Tell Me About...Heuristic Play

Resources

 What is Heuristic play?

It is a way our youngest children can explore the world that surrounds them, to find meaning in it and to feel some control over it. Heuristic play is typically suited to more mobile babies approaching or in their second year (10-20mths). It allows the toddler to experiment with objects and the environment.

It is a collection of bits and pieces of different sizes, metal tins, plastic bottles, curlers and wooden curtain rings any materials that might be found around the house or in the recycle bin! The important thing to remember is that they are items which are open ended and not ‘toys’

Why is it important?

When a baby becomes mobile and grows into a toddler, they become interested in what their body can do, and also what their body can do with objects. If babies had language, they would be asking, ‘’what can I do with this object?’’ Heuristic play allows young children to develop key skills for future learning and development.  It is the…

  • basis of all future problem solving, scientific and mathematical learning.
  • chance for a toddler to develop an interest in cause-and-effect, ie the relationship between objects and the effect of his action upon objects.
  • opportunity for physical skills to be practiced and developed
  • promotion of independence and thinking skills
  • chance for toddlers to develop concentration skills

How to set up Heuristic play?

  • Sit close by your little one to provide reassurance, safety and to share in your toddlers exploration
  • Find a quiet time to allow your child to explore
  • Provide lots of materials to ensure plenty of choice
  • Help your child investigate by moving objects around but be careful not to take over and direct their play.
  • If your child disrupts another or starts throwing objects why not intervene with suggestions and distractions, your attention and interest in what they are doing is key.

What items can be used for Heuristic play?

  • Woollen pompoms
  • Small bags and boxes
  • Cardboard cylinders of all sizes and lengths
  • Ribbons
  • Off cuts of sanded wood
  • Large buttons
  • Metal jar lids
  • Balls of different textures and sizes
  • Bangles
  • Ping-pong balls
  • Old tissue boxes for posting
  • Yoghurt pots and wide necked bottles
  • Baskets
  • Cotton reels
  • Mug trees and kitchen roll holders
  • Shells
  • Bottle corks
  • Tins of all shapes and sizes
  • Lengths of chain/ bunches of keys
  • Hair rollers
  • Curtain rings
  • Pegs

Safety – always undertake a risk assessment, supervise and check for choking hazards.

For more information about how heuristic play can help your child's development click the link on the sidebar


Top Tip

Over time build up a collection of safe real life items to be used for heuristic baskets. Offering your child a selection of items in a basket rather than sharing lots of items will avoid your child feeling overwhelmed. Then mixing the items up over time can add variety. By sitting with your child while they explore you can talk about the items they are discovering.
More information about how heuristic play can help your child's development.
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Age Groups

Find more games, resources, tips and links for your child's age group here.

Games & Resources

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Frequently Asked Questions

Are you looking for advice about your child's learning and development? We answer your frequently asked questions here.

Get in touch

For further support or advice, please feel free to contact us on the email address below.
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