Heuristic Play For The Under 2’s

Heuristic play was identified by Elinor Goldschmeid, a child psychologist in the early 1980s. The idea behind Heuristic play rooted from the natural curiosity a young child has for its surroundings. As babies grow over time, their emotion and sensory capabilities regarding objects around them also grows. They are no longer are just happy playing with toys and objects instead, they want to explore how objects can be used. This conquest of handling things, gathering them, piling together, knocking them down helps them build a connection with objects surrounding them. Objects such as kitchen utensils and ordinary items lying around the house serve as a great activity to keep young children engaged.

ribbons in a jar

Image source: flickr.com

Our parents and grandparents were well aware of this notion even before realizing it had been termed as Heuristic play. We all remember the fond memories of our childhood, where we all have been offered pots and pans in the kitchen to play with while our mothers busily prepared dinner. Don’t forget the stirring and banging, we all have done with wooden spoons and making mud pies with grass on top. So you see we all have experienced the very same notion that Heuristic play sessions are based on. In these sessions you introduce your baby to a selection of everyday items found around the house and garden and give them time and space to explore the objects, using all their senses.

Young children are fascinated by their enjoyable discovery of new and interesting sounds, which is why they often repeat the action a couple of times to test the outcome – this strengthens cognitive development, hand-eye coordination and muscle control. Heuristic play requires no parent intervention and is great for children who engage in an activity for a short duration. Heuristic originates from the same root as Eureka – ‘I found it’ and according to the Oxford Dictionary it means ‘helping to find out or discover; proceeding through trial and error.’ Several daycares use this form of activity to engage children that are one or two years old.


Image source: flickr.com

When the Heuristic play sessions are in process, parents and practitioners are advised to remain seated and quiet so that young children are given the opportunity to experiment spontaneously with non-commercial items by themselves. The only difference that Heuristic play has from the age-old fascination with pots and pans is that it takes place with a group of children and a wider selection of items. Objects range from ribbons, empty cotton reels, gift wrapping material, jar lids, seashells and much more. A large area is allotted for this play and children are given an hour to perform their intriguing explorations. Because it is held in large groups, young children not only are engrossed in their own investigation but are also aware of each other which increase social awareness and abilities.

The heuristic play not only provides benefits for young children but also offers great insight for the carers who sit quietly nearby observing them. At the end of the session, children can be asked to gather objects and put them in their respective places. It is fascinating to watch the thought process of a child and heuristic play allows you to do that.

Written by Carly Garrett

Image Credits: tricsr4kidz & Lenny Furman