Open-ended play

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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boy and girl play with Outlast blocks by Storage unit

New Outlast point of play storage!

Effective, durable storage is a must for any outdoor area. The new Outlast storage unit crafted from rot resistant Accoya® wood provides a child-safe, convenient space for your Outlast blocks and crates. Additional resources, such as watering cans, sand toys, outdoor mark-making materials or natural loose parts fit too.

 

“The Outlast storage unit is perfect for us as it can be positioned permanently at the point of play,” notes Heather Forsdick, a kindergarten teacher at Herne Hill School. “ It allows the children to access resources while they're playing….. take things out and then put them back as well, which is fantastic.” See how children at Herne Hill School interact with their new Outlast storage unit and blocks in this 3 minute video.

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little boy holding flowers for teacher to smell

From the basics to beyond!

The phrase “back to basics” is often heard in our field. However, a more motivational approach for teachers would be “toward the basics and beyond!”

 

“The kinds of traditional play that children have done naturally for generations is still at the foundation of the work that we do with children,” writes Deborah Murphy. “We have the wisdom of the sages through the ages, but we also have the wisdom of the children right here, right now.”

 

“‘Teacher! Look!’ they say to us. It is good advice. Let’s watch and appreciate their deep engagement, singular focus, and creative innovation. We often discuss modelling behaviour for children. What about flipping that paradigm?” Read more.

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boy engaging in loose parts play with natural materials

The learning in loose parts

“The Lego was fought for, stringing beads spilled in anger, plastic animals broken by grabbing...as a teacher I was at my wits end with this particular group of children. They simply could not play harmoniously together,” relates Martha, an experienced preschool teacher.

 

“On a sudden inspiration I emptied all the tote pans and put the contents in storage. Then we went outside and collected natural objects to fill the pans: small rocks, twigs, acorns, pinecones, and bark. Once inside, we began constructing ‘dream houses’ using Plasticine to hold the sticks together. Soon tables, beds, and little pathways appeared. We kept the houses displayed and worked on them again and again. The old grabbing habits were gone – after all who ‘owns’ the things of nature?”

 

As Martha discovered, the best toys don’t come from a shop. Nature offers a wide assortment of loose parts that are captivatingly simple and empowering. Plus, they’re easy on the budget!

 

Although teachers have always known the great play value in natural materials, current research now validates the tremendous learning potential they offer as well. Read the article.

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girl looking through outlast block

Play: a key dynamic in early childhood development

How do we support children’s learning through play? An effective play educator “engineers learning experiences that put children in the driving seat and then gets out of the way for a while”, write Pam Mundy and Sue Egersdorff. “They (genuinely) smile a lot, provide constant reassurance, and are fun to be with.”

 

Read the fourth article in the “Model for living” series, which encourages and inspires us towards helping children develop a playful approach to learning and life.

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