What is Heuristic Play?
When young children begin to walk and gain independence they are driven by a natural curiosity and urge to handle things and find out what objects can do. How often do we find ourselves asking them not to touch, finding that they have pulled things out of cupboards, emptied containers or posted raisins into the DVD player? Heuristic play allows toddlers to freely discover how things work, exploring concepts like posting, stacking and sequencing.
Heuristic Play offers children an opportunity to play freely with a large number of different objects and receptacles in a controlled environment without adult intervention (unless the child requests it). The term was coined by Elinor Goldschmeid and Sonia Jackson – heuristic coming from the Greek word ‘eurisko’ meaning to discover or gain an understanding of.
During a toddler session a variety of multi sensory materials (not toys) are spread around an otherwise empty room, free from all other distractions. Each child is given a selection of containers with which to explore.
How Do the Children Benefit?
There are many benefits to play of this kind :-
Children will be engaged in self-discovery and test hypotheses
Cognitive development is strengthened by working out how things work and fit together
Develops fine muscle control
Develops hand/eye co-ordination
Encourages children to make choices
There is no right or wrong way to do things therefore it is therapeutic and fully inclusive
It sustains children’s natural curiosity
Children modify and change what they already know to gain new knowledge
Children become absorbed for long periods learning to explore without adult direction.
It supports children’s natural ways of learning through schemas.
The Adults Role
The adults sit quietly around the outside of the room so as not to distract the child’s natural exploration, they do not direct the play in any way and only support the child if they come to them for help, are distressed or they sense that their child has had enough.
At the end of the session children help to sort the materials putting them back in their correct bags with the support of the teacher. Objects are stored in labelled drawstring bags, for easy storage.
Find out more by looking at our leaflet at heuristic play