Welcome to START-Play!

START-Play seeks to advance early development through movement and learning skills. We are providing opportunities for interactive play to help your baby grow.

Participant incentives include:

  • Free developmental assessments
  • Visits that fit your schedule
  • Option for visits in the comfort of your home
  • Access to experts in child development
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START-Play
  • "I love start play for so many reasons but when parents are brought to tears of joy while watching their baby do things they never thought possible, that makes my day.” Cathy, Interventionist
  • "We know the milestones that she should hit, but not how it should happen, so to be able to participate in something like this is really interesting to us.” Meredith, Parent
  • “It is really fascinating to see something that we just view as play is actually working on these very specific skills.” John, Parent
  • “It has been really cool seeing her do different things that I did not necessarily know she was capable of.” Meredith, Parent
  • “Her progress week to week is really changing.” John, Parent
  • “Your study helped him to sit...just amazing.” Whitney, Parent
  • “The assessment visits give us a chance to see new skills emerging. The excitement on parents’ faces is a joy to be a part of.” Stacey, Researcher
  • “I feel so fortunate to work with parents as they start to see how play is really a window into their child's thinking.” Stacey, Therapist
  • "I really enjoy working on the START-Play research study, because I get to see firsthand how each baby grows and develops in their own, unique way."Emily, Assessor
  • "Supporting learning, play and exploration through changing potential energy into kinetic energy."Shaaron, Interventionist
  • “This was one step beyond [his regular therapy]…making him make connections to take the next step.”Rachel, Parent

What is START-Play?

Sitting Together and Reaching to Play


START-Play is a project aimed at better understanding the development of early movement and learning skills and ways that these skills might be advanced. It is funded by the US Department of Education and is actively seeking families in the greater Pittsburgh, PA, Newark, DE, Richmond, VA, and Seattle, WA areas.

The program enrolls children 7-16 months of age who are able to sit only briefly or who cannot yet move in and out of the sitting position on their own.

What are the benefits?


The project offers all children and their families ongoing developmental assessments by and access to experts in child development. Assessments look at all areas of development, including movement, thinking, and language development. Families consistently tell us they really enjoy seeing their children grow and change as they engage in the same tasks across time.

The program aims to track developmental change for some children in response to their ongoing interventions or activities. For others, it offers 3 months of intervention aimed at improving early sitting and reaching skills.

It offers conveniently scheduled visits to match families’ busy schedules.

It offers families the option to choose the most convenient location for visits, in their homes or in our university facilities.

What is required of participants?


Participation involves allowing our project team members to visit with you and your child at 5 points in time across the span of a year for developmental assessments.

For families who receive the START-Play intervention, it also involves allowing our team members to visit with you and your child twice weekly for 3 months for provision of the intervention activities.

Does my child qualify for this project?


The START-Play Project is open to families living in the greater Pittsburgh, PA, Newark, DE, Richmond, VA, and Seattle, WA areas who have children 7-16-months old who have trouble sitting for extended periods or cannot yet move in and out of sitting on their own.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are you enrolling typically-developing infants (i.e., babies without any motor delays)?
No. We are not recruiting typically-developing babies at this time.

I want to participate. How do I know if my baby is eligible?
To be eligible to participate, your baby must:

  • Be 7-16 months of age (adjusted for prematurity, if applicable)
  • Have gross motor delays
  • Be able to sit propped up for at least 3 seconds, but not be able to get in and out of sitting by him/herself

Am I compensated for participating?
Yes. For each completed assessment visit, you will be given $20 (or $100 for all 5 visits). Also, your baby will be given a toy at 3 of the assessment visits.

Can I still participate if I don’t want the therapist or assessor to come to my house?
Yes. We encourage the project to be done in the home, but we can arrange for any assessment or therapy sessions to be performed at one of our labs.

What will the therapist do with my baby if they receive the START-Play intervention?
A START-Play therapist will play with you and your baby in a way that will challenge your baby’s thinking and movement skills. Activities will be tailored to each baby and the therapist will gradually advance the difficulty to help your baby grow. Each session will last about 45 minutes and is meant to be fun for you and your baby.

Will you need to have access to my baby’s health information?
Yes, however you will be providing all medical information and always have the right not to answer any questions. All of your baby’s information will be kept confidential at all times and only trained research professionals will access it. If you and your baby participate, all information and data relating to your baby will be identified by only a number, and not your baby’s name. Also, if you ever decide to withdraw from participation, you will be free to do so at any time.