Heuristic play (developed by Elinor Goldschmied and discussed in the book People Under Three) extends this opportunity by providing the child with a large number of different kinds of objects and containers to explore and play with.
As with Treasure Basket play, the structuring of the materials, the place and the time are all crucial to the quality of this special part of the nursery day for children in their second year. Driven by the child’s impulse to explore and discover, heuristic play matches the young toddler’s fascination with materials, how they behave in space, and how they can be moved from one place to another and scattered, piled or contained.
The resources for heuristic play are special (they are not available in the free-flow environment) and time and space need to be carefully organised and protected by the adult. As with Treasure Basket play, the objects are a large variety of things from “real life”, not toys, and the children make their own choices as they explore without interference or guidance, but with the warm and secure presence of adults who interact with sensitivity and care. The resources are carefully selected, and specially organised in draw-string bags, and the children are provided with large tins to support the play.
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