Finn (3 years old) was keen to teach his brother (8 months) all about his favourite colour. He set up this tuff tray, with a variety of orange household objects and toys. Heuristic play has been a big part of our play with all three boys.


  • Tuff tray
  • Orange toys
  • Orange household objects e.g. ice cube tray, spoons, bowls, cups, scarves etc.


After picking them both some orange clothes, Finn let Cian explore the tray all by himself, giving him a running commentary of the objects he was touching.

For a tray like this to be an effective tool in the play and development of babies, the most important factor is an attentive and calm caregiver. In this case big brother was up to the challenge, Finn was attentive, responsive and unobtrusive – allowing Cian to make his own choices about which objects to pick up and how to explore them, without interfering.

Finn explained the difference between an orange you can eat and the colour orange.

I love seeing Finn enjoy the role of doting big brother, to balance out his previous role as little brother.

To extend their play, we swivelled Cian round so he was facing the opposite way. Not only did this keep his interest, it meant he could reach a new set of household objects.

DfES Outcomes for EYFS (2013)

Communication and language

Listening and attention (Birth to 11 months)

• Turns towards a familiar sound then locates range of sounds with accuracy.

• Listens to, distinguishes and responds to intonations and sounds of voices.

• Reacts in interaction with others by smiling, looking and moving.

• Quietens or alerts to the sound of speech.


Speaking (Birth to 11 months)

• Makes own sounds in response when talked to by familiar adults.

• Practises and gradually develops speech sounds (babbling) to communicate with adults; says sounds like ‘baba, nono, gogo’.

Physical development

Moving and handling (Birth to 11 months)

• Turns head in response to sounds and sights.

• Gradually develops ability to hold up own head.

• Makes movements with arms and legs which gradually become more controlled.

• Reaches out for, touches and begins to hold objects.

• Explores objects with mouth, often picking up an object and holding it to the mouth.

Personal, social and emotional development

Self-confidence and self-awareness (Birth to 11 months)

• Laughs and gurgles, e.g. shows pleasure at being tickled and other physical interactions.

• Uses voice, gesture, eye contact and facial expression to make contact with people and keep their attention.

Managing feelings and behaviour (Birth to 11 months)

  • Shows a range of emotions such as pleasure, fear and excitement.

Making relationships (Birth to 11 months)

• Enjoys the company of others and seeks contact with others from birth.

• Responds when talked to, for example, moves arms and legs, changes facial expression, moves body and makes mouth movements.

• Recognises and is most responsive to main carer’s voice: face brightens, activity increases when familiar carer appears.