Informing Toy Selection for Assessment and Intervention in Children’s Play

Abstract

Toys are often the vehicles through which children play. Despite the importance of toys in play and development, research and policy lack specific guidelines about toys and their uses, especially regarding assessment and intervention in play for children with delays. This poster reviews the literature on toys, presenting an analysis of children’s play activities with toys using the Developmental Play Assessment (DPA: Lifter, 2000). Analyses are based on the natural play activities of 63 young children, with and without delays, aged 8 to 60 months. The toys used were designed to allow for measurement of frequency and variety of spontaneous play activities. Frequency and variety of each child’s play behaviors were recorded by watching the videotaped DPA observations, which were then organized into categories derived from studies on the development of play. Results demonstrate (1) the variety of play behaviors that children engage in with certain toys (all toys were used in more than 50% of the play categories), and (2) the frequency of the use of specific toys across children (all toys were played with by at least 25% of children). The toys used most frequently by the children and in the greatest number of play categories will be presented. These results contradict current knowledge about toys. They demonstrate that it is not the toys that drive what children do with them, but their developing knowledge determines how they use toys.