Pie, fry, why: Language play in 3- to 5-year-old children

Document Type


Publication Date





This study examined the relationship between four common types of language play and their correlations with the verbal and social abilities of 3- to 5-year-old children. While observation has shown that children this age produce a range of play, research has not yet examined whether play is a measurable skill connected to preschoolers’ language development. In this study, we designed four language play elicitation games involving creating rhymes, word switching, word creation, and hyperbolic play. Children’s ability to produce novel play for each game was measured, and classroom teachers filled out assessments of children’s verbal and peer interaction skills. Results indicated that while children’s peer interaction scores were not related to their play scores, verbal skills scores were highly correlated with language play scores, highlighting that for preschoolers the ability to produce common types of language play may be a distinctly verbal skill.