In Heuristic play Part I we looked at the Treasure Basket and how babies interacted and explored objects, we learned that for babies the question involved in their play was 'What is it?' In Heuristic play part II we will look at how toddlers interact with and explore objects during heuristic play, and ways in which we can enrich these play opportunities for them, engaging their curiosity to enhance their cognitive development.
As babies grow they develop further curiosity about the world around them, and as the question of 'What is it?', is fulfilled with the exploration of the treasure basket, they are no longer content to simply hold, feel and mouth objects, they want to know what they can do with them!
For toddlers, the question posed when participating in heuristic play is 'What can I do with this object?'. Toddlers have a natural curiosity to explore, and experiment with the different ways that objects interact with each other, a toddler will investigate with all the physical possibilities of an object, by rolling, filling, stacking, dumping, fitting things inside each other, balancing and manipulating an object in every possible way. Toddlers who are able to freely explore in this way can make satisfying discoveries about how the world works, by exploring area's such as gravity, spacial awareness, density, and simple physics, which builds their cognitive development, hand/eye co-ordination and fine and gross motor skills.
As with the treasure baskets, it is important that children are able to engage in heuristic play without instruction or interference. The role of the adult in this type of play is to support and observe children during their play. The types of materials that an adult will provide to children during heuristic play, differ slightly to what was offered to babies during the treasure basket phase. During this phase when a toddlers primary question is 'What can I do with it?' it is important to provide a range of objects that can be used together. It is a nice idea to make up a range of 'activity kits' with a purpose in mind, but then to let the children explore them and use them as they would like to, remembering that there is no right or wrong way to engage in this type of play. Try and think of all of the different ways that objects can interact with each other, and provide objects that allow your child to experiment with these different ideas:
Boxes, tins with lids, cotton reels, cones, coasters, pieces of wood etc.
A box with a small slit in the top, tubes, pegs, shells, stones etc.
Dolly pegs to peg around a box or a stainless steel bowl etc.
Curtain rings, paper towel holder, cup tree, bangles/bracelets, lengths of chain/beads, ribbon, scarves etc.
Balls or different sizes and textures, tubes, a ramp made from a cardboard box, cones, pompoms, wooden door knob, cone shaped shells etc.
shells, stones, pine cones, leaves etc.
Containers and lids, pairs of objects etc.
Baskets with handles, large jars, bags, containers with small and large openings etc.
Baskets that fit inside one another etc.
Metal objects, small objects to put in jars and be shaken, a wooden stick for banging etc.
By being able to use their imagination and explore without interference or direction, through sequencing, manipulation, anticipation and rearranging of objects children can discover concepts such as same and different, spheres roll in all directions, tubes roll back and forth and cones roll in circles. Shiny reflects, metal resonates, flat objects can be piled up, heavy and light, little and big, things of the same shape/size can have a different weight, floating and sinking and many many more basic scientific and mathematical concepts. Through this experimentation and exploration children develop their imagination, problem solving skills, concentration, fine and gross motor skills and overall cognitive development.
As with the Treasure Basket, other important factors in a successful Heuristic Play session include the when/where/how long and how often. Make sure that the time of day that you choose to implement an heuristic play session, is free from disruption from visitors, when your child is well rested and has eaten. It is important that the environment that this type of play takes place in is free from distraction and interruption, so it is a good idea to put all of your child's toys and books aside, and switch off the t.v, make sure it is a time that you can sit down calmly and observe your child during play and be available to them. A child will happily engage in this type of play for an hour, but try to limit the sessions to this length of time to keep your child interested in the contents of the heuristic play kit for future play sessions. It is a nice idea to have a couple of place kits which you rotate around to keep your child fascinated and engaged (if you can't afford the space to keep two play kits, try swapping with a friend week about). Offer this kind of play session 3-4 times a week, and ensure that you check over the play materials every time you use them to ensure that they are safe (a good time to do this is when you are putting everything away).
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