Developed by Sally Flagler, PhD, the Infant-Preschool Play Assessment Scale (I-PAS) is a criterion referenced assessment instrument that enables teachers, clinicians and other caregivers to systematically observe children at play and in other routine or natural environments for the purpose of:

  • determining a child's developmental level of functioning
  • identifying developmental gaps, skill deficits and emerging skills
  • evaluating child progress; and,
  • evaluating program effectiveness. 

The Play Assessment Scale lists behaviors in developmental sequence beginning at birth and continuing to age five. While the sequence of skills is based on current literature and practical experience, it represents general child development and mayor may not represent the development of a particular child. The purpose of the scale is to provide the observer with a frame of reference and general guidelines of "normal" child development.

The I-PAS may be used in a variety of ways. In a multidisciplinary setting, it may be used to help professional evaluators determine the presence of disabilities in children who have been referred for diagnostic evaluation. It also may be used by teachers to help them plan activities for entire classrooms as well as for individual children. Because it requires few, if any, formal arrangements and specific tools, the I-PAS also may be used to monitor child progress on an on-going basis in the child's natural environments at home or in a center or play group.


I-PAS Guide (158 pages) is $29.95

I-PAS Manual (112 pages) $15.95

I-PAS scoring booklets (20 per pack) $19.95

Order I-PAS products online.

Why Play Assessment?

Spontaneous, natural play is basic to child development. This is where the child learns, and it follows that this is where the child best demonstrates that learning. A teacher or evaluator who is trained in child development and familiar with the scale can observe the child at play and accurately determine levels of functioning in various skill areas. Assessment instruments and tests which require children to sit for long periods (15 minutes or more) performing various adult directed activities may not reveal a true picture of the child's abilities or newly developing or emerging skills.
For most children, play is intrinsically motivating, and since play is natural and needs little instruction, more typical behaviors may be seen with this method than with more formalized testing situations.

Using the Infant-Preschool Play Assessment Scale (I-PAS)

Because no one person can become expert in all areas of child development and its associated assessment procedures, the I-PAS helps the assessor document skills observed in natural play and other routine situations. Item descriptions include procedural directions similar to other more formalized assessment instruments which clarify criteria for mastery and assist the observer in "setting-up" activities if expected behaviors are not observed in the natural environment.

In addition to the scale found in the manual an abbreviated checklist is also
available for more economical observations.

The suggested process for using the I-PAS may be modified and amended in cases where child behavior or disabilities warrant. While there is not a rigid protocol, child behavior should be assessed within a general framework.

The first step is for the observer to become familiar with the instrument itself. A general knowledge of child development is necessary if accurate observation techniques are to be beneficial.
2. Next the observer should be aware of the purpose of the observation. How will the results be used?
3. The observer should be familiar with the "Play Observation Guidelines" section of the manual. The observer may use one or more of these guidelines to form a framework or structure for the observation activity. The summary form is organized by these important child development and play concepts. Although a more comprehensive integrated assessment is recommended, the observer also may examine child behaviors in specific skill domains, such as:

        • communication 
        • cognition
        • sensorimotor
        • fine motor
        • gross motor
        • social-emotional

Applying the Results

I-PAS results may not be used as standardized or norm-referenced data in determining exact developmental levels. Skills are listed in the order they frequently occur in most young children. For individual children, however, the order of skill development may be different without indicating the presence of a disability or other problem.

Professional, licensed diagnostician may find the I-PAS an alternative method to assess children's skills while conducting a multi-disciplinary evaluation to determine special education needs.

The Infant-Preschool Play Assessment Scale is also a reliable method for observing on-going progress of children during the program year. Programs which administer pre and post assessments can use the I-PAS approach to observe children during the year so that plans can be adjusted to more effectively meet the needs of the children.

Children with Disabilities

While the I-PAS has an underlying developmental structure, it may be
administered with a degree of flexibility. Because children with disabilities
may have widely variable skill development, the I-PAS becomes a useful tool
in assessing their behaviors. If the child has a modality deficit (cannot see,
speak, hear, etc.) then the observer should examine individual skill items to
see if they hold relevance for this particular child. If they do not, leave them
out (with comment) and move on to items which are not directly impacted by
the child's disability. Most of the skill items can be demonstrated without language and, where appropriate, the observer may use physical prompts if necessary. The use of assistive technology devices and strategies is appropriate as well.

Multidimensional Assessment Through Play


Sally Flagler has also written this 158-page guide to help teacher and caregivers as they observe child development through play. Contents include:

  • Play and the Developmental Process
  • Cognitive Assessment
  • Social/Emotional Assessment
  • Behavioral Assessment
  • Assessment of Autism
  • Adaptive Equipment

This 158-page manual is available for $29.95

Why Play Assessment?
Using the I-PAS
Applying the Results
Children with Disabilities
Prices and Availability
Multidemensional Assessment Through Play


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