I wanted to talk about heuristic play ideas as sometimes we become caught up in terminology and forget to see the simplicity behind these terms. Often these concepts are being attained naturally through daily activities or experiences and we are not even aware of it.
So I would like to share my own views, ideas and little tips that can support you with your own journey into heuristic play.
What is heuristic play?
Heuristic play is where children can, through a variety of everyday household objects and natural materials, explore, discover, play and create with no particular object in mind.
There are no expectations, or goals, it’s just about finding things out. For infants and toddlers this can be a wonderful sensory experience for them and meet that constant need to sustain their curiosity and stimulate their imagination.
Through exploring different objects/items they have a need to find out things like:
- What is this?
- What does it do?
- What can I do with it?
- Where does it come from?
Through using the senses and developing that curiosity, children are beginning to ask those kind of questions that will nurture and sustain inquiring minds and lead to self motivated learners in the future.
Some ideas for heuristic play could be treasure baskets, containers filled with aromatic herbs, things from the sea or nature in general.
This is an open ended learning experience, so things like a stick in the eyes of a child could be anything they imagine it to be.
When we consider resources we do not have to rush around to purchase anything.
What do your children already play with or have an interest in?
Gather a variety of items from around the home,garage or garden and consider the age appropriateness of the items for the child, or children you are working with.
This can be a fun exercise in itself and you will be amazed how quickly you can gather together some really interesting items. It may even pose the question of when was the last time I cleaned out that cupboard?
There is great example of this type of play and one that everyone will be familiar with. How many of us has let the children play with the contents of the pot cupboard or the plastic containers? You may have even thrown the peg basket in the mix and watched how they have enjoyed more sustained play with these items than any of the expensive store bought toys they own.
Think about the tactile element for babies and toddlers, in fact all the senses, remembering that most things go straight in the mouth. The taste experience! Mmmmmmm.
Once you have collected what you would like to start with, think about the environment and how this can impact on the experience for the child and yourself. You both want this to be an enjoyable time.
Where are you going to set up your activity? Is it a beautiful sunny day where you could put baby out on a soft blanket on the grass and spread the items around? You could put them in a basket or container for him/her to explore.
This age group is probably going to be tipping them all out and possibly refilling but that is part of the developmental stage anyway.Be patient.
You may want to introduce one item at a time and give the child time to take it all in.You might also want to set aside some time without any distractions.(put the phone on silent).
A quiet, clear space inside is also good idea and I like the idea of small tables where you can sit n the floor or on cushions around them, or on a mat or rug on the floor. The more textured type materials you can add into the activity, the better the experience.
Heuristic play for the older children can be very similar, but by adding complexity to the child’s play and allowing for their prior knowledge of what some of these things can do and how to use them, it can be very rewarding and a great way to extend that knowledge. Children often find ways to use things that we never would have dreamed of.
You can really think outside the box for this age group. Do you have little budding engineers or future inventors?
I once introduced some old appliances (CUT THE CORDS OFF FIRST) to a group of three and four year old. I just placed them on a table with some tools and observed while they dismantled, explored and experimented. They used the parts to recreate some amazing and very original three dimensional art and sculptures.
By removing the limitations and giving no instruction these children were free to express themselves through their play. If I had tried to give them a task with my own expectations placed on them, I doubt I would have seen what they were truly capable of.
Depending on the age of the child and the nature of the experience, the addition or absence of adults presence in the activity will have an impact on the learning outcomes for the child or children involved.
Often in the early childhood education sector i have heard the term “learning to sit on your hands”.
For those of you in the industry you will instantly understand what I mean. For those of you who may not, it can be really difficult sometimes to remain an observer and not interfere with what is happening.
However for the older children,woking in a group in particular this allows them the opportunity to build relationships, learn to take turns and negotiate. It also supports children to learn to develop the ability to work independently and solve their own problems.
Have some fun
I hope you have all gained some ideas from here that will help your understanding of heuristic play and how simple and enjoyable it can be. I could not list all my ideas in one post but I think you all get the picture.
Have fun creating your baskets, activities and gathering some random materials. I am sure you already have loads of new ideas and want to get started.
What are some of your ideas?
If you have something really different share or want t share a experience that went really well,or the outcome was a surprise, or a picture of your environment,
I would love to hear from you.
Feel free to leave any comments at any time.