Do you want to know the FIVE Characteristics of Playful Learning?

Updated: Dec 11, 2020






Did you know that there are FIVE research-proven characteristics of playful learning? I did not! As Speech-Language Pathologists, we know that play is important. But what TYPE of play is best for learning?






Before I get started, I wanted to give credit where credit is due! The Lego Foundation released a document called, “Learning Through Play: A Review of the Evidence.” This article provides a summary of the current research available about learning through play. You can read the entire article HERE.


I think you are going to be pleasantly surprised to know that you are already using so many evidence-based approaches in your therapy room!

So, what does the research say? The research says that for playful learning to occur, play must be:

  • Joyful: This means the play is enjoyable for the child. A common strategy SLPs use to encourage joy is to follow the child’s lead. We join in on whatever is fun for the child!

  • Iterative: I have to be honest - I didn’t know what this word meant (I hope I’m not alone on this one!), but I was happy to learn that I was already incorporating this characteristic into play-based therapy. I bet you are too! Iterative means to invite ‘guessing and checking’. What invites ‘guessing and checking’ more than open-ended toys? Nothing! I am sure you have used open-ended toys in therapy!

  • Meaningful: This means teaching new skills in familiar activities. Pretty simple, but very effective! Teaching this way helps children form strong connections between their past knowledge and their new knowledge. What is more familiar to a child than play? Nothing! This is why play lends itself so nicely to the presentation of new information.

  • Socially Interactive: Children learn through interactions with adults and peers. Sharing an experience with someone else helps children develop relationships. Play that involves a child and another person is much more effective for teaching than solitary play. This is why SLPs are always on the ground laughing with our students!

  • Actively Engaging: This means the child is actively participating in an activity and isn’t simply watching or listening to someone else. Give yourself a pat on the back because I am positive you use a variety of engaging activities during therapy and not simply lecturing!


So, did you breathe a sigh of relief knowing that you are already incorporating SO MUCH research into your practice? I know I did! It is wonderful to know that the strategies SLPs use during play-based therapy are backed by research! Remember - it’s never “JUST PLAY!”





I have created a FREEBIE for you to share with parents to explain how you are using Playful Learning in your Therapy room! It also includes some simple suggestions for how they can incorporate playful learning at home. Sign up for my newsletter here to receive your access code to the FREEBIES section of the Anna Dee SLP Website.







If you are looking for activities to model playful learning to families, or if you are simply looking for some new activities to use during therapy, you might be interested in my Play-Based BOOM cards. My original Play-Based Boom card Bundle received so much support, that I knew I had to create a Play-Based BOOM Card Bundle 2.0! This bundle includes the following themes:

I LOVE using these BOOM cards to PLAY during teletherapy and I know that they will reduce sanitizing 100 toys this fall if in-person sessions begin. You can use these cards with your entire caseload.


Each BOOM card includes 'warm-up' play scenarios, open-ended scenes, therapy ideas for expressive language, receptive language, phonological awareness, language processing, and wh-questions, a list of speech sound targets, quick tips for play therapy, and 10 Play-Based Scenarios.


Grab them individually or as a bundle!

Not sure if these Play-Based Boom Cards are you for you? NO worries, I have created a FREE Play-Based Boom Card for you to use! Grab it here!


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