Heuristic learning encompasses the notion of exploratory play which is self‐directed by the infant and young child. Eleanor Goldschmied uses the specific term ‘heuristic play with objects’ to explore ‘a large number of different objects and receptacles with which [children] play without adult intervention’ (Goldschmied and Jackson 1994: 128). Commonly, the objects are placed in a treasure basket within reach of where very young infants are seated, and high levels of concentration, engagement, and persistence are observed as the children explore the nature of the presented objects. The adult acts as observer, having first selected a range of natural, everyday objects or combinations of objects, to stimulate particularly the child's senses and their development of schema.
E. Goldschmied and S. Jackson People under Three: Young Children in Day Care (Routledge, 1994) gives a clear overview of heuristic play.