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Getting Underway with Heuristic Play

Heuristic play for young children is based on open-ended resources that can be explored and investigated, and that encourage hypothesising (predicting what might happen). Such free exploration helps children to discovery things that make the world comprehensible, increases their cognitive development, supports their hand/eye co-ordination and helps them become resilient learners.

Allowing even our youngest children free access to resources within their learning environment is good practice, as is ensuring that some of them can be used in open-ended ways. Below is a list of inexpensive heuristic play resources that children can post, thread, stack, spin, throw, transport, sort, order or hide.

  • Wooden egg cups
  • Curtain rings
  • Bangles
  • CDs
  • Hair scrunchies
  • Wooden clothes pegs
  • Lollipop sticks
  • Serviette rings
  • Mug trees
  • Kitchen roll holders
  • Ribbons/scarves
  • Salad spinners
  • Coasters/wooden disks
  • Castor cups
  • Ping pong balls
  • Small wooden blocks
  • Natural sponges/cleaning sponges
  • Cotton reels
  • Large bottle tops
  • Guttering and assorted tubes
  • Large shells.

Heuristic play

Heuristic play outdoor resource ideas

Heuristic Play

The following resources, on a much larger and more physical scale, offer similar opportunities for posting, threading, stacking, spinning, throwing, transporting, sorting, ordering and hiding.

  • Hula hoops
  • Ring/disc frisbees
  • Bike/car tyres
  • Collections of different-sized balls
  • Short strips of sanded plywood
  • Buckets/baskets
  • Wheelbarrows
  • Large tubes
  • Tubes from rolls of carpet
  • Bean bags
  • Fixings: pegs and clips
  • Large wooden blocks
  • Large cardboard boxes
  • Very large containers and tubs
  • Bread crates
  • Cable reels
  • Fir cones, leaves, soil, large pebbles and sand
  • Children’s fishing nets
  • Guttering
  • Pieces of rope.

These ideas are taken from This is the Way I Like to Play by Andrina Flinders.

See our range of heuristic play resources

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