practise at decision making (deciding what items to select and how long to explore them for) and it sets the stage for independent play. For older children, the items in a treasure basket are appealing due to their open-ended nature as they can be used in a limitless number of ways – whether for block play, creating small worlds and becoming whatever their imagination desires.

What items can you add to a treasure basket?

Typically, a treasure basket is made up of a variety of natural and every day, household objects. Our treasure basket packs include natural items as these can be some of the most sensory rich objects. I also believe that including more nature in everyday play is a way of helping children realise their intuitive connection with the natural world.


In terms of household and everyday items to add, these can include wooden and metal utensils such a scoops, spoons and curtain rings. As for natural treasures, large shells and pinecones can be collected during time spent outdoors. For a full list of suggested items to include, as well as other tips on creating and using a treasure basket, see our Complete Guide to Treasure Baskets.

What makes the items in your packs special?

All the items in our packs are designed with sensory experience in mind, meaning they are full of different textures, shapes, sizes, weights and smells for a baby to discover.

We also try to ensure our items have a low environmental impact. For example, we use wood that has been salvaged from land management and would have otherwise gone to waste, and our coconut shell is collected from coconuts that have naturally fallen to the ground. All our treasure basket items are 100% natural, made without chemicals or dyes, and are CE certified for babies aged six-months plus.

At what age does a treasure basket make a good gift?

A treasure basket makes the perfect half birthday (or six-month) gift and can be used for babies up to 18 months and beyond. I always think they make two gifts in one, as while a baby gets to enjoy hours exploring all their treasures, it also gives parents a moment of calm during the day and the rare chance to sit down and enjoy a hot drink.

Can you use a treasure basket with siblings and older children?

Primarily a treasure basket is designed for babies up to 18 months of age, however, they also hold huge appeal for older children and there are many ways they can be used together with older siblings. In fact, it is often quite difficult to prevent older ones from ‘borrowing’ items out of their younger sibling’s treasure basket ;) 

Here are some ideas of ways to use a treasure basket with older children:

  • Playing Kim’s Game
  • Making a story together with the items
  • Creating a small world set up
  • Adding the items to playdough, sand or water
  • Creating a percussion band
  • Making a picture, or scene, using the items
  • Adding the items to a nature collection or display
  • Using the items as open-ended materials in their play (giving children’s imagination free reign to create whatever their heart desires) 

To find out more about Grasp and Gather visit