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What Are the Measurable Objectives in Play for Preschoolers?

by David B. Ryan, studioD

Play teaches children social skills and also helps young brains develop. Kids need play, and lots of it at all ages, according to Jona K. Anderson-McNamee, family and consumer science agent, and Sandra J. Bailey, human development specialist, from the Montana State University Extension. Preschooler play allows parents to connect with children and teaches kids how to interact with other children. Some play, however, is more important to your child's development, and measuring the results helps ensure your preschooler receives the important benefits of play.


Objectives are the formal goals that educators use to guide lessons and activities. Some objectives can be measured, but others are more descriptive rather than concrete and quantifiable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend evaluating objectives by using a basic guideline. The SMART approach focuses on expected results from the behavior. The S in the program stands for concrete action, and answers the question of the benefits your child receives from play. The M means the objective can be measured and explains how you plan to measure your preschooler's play. When an evaluation looks at the A in the measurement, and the results, or R relevancy, of your plan, this shows how your plan is attainable and meets what the experts in the field agree will work. The T means your plan meets the objectives and can be done with the resources you have at home in the time you have to play with your child.

Measuring Objectives

Parents and regular teachers have more insight into judging unmeasured objectives for preschoolers because of their daily contact with the child. Infrequent visitors can quickly measure your child's physical abilities for play, but have difficulty measuring more abstract abilities such as your preschooler's social skills that demonstrate sharing or interactive play. Child care and early education workers use written checklists to measure preschoolers' skills, and parents can also use these standardized assessments to measure the objectives of learning and participating in play activities.

Stages of Play

Children need different kinds of play at different stages, and not all preschoolers go through these at the same age or developmental pace. The parallel play stage begins at approximately 18 months and allows your child to role-play activities along side others, but not necessarily with any interaction. This type of play continues for several years for some children. Associate play happens at age 2 or 3 years when preschoolers enjoy playing with others more than with toys. Social play happens around 3 years of age when kids learn the give and take of play and the concept of sharing. Children sometimes model earlier stages when faced with a new play situation, including role-playing, until your preschooler learns the new play routine.

Measured Play

Preschoolers go through play phases where parents and teachers can measure concrete results by judging the child's ability to do physical actions. Motor-physical play, including jumping, running and throwing, can all be measured and evaluated. Constructive, fantasy, cooperative and expressive play also have measurable results, but these require long-term observation to identify the child's actions that show a range of expression and demonstrate feelings. Other observations show your child's ability to understand the rules for play and the way your preschooler tests new roles in fantasy and expressive play.

About the Author

David B. Ryan has been a professional writer since 1989. His work includes various books, articles for "The Plain Dealer" in Cleveland and essays for Oxford University Press. Ryan holds degrees from the University of Cincinnati and Indiana University and certifications in emergency management and health disaster response.

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