> Heuristic play ‘consists of offering a group of children, for a defined period of time in a controlled environment, a large number of different kinds of objects and receptacles with which they play freely without adult intervention’. It is particularly useful for children in their second year who often seem unwilling to engage in any activity for more than a few minutes. According to the Oxford Dictionary, ‘heuristic’ means helping to find out or discover; proceeding by trial and error. It stems from the same root as Eureka – ‘I found it!’ Clare Crowther of Bridgwater College describes heuristic play as ‘an activity we use with one-year-olds, two-year-olds, and young threes, giving them the opportunity to experiment spontaneously with a wide range of non-commercial objects. Whilst the heuristic play session is in process, adults need to remain seated and quiet. This supports children in making their own choices and discoveries.’
As with all toys it is important that children do not have unlimited access to these materials as they then become bored of the items and will not discover anything new.
'The concept of sensorymotor experiences being primary sources of information and knowledge for nought to threeyear-olds holds true (Piaget 1952), and play such as with the treasure basket and heuristic play (Goldschmied and Jackson 1994) provide rich sensory play experiences that boxes of plastic toys do not. Such play is also tuned to this age group's enjoyment of collecting, distributing, emptying and refilling, shaking, banging and investigating.'
(Extract from) Caring for under-threes: play
The Early Years Foundation Stage
Primary National Strategy