Tips for Assessing Play Skills in Speech Therapy



What does play have to do with speech therapy? SO much!


Play and language development hand in hand. Did you know that around the time children engage in simple one step pretend play (e.g. feeding a baby), they being to use single words? When they start using two step pretend play (e.g. feeding baby and then rocking a baby), they being combing two words into phrases!



Here some things to look at when assessing play:

  • Attention Span: How long does the child engage in one activity? Expectations for age are 2-3 minutes for each year of age. Knowing a child’s average attention span can help you plan therapy activities (and make sure you don’t run out of activities in a session!)

  • Level of Social Play: Is the child playing alone, beside other children, or with other children? Knowing this can also help you plan your sessions, make recommendations for the family, and create goals for the future (of course, every child is different this will look different for each child).

  • What types of things does the child enjoy?: Knowing which activities, toys, or materials a child likes can help you build language on their interests. It will also help you brainstorm functional targets and bring appropriate activities to the therapy session.

  • What types of play is the child engaging in?: Are they engaging in primarily physical play? Are they able to engage in games with rules? Again, this will help you know what activities to bring (there’s not point in bringing a game with rules if the child is not ready for it at all!).

  • Learn about their range of interests: Does the child love one type of play? Is their play rigid? Of course, all play is beautiful but knowing these things can be one piece in helping you decide if a referral for further diagnosis is warranted.

  • Learn what makes them unique: Each child has strengths that make them who they are. When we learn these, hone in on them, and teach using strengths, we are helping students become the best versions of themselves!


Need a free form to help you guide your assessment?


Grab this freebie in my Exclusive Library for Email Subscribers that you can use to give parents, use as an observation form, or compile with parents to help you better understand your student’s play skills.


Sometimes I like to have one completed at home, school, and in clinic so I can get a solid understanding of what everyone in the child’s life is seeing!