Heuristic play is rooted in young children’s natural curiosity. As babies grow, they move beyond being content to simply feel and ponder objects, to wanting to find out what can be done with them. Toddlers have an urge to handle things: to gather, fill, dump, stack, knock down, select and manipulate in other ways. Household or kitchen utensils offer this kind of activity as every parent knows, and can occupy a child for surprising stretches of time. When toddlers make an enjoyable discovery – for instance when one item fits into another, or an interesting sound is produced – they often repeat the action several times to test the result, which strengthens cognitive development as well as fine muscle control and hand/eye coordination. In their book, People under Three, Elinor Goldschmied and Sonia Jackson coined the term heuristic play, to explain how to provide a more structured opportunity for this kind of activity. Heuristic play with objects is not a novel idea.
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