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Amiya Waldman-Levi, PhD, OTR/L; Sherraine Grinion, MS; Laurette Olson, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA


Background: Playful interactions draw a mother and child toward each other in positive ways; therefore, time spent in playful interactions with a responsive mother may be a developmental asset for a child. It is critical to examine how mothers support their children in joint play as well as their views of joint play.

Methods: This mixed-methods study consisted of 32 mothers and their typically developing children. The Parent’s/Caregiver Support of Young Children’s Playfulness, the Test of Playfulness, the Environmental Supportiveness Assessment, and seven open-ended interviews were used to assess joint play and maternal perceptions of this experience.

Results: Significant correlations were found between maternal support behaviors and a child’s playfulness manifestation. The more frequently the mother supported her child during joint play, the less playful a child was. However, the mothers who supported their children’s engagement in the process and promoted decision-making and creative play had children that were more playful. The theoretical framework explained maternal perceptions of joint play and what mothers thought was important for their children.

Conclusions: The mothers perceived joint play as central to their lives and as an opportunity to teach and direct their children’s engagement. It appeared the children were more playful when their mothers supported their self-exploration, decision-making, and creative play.


The authors report that there are no conflicts of interest to disclose.