Play Based Assessment Tips for Preschool Speech Therapy


Feeling frustrated during assessments with your preschoolers because they are B-O-R-E-D?

You are not alone!


I am not sure that many children enjoy sitting at a table and participating in a super dry and boring standardized test (no offence, Standardized Tests). While Standardized Tests are important, they aren’t the be all and end all of assessments. Should they be a part of our assessment plan? Sure!




We actually shouldn’t be choosing our goals ONLY from Standardized Tests because:

  • There is often only one opportunity to demonstrate a skill.

  • That’s teaching to the test.

  • Performance in an unfamiliar situation, with an unfamiliar person, doesn’t always indicate performance and function in a child’s every day life.


Even Pearson Education says, “Customer understands and agrees that the Products are intended to be used as tools in the overall assessment process, and are not designed to be used alone or to replace the Customer's professional judgment.” BAM!!!



So, what’s another way that we can collect information during assessment?


Using Play!!


Play is what children do all day. It is familiar, provides ample opportunities for multiple trials, and is engaging. Win. Win. Win.



Here are my top tips for using play to assess a child’s speech and language skills.

  1. Have norms ready so you know what to elicit during the assessment. The language skills you probe a three year old for will be different than what you do for a five year!

  2. Have an assessment engaging activity planned that you can use across the ages. Using the same activity for your play assessments can help you be consistent and familiar with the activity, so you can focus on the child (and not the task!).

  3. Have a simple data sheet. Taking data during an assessment is crucial. Having an easy to access and easy to use data sheet will make your assessment run smoothly.

  4. Have ideas of how to elicit different language skills sounds. Plan what you will do before you head into the session so you don’t feel overwhelmed once you are in the session.

  5. Consider what cues you will use to complete a Dynamic Assessment. That’s one of my favorite pros of a play based assessment - you can really figure out HOW to help the child - not just WHAT to help them with.

  6. Have fun! Using play to assess speech and language is SO FUN (especially if you are used to pencil and paper tasks). Enjoy the time with your student and use this assessment time to build rapport.



If you aren’t sure where to start, I have created this Play Based Language Assessment that includes everything you need! It has norms, elicitation ideas, play ideas, cueing hierarchy, and a data sheet. This will become a staple in your preschool therapy room!


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