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  • pre 27/05/2019
  • pre Kanika Arora




Did we ever wonder why a child picks up a pair of keys or a spoon instead of toys? Even after a child is surrounded by numerous options of toys, he/she still finds an empty container or a cardboard box intriguing. Why does this happen? Shouldn’t every child be engrossed in the toys available to him/her? The answer lies in the definition of Heuristic Play.




The term 'Heuristic Play' was coined by one of the pioneers of Early Childhood Education Elinor Goldschmeid in the early 1980s. According to her, the heuristic play revolves around the concept of playing and exploring with everyday household items but not toys. Usually, toys come with play instructions and limited functionality. Although in the case of ‘Heuristic Play Equipment’ i.e. a Treasure Basket/Box, there isn’t any right or wrong way to explore and play. For instance – a child might get bored with a toy car as it is supposed to be rolled back and forth. On the contrary, a simple household item like a cork or a toilet paper roll gives a child the opportunity to be more imaginative and innovative. Goldschmeid’s idea of Heuristic Play is the perfect example of learning while playing.




A treasure basket/box is a collection of natural materials or household recycled items. It includes items like coloured ribbons, wooden spoons, pinecones, hair brushes, tea strainers, pieces of silk cloth and flannels, thread reels, hair rollers, curtain rings, marbles, paint brushes, bangles and bracelets, small cardboard and wooden boxes, etc. We can add plenty of other items to keep a child involved after some time. A treasure basket can either be made of tin, fabric, wood or bamboo.

Children are exposed to various items that range in size, shape, and texture with a treasure basket in front of them. It gives every child the independence to decide which item to play with. How many items are there in a treasure basket or how fancy it looks? It does not matter as long as we recognize the significance of spontaneous exploratory play with a wide range of non-commercial objects.




1)    Open Ended Play Opportunities            

Heuristic play gives each child ample open-ended play opportunities. Each object can be played and handled in several ways which require a child’s imagination and creativity. This concept offers every child to learn and develop in a completely natural way. As Albert Einstein rightly said, “Play is the highest form of Research”.

2)    Multi-Sensory Learning Experience

When a child decides to choose a particular item, the process from reaching out and grabbing to playing with it refines his/her fine motor skills. This activity aids in developing a child’s hand to eye coordination as well as muscle control. The concept of Heuristic Play lets a child explore the basic 5 human senses - smell, touch, taste, sight, and hearing. Every child uses these senses to explore a basket filled with objects from around the house and nature. Adult supervision without telling children ‘how’ and ‘what’ to choose is advisable to avoid an accident.   

3)    Brain development

Goldschmeid’s approach to heuristic play lets children use imagination to explore numerous items. Does each child get fascinated that how one item could fit into another? Or how an interesting sound comes when one is hit by another? Yes, they do. When children repeat such play actions to explore further, it strengthens their cognitive and brain development. Discovering the cause-effect relationship (for example – that sound when marbles are dropped into a tin) could increase awareness and understanding of the surroundings in them.

4)    It is Versatile and Inexpensive

Setting up a treasure basket could be very easy and inexpensive. How hard could it be to set one up for our tiny tot? It isn’t and being versatile is the key. Collecting basic household items made up of natural materials and placing them in a basket/box is simple and not expensive at all. A treasure basket could prove out to be a real joyful, fun and a learning experience for any child.   


Heuristic play ideas are all around us. Parks and beaches are very good examples. Children can play with rocks, pebbles, sand and shells while at a beach. In a park, kids can discover different shapes, sizes and textures of leaves and flowers. There are infinite opportunities for kids to explore.

Childhood is a quick and a brief season, let the kids enjoy thoroughly.





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