Free Report - Summary of "Assessment of Cognitive and Language Abilities through Play," by Carol E. Westby

Published: 2024-01-05
Free Report - Summary of "Assessment of Cognitive and Language Abilities through Play," by Carol E. Westby
Essay type:  Evaluation essays
Categories:  Languages Child development
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1141 words
10 min read

In her article, Westby acknowledges the important role of play in children’s acquisition of cognitive and language abilities. She presents a symbolic play scale upon which ten development stages develop with each play stage. The symbolic-play scale was developed in a series of studies from 1976 to 1979, where children were provided with toys and their playing behavior was observed. The toys were separated into five different rooms, including infant stimulation, the household room, the store area, the creative play area, and the gross motor area. Westby proceeds to explain the ten development stages that arise from the play scale.

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The first stage is revealed between nine to 12 months. Here, the child develops awareness of the toy; he can manage to find it even when it is hidden. Westby gives an example of the child finding the toy even when a scarf covers it. At this stage, the child can play with the toy appropriately and also displays mean-end abilities by moving to get the toy. The language is not yet fully developed, but the child can make some understandable vocals regarding the toys. Stage Two (13-17 months) finds the child explorative of the toys. He can distinguish the toys and acts to the same as if it (the toy) was real. Westby gives an example of a child trying to feed a doll using a spoon. The child also involves an adult when he is unable to operate the toy. Regarding language development, the child can truly communicate by making requests, protests, and greetings. Moreover, the child can make short sentences even though he may not be able to attain syntax.

At stage three (17-19 months), the child engages in auto-symbolic play. Westby argues that the symbolic play toy is the child’s body since the child is aware that he is playing. She gives an example of a child pretending to drink from a cap. As the child approaches stage four (19-22 months), his symbolic play extends from playing with himself to playing with the toys. Westby gives an example of a child trying to feed a doll or brush its hair. Stage five (2 years) is characterized by the child representing day-to-day experiences, as explained by Westby.

By the time the child reaches two and a half years, he is at stage six. Here, the child starts to play while acting out the events that he encounters less frequently. Westby explains that, at this stage, children prefer playing acts or impressions or trauma. She provides an example of children pretending to be teachers, while others would act like mothers. This representation requires the children to use toys as props. The language skills at this stage are more developed than in the previous stages. The roles the children emulate enable them to create appropriate syntactic sentences. They can respond to questions correctly ask “why” questions a lot and pay little attention when they are responded.

Stage Seven (3 years) entails advancing the skill acquired in stages five and six. However, the child can now connect role sequences. Westby provides an example of pretending to bake a cake, serve it, and wash the dishes. The ability to relate sequences plays a part in developing cognitive abilities, which, when applied to language, the child manages to distinguish the tenses of verbs.

Westby describes stage eight (3 –3 ½ years) as an advancement of relating sequences in the previous stage. The improvement enables the child to create a setting. She gives an example of a child using blocks to build an imaginative car. She continues to explain that the language at this point is advancing as the child is beginning to equip himself with descriptive vocabulary. For instance, he can say the color of the toy. Stage nine (3½ - 4 years) will witness the child developing problem-solving skills. The language ability is well developed with the child managing to respond to " how " and " why " questions appropriately. The tenth (5 years), and the last stage by Westby, characterizes the child with the ability to connect many sequences at a time. The child does not require toys as he can form an imaginative scene to play with. He also has the ability to relate with other children to maximize play.

As Westby comes to the end of her article, she provides an interpretation of the symbolic-play assessment. According to her, the assessment’s aim is to determine if a child should be prioritized in receiving language remediation and to know what communicative aspects should be taught to the child. However, she warns that if a child delays to show features, as directed, by the scale, it does not necessarily mean to raise the alarm. She acknowledges that child development is individualized, causing children to acquire cognitive and language abilities differently.

Why I Like the Theory

I like this theory because it insists on the importance of play in child development. Learning skills and language can be difficult for children, but when play is involved in the process, it becomes exciting and easy to grasp knowledge. I like play because it gives children opportunities to express themselves as they grow as well as build their sense of identity. More so, it is the best avenue to teach children how to relate with fellow children and adults.

My Comment and Rationale on the Theory

Westby’s symbolic-play scale is accurate and easy to use when measuring child development. Play should not be left for children’s enjoyment only. It is the best avenue to teach children how to use their cognitive and language skills. Focusing more on literacy teaching to equip children with cognitive knowledge limits their understanding of meaning and how to express themselves. For instance, through play, children reveal themselves by asking questions, making demands and requests, and protesting. Notably, Westby’s assessment provides a guideline for how children can be taught to acquire problem-solving skills. Therefore, the symbolic-play assessment is critical for parents in evaluating their children’s cognitive development and determining whether they would need language therapy.

I agree that Westby’s assessment is reliable because it entailed observing children who were allowed to play. Children were placed in different rooms that contained toys of different creativity, increasing the chances of observing them on different occasions to distinguish the characteristics they exhibit in each stage. If the children were allowed to select toys on their own during the experiment, as argued by Westby, 5-year-old children would have gone for an infant's toy stimulation. The findings would not be as promising as Westby’s assessment. More so, the symbolic-play scale is reliable because it features different types of children; thus, it can be termed unbiased. For instance, handicapped and daycare children were included.


Westby, E. C. (1980). “Assessment of Cognitive and Language Abilities through Play.” Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools. 3(11), 154-168.

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Free Report - Summary of "Assessment of Cognitive and Language Abilities through Play," by Carol E. Westby. (2024, Jan 05). Retrieved from

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