Correspondences between play and language development in toddlers

Abstract

Previous research demonstrated relationships between developments in children’s play and progress in language. Those studies were completed in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, and the measures of children’s play differed across studies, making it difficult to examine the comparisons. New studies of play are needed on a contemporary sample of children, which will have important implications for designing interventions in language and play for young children with delays and disabilities. The present study examined the language and play activities of ten 24-month-old toddlers who were developing typically, and are part of a larger, Institute of Education Sciences (IES) funded study. Play activities were analyzed with the Developmental Play Assessment (DPA*). The DPA is based on the collection of a 30-minute, videotaped sample of the child’s natural play with four groups of toys, in the presence of a familiar caregiver. These behaviors were analyzed for play and for language. A standardized measure of language also was included. Progress in language was analyzed by computing MLUs (mean length of utterances) and diversity of vocabulary. Play behaviors were examined in terms of the quality and quantity of play activities demonstrated, and according to the sequence of play categories used in the DPA. Although the children were the same age, variations were observed in their language development differed. The children also demonstrated similarities and variation across their play behaviors. Results are discussed in terms of correspondences between play and language that are more closely linked to each other than to age.