Heuristic play for babies. Have you heard of it? The idea is rather simple; “heuristic play” is all about letting kids interact with household objects without intervention from adults. Think: kitchen ladles instead of plastic phones and wooden napkin rings instead of battery-operated cars.
Our girls play with plastic toys, of course! But Nate is especially good at improvising and seeing a “toy” in just about anything. Long before we ever heard the term “heuristic play,” our baby was drooling on a wire whisk, drumming with a wooden spoon, and a shaking a rattle made out of linked carabiners.
But now we know there are other people out there who share our play-related way of thinking. We’ve followed their lead and put together an actual box of items for our baby (7 months) to explore.
Right now our box includes such things as a:
- Wooden train whistle
- Spice jar filled with lentils
- Cardboard spool
- Felt heart
- Wooden book (from our friends in Switzerland!)
- Wooden rattle (from Guatemala! My Favorite!)
- Wooden duck (carved by Nate)
- Soft baseball
- Napkin Ring
Everything is textured, tactile, naturally colorful, and visually interesting. And none of the items remind me of the usual mass-produced, commercial toys.
Baby Z has been playing with her box while I read to her or fold laundry. I don’t bring it out every day, because I don’t want it to lose its appeal. But when she does lose interest, it’ll be easy to refresh! I can simply wander around the house and pick up new “toys.”
I also hope to exchange boxes with my friend Melissa. She’s a (most-excellent) preschool teacher, her (adorable) baby is one month older than ours, and she’s also the first person to introduce me to the term “heuristic play.” (We’ve also been getting together to pray for each other and our families every other week. That’s currently the coolest thing about our friendship, in my opinion.)
Her baby’s box includes a:
- gift bows
- large rock
- shiny box
- egg separator
Let me state the obvious: not all of these “toys” are safe for kids to play with unsupervised! I mean, really? Do you think I’d leave that rattle/dowel rod in my baby’s crib? She could choke or poke her eye out! But I’m happy to watch her shake it and beat it like a drumstick whenever we’re hanging out and playing together.