Tell Me About…Heuristic Play

Tell Me About…Heuristic Play
February 19, 2018 tlc-user
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 remmber 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 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


Off cuts of sanded wood

Large buttons

Metal jar lids

Balls of different textures and sizes


Ping-pong balls

Old tissue boxes for posting

Yoghurt pots and wide necked bottles


Cotton reels

Mug trees and kitchen roll holders


Bottle corks

Tins of all shapes and sizes

Lengths of chain/ bunches of keys

Hair rollers

Curtain rings


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