What Is Heuristic Play?
What does heuristic play mean?
The term heuristic play was coined by Elinor Goldschmied (1910-2009) in the 1980s and was formalised in the book People Under Three: Young Children in Daycare. In the second edition of the book she co-authored with Sonia Jackson they explain heuristic play is for children in their 2nd year.
“Put simply, it 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” p. 128
Goldschmied saw heuristic play as a non prescriptive approach to learning – with no single way to do it. The collections of objects and receptacles used can be an expression of creativity by the adults - and geography may well determine some of the objects.
Heuristic play is about curiosity and exploration. As children select, manipulate, explore, compare (and sometimes share, but this is a spontanteous activity – if there are enough items sharing isn’t required) items they discover what the object can and can’t do. Space to move around with the objects is part of the sessions described by Goldschmied. Also time to fully explore the objects before children help to collect up the items and return them to the receptacles.
A list of suggested items could include:
(bear in mind many of these items may be explored by mouths)
- Paper / cardboard objects: Egg boxes, notebook, sturdy cardboard tubes, greaseproof paper.
- Wooden objects: Door wedge, small turned bowl, dolly pegs, egg cup, wooden egg, spoons, curtain rings, coaster, bracelet, block, napkin rings, dowel, empty salt and pepper cellars.
- Leather, textile, rubber, or fur objects: Small knitted toy, bean bag, piece of flannel, velvet powder puff, bags of herbs, bag of lavender, leather key ring, coloured ribbons, leather purse.
- Rubber objects: Ball, bath plug with chain, soap holder, door stop, coaster.
- Metal objects: Honey drizzler, an egg cup, curtain ring, egg poacher, measuring spoons, tea strainer, whisk, powder compact, bells, lemon squeezer, small bowl,
- Natural objects: A lemon or orange, coconut shell, grass rope, sheepskin, pumice stone, loofah, shells, pine/fir cones, driftwood, avocado stone, large pebbles.
- Brushes: Scrubbing brush, pastry brush, baby's hair brush, nail brush, makeup brush, paint brush, shaving brush, wooden toothbrush.
- Other objects: small vanilla essence or food colouring bottle, hair rollers, small mirror, scent bags, bone shoe horn, ceramic bowl
List from M Masters – Little AcornstoMightyOaks
For more information on heuristic play see Helen Huleatt’s article at Community Playthings