Objective. The differences in playfulness between young children with cerebral palsy and developmental delays and children who are typically developing, and the comparative effects of two interventions (one focused on improving mother–child interaction patterns, the other a neurodevelopmental treatment [NDT] session) on children’s playfulness were examined in this study. Reliability and validity of the Test of Playfulness (ToP) also were examined.

Method. Three trained raters used the ToP to score 38 children, half with cerebral palsy and developmental delays and half typically developing, as they played with their mothers. Mental ages of the children ranged from 3 to 18 months. The mother–child dyads in which the children had cerebral palsy and developmental delays were then randomly assigned to an intervention group. After a 1-hr intervention to improve mother–child interaction, the children were rescored on the ToP.

Results. After examination of ToP reliability and validity, children with cerebral palsy and developmental delays were found to score significantly lower on the ToP than their peers who were typically developing. In addition, children whose mothers received an intervention to improve mother–child interactions scored significantly higher on the ToP after intervention than before intervention. However, the gain scores of children whose mothers received the intervention were not significantly higher than those of children who received direct NDT.

Conclusion. The results suggested that when the shared goal of parents and therapists is to enable children to express their inherent playfulness, intervention to improve parent– child interactions may be more potent than intervention directed at improving the child’s developmental skills.

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