This article was originally published in 2010













When we refer to heuristic play, we usually mean sensory objects that are safe for baby to play or mouth. Objects are not purpose-built toys, but more natural or basic household items.

Heuristic play is becoming more and more popular, and used in play centres and other child care facilities and learning environments. Once your baby can sit (supported or not), its a good time to introduce a basket.
 These are one of those awesome toys you can make at home, at very little cost! Simple gather materials from the list below, and display in a shallow bowl, box or basket!



Heuristic play is easy to introduce in the home. Create a treasure trove for your baby with a reasonably flat basket, and gather items to fill it. Sensory objects that feel soft or squishy, make noise when shaken, can be pulled or touched, can be bitten, feel hard or rough, are plastic, metal or natural, and can be easily cleaned are ideal items.

The idea of heuristic play is to dedicate a special time, and place your baby in a safe, comfortable and quiet area. Using a mat or rug is ideal. Then, place your open basket filled with items in front of your baby and let them discover and explore. Adult interaction and other interruption should be kept to a minimum.


The great thing about using heuristic play is that your baby can pick and choose items. The next time they are introduced to the basket, it looks different, and so they discover more! Its great to give yourself a few minutes of time out as baby becomes so immersed in their discovery!

Try adding some of these to your heuristic collection:
• Small drink/liquid bottles filled with glitter/marbles/coloured water/coloured rice and taped closed
• Wooden spoons, pegs, plain blocks, thick sticks, beachwood, shells
• Different fabric swatches like leather, lace and knitted squares, knotted scarves
• Little beanbags (use with close supervision), golf ball, tennis ball or other round objects
• Knotted ribbon or rope, kitchen whisk, curtain rings, tin cans with safe edges
• Sets of keys, inner wooden rolls of masking tape or paper rolls, blank cds
• Small plastic containers or jugs, lids, metal bowls, lengths of chain, small wooden boxes




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