EPSI Administration Guidelines

Administration of the Early Problem Solving Indicator (EPSI) generally involves conducting a 6-minute play session involving the child and a familiar adult as play partner with play centered around two toy sets: Form Set A and Form Set B. The session should take place in a relatively sheltered, but convenient setting with few distractions present.

Two options for administering the EPSI

  • Option 1: Two adults in the role of familiar play partner (usually the assessor) and a live recorder of the child’s problem solving behaviors.
  • Option 2: One adult in the role of familiar play partner who additionally sets up and videotapes the session for the purpose of later coding the child’s problem solving behaviors from the tape.

Using either option, the assessor times the session for exactly 6 minutes. A digital timer capable of recording minutes and seconds is required. During the session the play partner follows the child’s lead during play and comments on the child’s actions and words to encourage the child’s play with the toys. Assessors do not take the lead, rather they support with encouragement. Re-direct the child only if they cease to play by sitting and seemingly ignoring the toys provided.

Download the assessment forms, checklists, and assessor training materials from the EPSI Forms section of this website.

Play Toys/Materials Needed

Toys were screened and selected based on the fact that each has a final endpoint with steps involved in reaching the endpoint. Additionally. toys were selected with the ability to engage children’s interest and evoke play. Other important criteria for selecting these toys included safety, common availability in child care settings, and suitability for use by children in the age range (birth to 4 years). Additionally, we rejected any toys that met these criteria, but too often evoked gross movement rather then sitting and exploration.

Go to the EPSI toys link for more information and to purchase them online.

Becoming a Familiar Play Partner (Warm Up Sessions)

If you are unfamiliar to child, you will need to spend time with the child in their classroom/home settings were ever you plan to conduct assessments. To break the ice, look to join in the child’s play with an already familiar caregiver (the mom). When the child is willing join you in play together, you are ready. Let the child know that you are going to play with some special toys as you start your first assessment with him or her.

General Set Up for an EPSI Assessment

The familiar adult and child sit in an area that is comfortable where they can play during the six-minute session.

Rotate between toys one session to the next to maintain the child’s interest. Refer to the prior session’s record to see which toy form was used previously and use the other form for the current session. Set up the toy to be used prior to bringing child to the assessment so that the child can see the toys immediately. Place the first toy from either Form A or B so that it is within reach of the child. The play partner should also be able to reach the toys, and to have excellent eye contact with the child.

Video Camera Set Up

If you decide to video record the session, several points apply. Set the camera up on a tripod and aim it appropriately using the view finder. Zoom in the view so that the face of the child and the play partner are in full view as is the play situation. Using the tripod and setting the zoom/focus insures a steady view later when recording. Check these settings for best positioning for later viewing and sound quality. Remember – camera view, sound quality, and loudness dramatically affect later recording accuracy.

If you have a camera operator, once underway the operator must stay still, interacting little if at all with you or the child. A camera person should be nonintrusive with respect to the assessment. The camera operator also may time the six-minute session for you.

If you are video taping on your own, set up the camera, start recording, join the child, say “Start” and make a brief hand wave to mark the beginning of the timing. At the end of the assessment, say “Stop” and again wave your hand.

If the child moves out of camera view for some reason, Say “Pause” to voice mark on the tape, then redirect the child back to location and/or update the camera view using its view finder as needed. Then state “Resume” so that later, when you are recording of the child’s behavior from the tape, you can start, stop, and resume as needed to account for the interruption.

Summary Steps for Adult Play Partners in the EPSI

The adult plays with the child in a manner that encourages interaction with the toy and the adult, but does not direct it (see Table)

  • Follow the child’s communicative lead.
  • Comment about what the child is doing, or describe what he/she is doing.
  • It is okay to ask some questions, however, questioning should not be the primary manner of interacting with the child.
  • For each of the three toys used in the EPSI, support the child’s interaction with the toys, but refrain from showing or telling the child how to use the toy (e.g., do not show how to stack cups, pull levers, or say “let’s put the balls in here,” etc.).
  • In following the child’s lead, it is OK to comment on the child’s use of the toy (e.g., “wow, you’re putting a lot of balls in the machine,” or “you pressed that lever really well!” or “look how many cups you stacked!”)

Using Uncertified Parents or Caregivers as Play Partners

Sometimes it may be necessary for a child’s parent to act as the play partner during an assessment. This might be because the child is not comfortable playing with you (a developmentally appropriate response if you have not spent much time with the child), or you do not have an extra person who can code the assessment while you’re the play partner, and you do not have a video camera to record the session.

In order to ensure a valid assessment, parents as play partners need to understand and follow a few brief rules, just as you do when you are the play partner.

Before the parent acts as a play partner:

  1. Review the play partner checklist with them
  2. Model appropriate play partner interactions
  3. Have them practice with their child while you provide feedback (does not have to be a full 6-minutes, but at least 2-3 minutes)

Parent as Play Partner Checklist

  1. Parent and child are positioned so they can have eye contact
  2. Parent and child can see and reach toys
  3. Parent follows child’s lead (is not too directive)
  4. Parent comments about what the child is doing
  5. Parent interacts in a non-directive, friendly manner
  6. Parent uses questions sparingly
  7. At the end of the session, parent lets child know that the session is over
  8. At the end of the session, parent thanks the child for playing

Ending the Assessment

When six minutes has elapsed, let the child know that it is time to stop playing and stop recording immediately. It is helpful to have an alternate activity to transition to and as a reminder for the child to stop the activity. Thank the child for playing, and make sure to clean all toys as needed with disposable antibacterial towelettes in preparation for next use.

Accommodations for Children with Physical and/or Sensory Impairments

  • Move toys closer to child
  • Introduce toys to the child allowing him/her to touch and manipulate
  • Position child in manner that allows best access
  • Adult provides physical guidance as needed for child to contact the toys
  • Orient (re-orient) child toward toys as needed
  • Provide verbal comments on what is happening as needed
  • Tell and show the child where you have placed toy