The Developmental Play Assessment-Professional (DPA-P)

Play is an important and natural activity that young children use to learn about their worlds. Child psychology experts agree that play is important for learning, reading1, and social skills.2 The National Association for the Education of Young Children stated:

“…Play promotes key abilities that enable children to learn successfully. In high-level dramatic play … the collaborative planning of roles and scenarios and the impulse control required to stay within the play’s constraints develop children’s self-regulation, symbolic thinking, memory, and language — capacities critical to later learning, social competence, and school success.”3

For more information about the importance of play, see the report from the Alliance for Childhood.

Children with delays and disabilities often have delays in play. The Developmental Play Assessment-Professional (DPA-P) was created to measure how young children are developing in their play activities to help teachers and service providers to identify activities that will help children learn to play more and at more advanced levels.

The DPA-P was initially developed as a research tool and was found promising for use in identifying and working with children who have delays in play. The current project is focused on revising the instrument to be a more user friendly version to determine a child’s progress in play.

Project Play is Funded By:

  • Institute of Education Sciences (IES)
  • National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER)
  • U.S. Department of Education

Awarded to Karin Lifter, Emanuel Mason, and Takuya Minami (Co-Investigators).

Department of Counseling & Applied Educational Psychology Bouvé College of Health Sciences Northeastern University

Current Team Members

Karin Lifter

Karin Lifter, PhD

Principal Investigator
Emanuel Mason

Emanuel Mason, EdD

Co-Principal Investigator
Takuya Minami

Takuya Minami, PhD

Co-Principal Investigator
Ashley Cameron

Ashley Cameron

Graduate Research Assistant
Ali Colpack

Ali Colpack

Graduate Research Assistant
Rachel Ruah

Rachel Ruah

Graduate Research Assistant

Past Team Members

Jacquelyn Briesch

Jacquelyn Briesch, MS

Graduate Research Assistant
Amanda Cannarella

Amanda Cannarella, PhD

Project Director
Betsy Hemphill

Betsy Hemphill, MS

Graduate Research Assistant
Kate Vertucci

Kate Vertucci, MS

Graduate Research Assistant
Summer Klug

Summer Klug, MS

Graduate Research Assistant


  1. Zigler, E., Singer, D., & Bishop-Josef, S. (Eds.). (2004). Children’s play: The roots of reading. Washington, DC: Zero to Three Press.
  2. Odom, S.L., McConnell, S.R., & Chandler, L.K. (1993). Acceptability and feasibility of classroom-based social interaction interventions for young children with disabilities. Exceptional Children, 60, 226-236.
  3. National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). (2009). Position Statement: Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8. Retrieved from