Heuristic Play

Voila_Capture 2017-08-24_10-42-35_amHeuristic play is about enabling children to ‘discover’ and explore for themselves. Heuristic comes from the greek work ‘Eureka’ which means discovery. Heuristic play is one of the most developmentally advantageous types of play in the early years. Heuristic play takes objects, not designed as toys, and provides them for children to play with. Children have the opportunity to explore, experience and experiment with a range of textures (rather than just plastic!), shapes, sized and designed things. Everyday things such as sauspans, pots, spoons, hair rollers, combs, corks, pegs, shells, pine cones, ribbons, feathers, pipes, plumbing fixtures, kitchen utensils, different size and shape containers and boxes are all examples of resources that can be used for Heuristic play with children.

At Rainbow Heuristic play materials and resources are built into our environment, which Voila_Capture 2017-08-24_10-42-06_amdrawers, bags or specific areas in each room dedicated to Heuristic play resources. Additionally, each group have  a specific timetabled slot each week for Heuristic play; this is when we lay everything out in baskets and cover up with large materials all of the regular toys. This really gives the children an opportunity to explore and discover new meanings and ways to play and use resources, they draw heavily on their imagination and experience different textures and materials.
We always encourage parents and families to bring in Heuristic play objects and resources to the gan to restore, replenish and add to our existing stock of resources. Here are some ideas of things that you can collect and bring in:

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Anything that can be rolled…

Ping pong balls, Cotton reels,
Hair rollers, Cable and sewing spools, Door knobs,


Objects that can be stacked or stacked on…

Curtain rings and solid bracelets, Wooden bricks,
Mug trees,
Kitchen roll holders,
Nests of boxes, Coasters
Door stops,
Sea shells


Posting and slotting objects…

Boxes and tins with slits in the lids, Money boxes,
Large buttons
CD’s and CD storage racks or cases, Wooden laundry pegs


Objects which contain or not…

Purses and wallets, Baskets and bags, Ice cube trays, Cutlery drainer pots, Colanders, Saucepans and lids


Objects that wrap and obscure…

Ties and scarves, Netting,
Ribbons and lengths of chains


And a long list of general things that we love!

Fir cones, pumice stone, loofah, shells, dried gourds, a lemon, large pebbles, avocado pear stones, a natural sponge, large walnuts. Woollen balls, large corks, small glass bottle, wooden nail brush, small raffia mat, toothbrush, bone shoe horn, shaving brush, housepaint brush, clothes peg, large curtain rings, small turned bowl, large beads on a string, wooden egg cup. Bunch of keys, lids, small egg whisk, metal beaker, lengths of chain, brass curtain rings, tea strainer, A purse, velvet powder puff, a bead embroidered purse, small teddy, bean bag, coloured ribbons, bag of herbs, leather specs case, leather key holder, small flannel. Various rubber balls, tennis ball, puppy ‘bone’, fur fabric, rubber tube, bath plug with chain, hair rollers and spoons.

Further Reading

These downloads provide a range of articles and good practice guides which further explore the themes and benefits of Heuristic Play.

Five principles of Heuristic Play

Heuristic Play – An Article

A paper about Heuristic Play

Parent guide to Heuristic Play

Something else… about Heuristic Play!