Journal of Curriculum, Teaching, Learning and Leadership in Education

Author ORCID Identifier

Shari DeVeney ORCID ID: 0000-0003-3086-7409

link to S.DeVeney ORCID public record http://orcid.org/0000-0003-3086-7409


The association between language and play development during the early years of children’s lives is important as tremendous growth in development occurs in both at this time. Literature has suggested that if children have less developed language abilities, they may also have less developed play skills. The aim of the current exploratory study was to observe and categorize children’s play behavior using a comprehensive play assessment tool. This tool, the Play in Early Childhood Evaluation System (PIECES) coding scheme developed by Kelly-Vance and Ryalls (2005, 2014), provides information on differences in percentage of time in exploratory, simple pretend, and complex pretend play, highest levels of play behavior observed, and dimensions of social play. For the present exploratory study, six young children, three with and three without language delay, were matched in dyads. The six children ranging in age from 24-31 months. Using videotaped 40-minute play observations of each child during free play with a parent, researchers coded the play behaviors of each child using the PIECES coding scheme and interpreted findings accordingly. In two of the three participant dyads, participants with language delay spent more time in exploratory play and less time in pretend play compared to their counterparts without language delay. However, two out of the three participants had the same highest level of play as their matched peer. Participants with language delay demonstrated a lower percentage of play initiation than participants with no language delay. These results, although limited in generalization to only the participants of the study, suggest support of the positive association between play and language of young children and warrant further investigation. Additionally, this study offers a description of a play assessment approach that could be utilized with a larger participant cohort to extend this line of research as researchers continue to determine the appropriate role of play in assessment and intervention for young children with language delay.



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