Heuristic Play-its not just a load of old junk! Generations Photography

Updated: Jan 9

I hope everyone is ok and that you are finding lots of things to keep your little one's entertained during this challenging time. This blog contains another idea you could try and the good news is you are likely already have resources in your house which can be used for it!

What is Heuristic Play?

Heuristic Play is an extension on the idea of Treasure Baskets.

It is a beneficial type of play as it promotes discovery and exploration. It gives toddlers and beyond the chance to be in control of their play and lead their exploration. The word ‘heuristic’ originates from the Greek word ‘eurisko’ which means ‘serves to discover’ or to ‘gain an understaffing of’.

The concept of Heuristic Play was also developed by Elinor Goldschmied in the 1980s (who also devised Treasure Baskets-Blog 1). However there is a difference between the two concepts, in terms of the objects and how they are offered, as they can be made of artificial materials e.g. plastic.

During my photoshoots in my Norfolk studio I always try to offer the children a range of heuristic objects to explore to stimulate their interest and keep them engaged so I can capture lovely photos. I offer a range of different photoshoot packages.

Heuristic Play
Natural Heuristic Play Materials

What resources do you use in Heuristic Play?

Objects used in a heuristic play session consist of everyday objects from the adult world and can be made of artificial materials including plastic. This is perfect as many of items you will already have in your home!

Heuristic Play
Heuristic Play with Metal Tins

Heuristic play objects can consist of the following-

-Natural objects

-Household objects

-Recycled objects

-Artificial materials

The bigger the collection of objects the better the play experiences your child will have.

Heuristic Play
An eye Catching Heuristic Play Set Up to stimulate exploration and discovery

Here are some examples of what you can provide-

v Pine cones

v Pebbles

v Shells

v Keys

v Mug tree (metal/wooden)

v Kitchen roll holder (metal/wooden)

v Napkin rings (wooden/metal)

v Corks

v Bracelets & bangles

v Jar lids

v Wooden drawer handles

v Ribbon

v Shoelaces

v Wooden laundry pegs

v Cotton reels

v Wooden/metal curtain rings

v Woven / wicker baskets

v Wooden boxes

v Metal biscuits /sweet tins

v Saucepans

v Metal cooking trays

v Cardboard tubes / rings

v Fabric pieces /offcuts

v Wooden/metal spoons of different sizes

v Purses/handbags

v Coasters wooden/metal

v Cardboard rings

v Plastic bottles

The list is in no way exhaustive; let your imagination run wild!!

Heuristic Play
Natural Heuristic Play Objects

What resources can be used to extend Heuristic Play for older children?

It is often the most basic resources which trigger the most complex ideas and thinking in your children.

Examples of Heuristic Play materials for older children:

-Large boxes

-Different types of tape (sellotape, masking tape, brown tape)

-Different sized bed sheets / pillowcases

-Tin foil

-Bubble Wrap

-Large cardboard tubes / rolls


How will Heuristic Play support my child’s learning & development development?

There are so many learning benefits from giving your child access to heuristic play, which support the Early Years Foundation Stage EYFS (2014) which is the Government Framework which sets standards for the learning, development and care of children from birth to 5 years. This framework is for all practitioners working with children in the early years to work towards and adhere to.

It promotes physical development which is part of the EYFS. The exploration lets your child use hand-eye co-ordination. Also fine motor skills using hands and fingers as your child will handle a range of different objects of different sizes and textures.

Heuristic Play
Heuristic Play Promotes Physical Development

It supports personal, social and emotional development another area of the EYFS. Your child is given the chance to be responsible for their own play, as they are playing and exploring independently.

It also helps to promote early Mathematics as the child will be learning about the properties of different materials and developing knowledge of concepts such as size and shape. Your child can develop trial and error through seeing what they can and cannot do with the objects. It also helps your child to engage in problem solving skills as they are discovering things for themselves.

Is Heuristic Play Safe?

You need to be vigilant when your children are playing with the objects, because they are not custom made toys. Only include objects, which you feel comfortable with your children exploring. After each session, thoroughly check over the items to ensure nothing is damaged. Also ensure the items are cleaned after use, such as spraying with anti bacterial spray or wash them in Milton.

Heuristic Play
Wooden Heuristic Play Materials

What’s the Parent’s role during Heuristic Play?

You need to provide a clear area on the floor to set out the materials, so your child has the space to explore them freely. Also make sure to give them a sufficient amount of time to participate in the activity. At the end, encourage your child to help you tidy the items away, giving them lots of praise for their help.

The overall aim is to allow your child to play freely and explore for independently. But still remain close by when your child is playing, because these items are not normal toys. However only offer help when needed.

Heuristic Play
Shiny Heuristic Play Materials

Now it's time for the fun part to get a collection of resources together for your children to experience heuristic play at #home.