Thursday, 23 July 2015

Treasure Chests and Heuristic Play

Heuristic play is a term you may have not heard before. I certainly hadn't before I had T. 

Heuristics refers to the Greek for "find" or "discover" (thanks Wikipedia), so heuristic play is a form of play where the child learns through trial, error and exploration. Elinor Goldschmied was the pioneer of this form of play for children. She developed treasure baskets for babies of sitting age onwards, aiming to provide a rich sensory learning experience. 

T's treasure basket 

So many of the items stocked in toy shops now are made of plastic, which can become boringly repetitive for babies. By introducing babies to ordinary household and natural objects, you can stimulate their natural curiosity by offering a variety of textures, tastes and smells. Remember, there is no right and wrong with heuristic play, it's all about the experience. 

A treasure basket can contain almost anything. Charity shops are a great source of material to go in them. The box below has some ideas for your treasure box, but you could include almost anything that you can think of as long as it's safe for your baby. 

The items should be placed in a large sturdy basket, with sides low enough for your baby to access easily. I've found these baskets from Ikea very useful, as they are quite strong, and look quite neat when stored away. 

Whole host of different objects in an Ikea wicker basket 

I think that T almost prefers playing with the items in his treasure basket to some of his ordinary toys some days.

Try offering your baby items in different groups, for example circles and spheres:

Let your baby explore the common theme in different items - here a necklace, castanets, wooden stacking discs, tambourine, and bracelets. 

 Heuristic play should be child-led. Try not to interfere with your baby's learning process, and allow them to explore in their own time. Be careful, treasure baskets still need adequate supervision, and you should routinely check the items in them for loose or broken parts. Feel free to add and remove objects from time to time to keep your baby's interest. 

The beauty of these treasure baskets is that they can be adapted and changed as the child grows. As your baby turns into a toddler, why not try adding things like egg cartons or empty yogurt pots so they can learn about "in" and "out" and "over"and "under". The principle of cause and effect is important here, so wrap items, place smaller objects inside larger ones, fill plastic bottles with different items and allow them to fall, pile things up and knock them down. 

Have a look at this chapter for more information:
Introducing Sensory Rich Play (from Gascoyne S., (2012) Treasure Baskets & Beyond)

Check out these blogs for some other ideas:

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