Children's Toy & Media Reviews Since 1978

The PlayAbility Scale™

PAS_Logo_New DomainThe PlayAbility Scale.

Expanding the scope of the internationally recognized and respected Parents’ Choice Awards® program, Parents’ Choice Foundation has developed the The PlayAbility Scale ™ – a rating system rooted in a scientifically based methodology – that measures a toy’s or game’s skill-building properties, and reports the outcomes in a uniform and user-friendly way.

Under the leadership of Karena Rush, Ph.D., Parents’ Choice Foundation’s expert panels distilled the properties measured into six major domains – umbrella categories that describe the skills addressed and fostered by playing with the toy or game. The six domains of the PlayAbility Scale are: Cognitive, Academic, Creativity/Imagination, Communication, Social/Emotional and Motor. Additionally, within each domain, there are up to seven even more specific properties measured by the PlayAbility Scale.

The Power of Play Decoded

When shopping for toys and games, have you noticed that packages highlight developmental benefits in different ways? Some with symbols, some with words, some with both. But what do the symbols mean? What does this mean for my child? If there are no standard practices used to measure and/or report, how can consumers make good decisions?

Designed to address the inconsistencies in rating the benefits as well as labeling the benefits on packaging, the PlayAbility Scale uniformly measures and reports the skill-building properties children’s toys and games have to offer.

Think of the PlayAbility Scale like the nutrition label, but for toys and games. Just as not all foods or beverages contain fat, not all toys or games develop gross motor skills. If your child knows how to read, but can’t sit still to finish a page, look for toys or games that help build attention and persistence. If your child is more active with numbers than with friends, look for toys and games that encourage social interaction, communication and cooperative play.

Here’s a sampling of which skills each PlayAbility Scale domain measures and reports:

Cognitive Skills include attention and persistence, memory, processing speed, reasoning and more. Academic Skills include school readiness and early literacy skills for preschoolers and literacy/reading skills for those in the early elementary years. Creativity/Imagination Skills include, but aren’t limited to dramatic and imaginary play. Communication Skills spans following directions to labelling and describing objects, to conversation skills. Social/Emotional Skills refer to interpersonal skills, cooperating with others and understanding other people’s perspectives. And the Motor domain encompasses skills of the eyes, hands, feet – individually and when used in combination.

The following are PlayAbility Scale™ ratings for four games for children ages 3 to 8+:

Seuss CharadesDr. Seuss Charades Game (ages 3+, $9.99, Wonderforge)

This fun-filled game rated high on the PlayAbility Scale in the Cognitive, Academic, Creativity, Communication and Social/Emotional domains. With ratings of 80% or higher, the PlayAbility Scale identifies that the Dr. Seuss Charades game addresses and improves thinking skills of problem solving, attention and memory, as well as the ability to process and act on information quickly. The game helps with school readiness skills, dramatic and imaginary play skills, language skills (understanding others, expressing oneself, conversational skills and understanding nonverbal cues and behavior) and on the social/emotional skills of interacting and working cooperatively with others.

What does this mean for my child?
This game will be helpful (and fun) for children who need to improve both how they communicate as well as how well they understand what others are saying. Additionally, the game will help focus a child’s attention and use problem solving skills to understand, process and answer the charade challenge at hand.


Frida's FruitFrida’s Fruit Fiesta Game: (ages 4+, $21.99, Educational Insights)

This fun and creative letter matching game has players manipulate three spinners and choose one matching letter from the colorful game board/box. With ratings of 80% or higher, the game rated high in the Cognitive, Academic and Motor domains. The thinking skills addressed in the Cognitive domain include attention and persistence, classification, categorization and pattern recognition. Ratings in the Academic domain scored high for school readiness (early literacy skills), and in the Motor domain ratings were high for eye/hand coordination, object manipulation and bilateral integration (being able to use both sides of your body in a coordinated way).

What does this mean for my child?
This game will be helpful (and fun) for children to work on identifying letters as they prepare for kindergarten and for early elementary school students to build on the literacy skills they are using at school. Additionally, using Frida’s beak (tongs) to manipulate the game pieces helps children build fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination.


ZingoZingo! (ages 4+, $21.99, ThinkFun)

The line of Zingo! games brings fast-paced fun and learning to the classic game of Bingo. All Zingo games use a sliding mechanism (Zinger) to reveal picture/number/word tiles, as players work to make matches to fill the Zingo card to win. All Zingo games rated 80% or higher in the Cognitive and Academic domains, addressing thinking skills including problem solving, attention, memory, categorization, as well as helping players improve their ability to understand the challenge and work quickly to solve it.

What does this mean for my child?
This game will be helpful (and fun) for preschool and early elementary school children in enhancing early academic skills such as sight word recognition (Zingo Word Builder, Sight Words or Original Zingo), number recognition (Zingo 1-2-3), telling time (Zingo-Telling Time), or learning a new language (Bilingual Zingo- Spanish).


SwishSwish (ages 8+, $12.99, ThinkFun)

In this easy-to-learn fast-paced card game, players challenge their spatial intelligence as they work to visualize solutions in their “mind’s eye.” Sixteen transparent cards make up the playing area where players mentally manipulate two or more cards so that each “ball” swishes into a “hoop” of the same color. Swish scored very high (85% or more) in all five Cognitive subscales, making this an excellent choice to address and improve focus and attention, persistence, pattern recognition, all while quickly and accurately processing and acting on information.

What does this mean for my child?
This game will be helpful (and fun) for children who need to work on the ability to sustain attention and problem solve, while learning to visually discriminate among objects that look very similar. Additionally, the game will help build players’ abilities and confidence to work quickly under pressure.


The PlayAbility Scale initiative is designed to help children of all abilities and learning styles. We hope you’ll agree.