Everyone knows that play is central to children’s learning. Play comes in a variety of forms including but not limited to physical, constructive, social and imaginative. Heuristic play is a type of physical play that babies and toddlers can enjoy daily. It is an investigative model of playing for young children, and is both enjoyable and meaningful.
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Now, let’s take a closer look at the benefits of heuristic play, along with several key tips that will guide you in utilising it.
Who can practice Heuristic Play?
Heuristic play is typically practised by adults who are working with children aged between 1 and 3. It gives the child an opportunity to play with a number of real-life objects carefully chosen in advance by the adult.
The main aim of heuristic play is to provide a range of sensory stimulation to help children discover and learn things for themselves. By participating in heuristic play, a child gets the opportunity to determine and make their own choices that will lead them to performing actions independently.
How do you set it up?
The facilitator sets up the environment in such a way that will keep the children engaged throughout allowing them to explore, discover and learn for themselves at their own pace. Children will thrive in a large, open space where they can explore freely. The session will usually last about 45 minutes allowing 10 minutes for tidying up. The children should be well rested and fed before heuristic play begins. This ensures maximum participation in the activity and stops the child from losing interest during the session, meaning a happy adult as well as a child!
What are some resources I can use?
Heuristic play won’t break the bank. Everyone has household or kitchen utensils in their own home and we all know how they can occupy a child for a surprising length of time.
An example of a heuristic play resource would be to get a treasure basket where you can place real-life objects that are safe for any child to play with. The treasure basket is used like a memory catalogue over time. Objects can be added, taken out and replaced, every time you and the child go somewhere new, you can collect objects to go into the basket (i.e., shells from the beach or leaves from a visit to the local park).
Some suggestions of these real-life objects can be found below:
- A bowl or plate
- Wooden spoon
- Pots and pans
- A soup ladle
- Clothes pegs
- Cereal boxes
- Hat and gloves
- Egg boxes
- Bubble wrap
- Toilet paper rolls
- Remote controls
- Old batteries
- Zip lock bags
- Hair ties
- Car keys
Important Tips to remember…
Beyond ensuring maximum engagement by the child, it’s important that the practitioner make sure that the child is safe whilst playing with the objects. Objects such as hair clips or elastic bands may be deemed unsafe for regular playtime. Therefore, it is very important that this type of play be closely monitored by an adult at all times.
When choosing the different resources, the teacher should keep the texture, shape and size of the objects in mind and ensure that there are a variety of materials for the child. The teacher can also vary the resources in terms of how heavy they are, where they are located in the house and objects that will actually fit into each other.
The chosen items will only be used during play sessions. They are not utilised at any other time of day. This helps the child to build an association with the objects used in everyday life.
Why is Heuristic Play so effective?
The benefits of heuristic play for young children are endless. Some of them are outlined below.
Gross motor skills are developed
A range of motor skills is practised during heuristic play. Some examples include:
- Moving and carrying objects
- Picking things up and dropping them
- Manipulating objects
- Wrapping things
- Throwing things
- Stacking and rolling items
Sensory motor development is exercised
Children who experience heuristic play will make use of their sense of touch, sight, taste, smell and hearing. This style of play is rich in sensory learning. Sensory play encourages learning through exploration, curiosity, problem solving and creativity. It helps to build connections in the brain which aids with the development of oral language and motor skills.
Creativity is encouraged
Research has shown that Heuristic play helps children to think creatively. As they are exploring a range of different resources, they are being exposed to different textures, shapes and different-sized objects. They get the chance to explore the different properties of the materials and what they can do with them.
It encourages independence
Heuristic play is a style of play where children learn to play alone. The practitioner ensures that there are enough resources to go around so that the children can focus on their own materials without having to share or interact with others. Children explore using their senses and figure out how and why things work the way they do without the help of an adult. This promotes a massive element of autonomy.
It strengthens cognitive behaviours
When children make an enjoyable discovery – for example, when one object fits into another, or an interesting sound is produced – they will often repeat the action a number of times to test the result. Often, this builds their cognition as well as encourages both fine motor skills and their hand/eye coordination
Problem-solving skills are practised
Children practice all kinds of different problem-solving strategies when they interact with real-life materials. They learn how to move and break apart the various materials independently. They explore the objects and learn that a button makes a sound. They learn to figure out things on their own as they enjoy the opportunity to explore and experiment with different materials used in the everyday world.
Give children an enriching learning experience through heuristic play
Heuristic play provides a range of sensory experiences to help children make associations with everyday objects. This offers numerous benefits, including encouraging creativity, independence, and the development of motor skills, among other things. Because of its accessibility and amazing benefits, heuristic play is a great exercise for babies and younger children.
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