Babies

Heuristic play

What is heuristic play?

According to the Oxford dictionary, “heuristic” means helping to find out or discover; proceeding by trial and error. It stems from the same root as Eureka – “I found it!”

In the early years classic, 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 “consists of offering a group of children, for a defined period of time in a controlled environment, a large number of different kinds of objects and receptacles with which they play freely without adult intervention”. It is particularly useful for children in their second year who often seem unwilling to engage in any activity for more than a few minutes.

Interested in running heuristic play sessions in your setting? Read this.

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boys fighting over a toddle box

Teaching compassion

Learning how to interact positively with others is a vital developmental task of early childhood. However, many teachers are reporting a worrying increase in social problems such as bullying, lack of problem-solving skills, and anti-social behaviour.

 

Current trends, such as the increase of media and technology in the lives of young children, combined with fewer opportunities for play and interaction with others, are feeding this widespread problem which Diane Levin has characterized as “Compassion Deficit Disorder”.

 

No, this is not another label to slap on children’s behavioural difficulties. Rather, it is an indictment on a society where childhood is not valued and supported. It is vital that children have real life, meaningful experiences right from the start that help them to learn compassion and empathy. Parents and educators are in a unique position to curb this damaging trend. Read Diane Levin’s article.

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infant sitting in a browser box

Play through the eyes of the child

Crawl on the floor, hide behind a shelf, play peekaboo with a colleague or friend. Harken back to those days when you could sprawl, wriggle, stretch, build dens under tables, and giggle. Regain a child’s perspective, at least for a few moments.

“Early years practitioners would tend to agree with Froebel (1782-1852) that play is the child’s way of learning about and understanding the world around them,” write Karen McInnes and Nicola Birdsey. “Therefore, as practitioners, how can we fully understand the child’s world without seeing it through their eyes?” Read more.

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child and teacher playing clapping game together

Learning through music

Grant, five months old, attends a nursery where the staff and children love to sing. One day his key worker lost her voice, and she noticed that Grant was fussy and discontented.

“We have all experienced crying, fussy, or sick children in our care who become calm when quality instrumental music is played. They are listening!” writes Elizabeth Carlton, music consultant at High/Scope Educational Research Foundation.

“If we sing to our three- and four-year-olds, we will probably be asked to sing the song again…and again. Many listening experiences during the first two years of life are necessary before children actually sing or talk with us…Songs, instruments, and instrumental music are wonderful ways to develop children’s listening skills and awareness of different words and musical pitches.” Read the article

toddlers playing

Understanding and encouraging toddler play

Toddlers are more complex than we often give them credit for. What better way to learn about how toddlers think than by watching them play? Kay Albrecht has worked with young children for many years and has a way of inspiring others to observe the wonderful world of "toddlerhood."

Read this article on observing and enabling toddlers' play.

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