26 • chapTer Two
buckets Ms. Furner placed shovels, cups, spoons, funnels, and
small cars. The children enjoy the center immensely!
One day Emmitt and Mia enter the play center. Emmitt im-
mediately and eagerly begins plunging his hands into the wet soil
and patting up mud balls. Mia displays little interest in the activ-
ity. She simply holds a small shovel and repeatedly dips it into
one of the buckets. Emmitt explores the mud with intensity and
intrigue while Mia aimlessly looks around without regard to the
other children or materials. Emmitt’s approach to the mud center
is one of enthusiasm and wonderment. He’s loving it! Mia’s attitude
toward the mud play is wooden and lifeless. If Mia’s unmotivated
and unfocused behavior consistently persists in other play centers
or content areas over time, she could be experiencing a dabbling
A child may be demonstrating a dabbling play challenge if
the following behaviors persist in a consistent pattern over an
extended period of time:
The child plays irregularly and without active engagement.•
The child plays with little or no intrinsic motivation.•
The child fails or refuses to attempt anything new in play.•
The child engages in continually unconnected repetitive play •
motions, such as aimlessly poking at playdough or pointlessly
stroking a paintbrush up and down.
The child displays unfocused perseverative actions, repetitive •
actions a child gets stuck on (Biel and Peske 2005, 64).
Examples include continually “scissoring” the air or flying a
“finger” airplane during playtime.
The child appears noticeably indifferent to play activities and •
The child appears unaware of how to initiate or enter play with •
Reasons a Child May Dabble
A child may dabble in play for a variety of reasons.
A child may dabble in play because of immaturity, regression, •
or delayed developmental skills. Consider a child’s play like
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