Coordinates Publishing

Development of an assessment to identify play behaviours that discriminate between the play of typical preschoolers and preschoolers with pre-academic problems.


Occupational therapists regard play as the primary occupation of childhood. However, many authors of play assessments have viewed play either as a functional outcome of other skills or as an indication of the child's developmental level. While such views of play are valid, these approaches to play are broad and do not fully consider the cognitive value of play. A study was undertaken with 82 preschoolers to see if a new play assessment which considers cognitive play skills, called the Child-initiated Pretend Play Assessment, (ChIPPA), possessed acceptable inter-rater reliability, and could discriminate between the play of typically developing preschoolers and preschoolers with pre-academic problems. This assessment evaluates preschoolers' elaborate imaginative actions, number of imitative actions, and number of object substitutions. The ChIPPA was found to have excellent inter-rater reliability and did discriminate between children who were typically developing and children who experienced pre-academic problems. In particular, the elaborateness of a child's play actions and the child's ability to substitute objects were strong discriminators of preschoolers with and without pre-academic problems. Three play profiles which emerged from the research are discussed.

ChIPPA - Child-Initiated Pretend Play Assessment Kit

Karen Stagnitti

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Development of an assessment to identify play behaviours that discriminate between the play of typical preschoolers and preschoolers with pre-academic problems.


The Child-Initiated Pretend Play Assessment (ChIPPA) is a norm-referenced standardized assessment of a child's imaginative or pretend play skills. It is suitable for children from 3 to 7 years of age. It measures behavioural attributes that are essential to play ability in this age group. The ChIPPA assesses the spontaneous self initiation of both symbolic and conventional-imaginative play in a standard format. It is clinically viable but can also be administered in the home or school setting. It gives an accurate snapshot of how a child plays. Research has shown that it is a reliable and valid assessment. The ChIPPA is an individualized assessment that takes 30 minutes to administer and score. With practice, scoring can be carried out as the child plays. The ChIPPA measures the elaborateness of a child's play, the child's ability to use symbols in play and the ability to self-initiate. No child is nonassessable with the ChIPPA. This assessment will be invaluable to professionals working in paediatrics such as: occupational therapists, speech pathologists, psychologists, preschool fieldwork officers, and teachers with special education training.


The author

Karen Stagnitti has been a practicing paediatric occupational therapist for 29 years. The majority of her clinical time has been spent in community based paediatric settings. The ChIPPA is a product of her PhD research and her clinical experience. Karen graduated from the University of Queensland with a Bachelor Degree in Occupational Therapy in 1977 and in 2003 she graduated from LaTrobe University with a PhD. She has numerous national and international journal articles and to date has had four practical books published. Karen has accepted numerous invitations to present her work nationally and internationally. She has worked with children within Australia Singapore and Japan and has had requests from clinicians in Finland, United States, and Canada to use the ChIPPA. Karen is on the advisory board of Nana's Mental Health Foundation Inc, Phoenix Arizona and is invited to attend the International Play Therapy Study Group in the UK.


ChIPPA References (PDF format)