benefits of heuristic play for your child
Infants and toddlers, require a wide variety of sensory activities to support their cognitive growth and development. With heuristic play, they are able to do this on a much wider scale than with toys that may limit their abilities to develop. Motor skills are broken into two categories; fine motor & gross motor. Fine motor skills are motions of using smaller muscle groups such as the hands and fingers. Picking up items and manipulating them in their hands, not only develops hand/eye co-ordination, but also strengthens the small muscles in the hands which enables a child to then learn how to use a pencil, dress and feed themselves. All these skills help to support school readiness and foster independence. Gross motor skills are the movements of the larger muscle groups such as legs, torso and arms. Developing these muscle groups enables a child to move independently and freely while also building healthy pathways in the brain.
Play begins as soon as an infant can grasp objects. Mouthing, hitting, rotating, and dropping objects, are all ways an infant begins to investigate through play. They are exploring how this object can be moved and investigating how it feels, how it tastes, how it smells and what it does. Smooth, rough, soft, or hard? What is it made of? Metal, wool, cotton or wood? This is described as "sensorimotor" play. Children have a natural ability and seek out to explore the wonders of the world they live in, so it is no doubt that they enjoy learning using all their senses: sight; touch; sound; smell. Using this new knowledge, children then test and experiment with other objects by remembering, comparing, and therefore learning as they go, testing their own theories and ideas.
The simpler the “toy”, the greater the learning opportunities! A simple wooden button can become a piece of cake, a biscuit, a plate, a lily pad, a wheel, a seat... the options really are endless. This is the beauty of play items that are open ended. In the eyes of a child, they are seen as tools for their imagination, being able to “think outside the box” and turn an everyday object into something amazing! Children often come up with ideas that you would never have thought of. Let the child take control of their own creativity.
From around the age of one, children start to act on their play urges. An urge is a pattern of behaviour that a child may have in their play, where they like to play a certain way. For example, a child who likes to transport items from one room to another, or a child who likes to sort items into categories of shape, size & colour. They may also like to: fill objects; manipulate; dump; stack; collect; transport; sort; post; enclose & cover. It is important that children have a variety of open ended, loose parts that support these urges. Through their play urges, children are testing out their theories, thoughts, building connections in the brain and making sense of their world. Being able to recognise them, helps us to understand the child more and allows us to step back and let them be the creator of their play.
When there are no set rules, and they are able to come up with their own ideas, children are empowered, and thrive on this sense of independence. When there is no one else to help, they will come up with their own ideas on how to solve problems, which in turn, boosts self-esteem and confidence. Children often engage in play for longer periods, which also boosts their concentration skills. If you want your child to play on their own, and who doesn't want that, just allow the child the time and space to play while you observe from a distance.