Relationships between symbolic play, functional play, verbal and non-verbal ability in young children

Int J Lang Commun Disord. 2000 Jan-Mar;35(1):117-27. doi: 10.1080/136828200247287.


It is well established that certain aspects of play in young children are related to their emerging linguistic skills. The present study examined the relationships between functional play, symbolic play, non-verbal ability, and expressive and receptive language in normally developing children aged between 1 and 6 years using standardized assessment procedures, including a recently developed Test of Pretend Play (ToPP). When effects of chronological age were partialled out, symbolic play remained significantly correlated with both expressive and receptive language, but not with functional play or non-verbal ability; and functional play was only correlated significantly with expressive language. It is concluded that ToPP will provide practitioners with a useful way of assessing symbolic ability in children between the ages of 1 and 6 years, and will contribute to the assessment and diagnosis of a number of communication difficulties, and have implications for intervention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Concept Formation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Language Development Disorders / diagnosis
  • Language Development Disorders / etiology
  • Language Development*
  • Male
  • Play and Playthings / psychology*
  • Symbolism
  • United Kingdom
  • Verbal Learning*