top of page

Research and Publications


Play Assessment

Play has been seen to be linked to skill development in early childhood. Play is the main impetus for learning in the early years of development. Studying play can provide insight into children's cognitive functioning and development. Play can be quantified and measured in a standardized way. Studies in this domain have focused on the development of play assessment, compared play assessment to other tests of development in children, and assessed different aspects of play development, such as gender differences or the significance of toys used in assessment:


Kelly-Vance, L., & Ryalls, B. O. (2014). Best practices in play assessment and intervention. In

P. Harrison & A. Thomas, (Eds.), Best practices in school psychology: Data-based and

collaborative decision making. National Association of School Psychologists. Bethesda, MD.


Kelly-Vance, L., and Ryalls, B. O. (2005). A systematic, reliable approach to play assessment in

preschoolers. School Psychology International, 26, 398-412.

Kelly-Vance, L., Needelman, H., Troia, K., & Ryalls, B. O. (1999). Early childhood

assessment: A comparison of the Bayley Scales of Infant Development and a Play-Based Technique.

Developmental Disabilities Bulletin, 27, 1-15.

Cherney, I. C., Kelly-Vance, L., Gill-Glover, K., Ruane, A., & Ryalls, B. O. (2003). The

effects of stereotyped toys and gender on play assessment in 18-47 month old children. Educational Psychology, 22, 95-106.


Play and Language

Studies in this domain focus on the development of language via play skill development. Children use language when playing, whether in a social context or when playing alone. These studies have worked with different groups of children, from typically developing children to children with special needs. Studies, such as the ones cited below, have found that using play skill interventions can help children with language deficits continue learning. Play can be an individualized way for children to develop language skills, while also improving their play skills:

Conner, J., Kelly-Vance, L., Ryalls, B. O., & Friehe, M. (2014). A play and language

intervention for two-year-old children: Implications for improving play skills and language.

Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 28, 21-237.


Sualy, A., Yount, S., Kelly-Vance, L., & Ryalls, B. O. (2011). Using a play intervention to

improve the play skills of children with a language delay.  

International Journal of Psychology: A Biopsychosocial Approach, 9, 105-122.

Hendrickson, B., DeVeney, S. L., & Kelly-Vance, L. (2019). Play behaviors of young children with

and without expressive language delay: An exploratory study. Journal of Curriculum, Teaching, Learning and Leadership in Education, 4(1).

Parent Training and involvement

Parents are an integral part of their children's development. The Play Assessment and Intervention System can be taught to parents, and implemented across school and home environments. Research in this domain supports the hypothesis that teaching parents how to interact with their children in play can actually improve their children's play skills:

Dempsey, J., Kelly-Vance, L., & Ryalls, B. O., (2013).  The effect of a parent training program

on children’s play.  International Journal of Psychology: a Biopsychosocial Approach, 13, 117-138.

Sempek, A., Kelly-Vance, L., & Ryalls, B. O. (2012). Cross cultural relations: Children’s play,

maternal acculturation, knowledge, and beliefs concerning play. School Psychology: From Science to Practice, 5, 12-22.

Play and Skill Development

Several areas of development are involved in play skills. When children play, they improve their thinking and problem solving skills, their social skills, their language skills, and their emotional development. Studies in this domain focus on the different aspects of skill development and how play can influence development across categories:

Kelly-Vance, L., Ryalls, B. O., & Gill-Glover, K. (2002). The use of play assessment to

evaluate the cognitive skills of two- and three-year old children. School Psychology International, 23, 169-185.


Kokkoni, E., Dempsey, J., Harbourne, R.T., Kelly-Vance, L, Ryalls, B., Stergiou, N. (2010).

Developing sitting postural control and play in children with Cerebral Palsy. Journal of Sports  

and Exercise Psychology, 32, S43.


Mallory, J. M., Kelly-Vance, L., and Ryalls, B. O. (2010). Incorporating divergent thinking into

play interventions for preschool children with developmental risk factors.

International Journal of Creativity and Problem Solving, 20, 57-71.

Ryalls, B., Harbourne, R., Kelly-Vance, L., Wickstrom, J., Stergiou, N., & Kyvelidou, A. (2016). A

 perceptual motor intervention improves play behavior in children with moderate to severe

 cerebral palsy. Frontiers in Psychology.

bottom of page