Year of Award


Document Type

Professional Paper - Campus Access Only

Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Other Degree Name/Area of Focus

Developmental Psychology

Department or School/College

Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Lynne Sanford Koester

Commitee Members

Kimberly Wallace, Sue Forest


infants, responsiveness, sensory stimulation, toy play


University of Montana


McCray, Nicole, C. M.A., Autumn 2006 Psychology Parental Responsiveness and Sensory Stimulation in Social and Toy Play with Infants Chairperson: Lynne Sanford Koester, Ph.D. The period from birth to three years of age is characterized by rapid development in emotional, social, cognitive, and physical domains. Positive play interactions with responsive partners promote development within these domains and enhance the growing bond between parent and child (Landy, 2002; Tamis-LeMonda, Katz, & Bornstein, 2002). While the responsibility for initiating these interactions falls initially to the parent, toddlers begin to take a more active role and contribute significantly to the direction and maintenance of play (Power, 2000). When structuring play interactions, parents must consider the child’s sensory preferences. Each child varies in the way his/her nervous system receives, interprets, and responds to sensory input. If caregivers understand the meaning of their child’s behavior and are successful at constructing daily routines that match their child’s sensory needs, children are free to enjoy the interaction without becoming over or under aroused (Dunn, 2004). This study examined the role of sensory stimulation in toy play interactions between young children (9-18 months) and their caregivers. Specifically, this study used a video-recorded free play interaction to determine specific infant behaviors associated with the level of sensory stimulation provided by the play environment and the amount of stimulation provided by play partners. Parental responsiveness to infants’ sensory preferences in play was also examined. The information gained from this study will be used to guide the design of a future study examining parental responsiveness and sensory stimulation.

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© Copyright 2006 Nicole McCray