The Caplan Foundation for Early Childhood is intended to be an incubator of promising research and development projects that may ultimately enhance the development, health, safety, education or quality of life of children from infancy through seven years of age across the country.
Each of its grants is made with the expectation that a successful project outcome will be of significant interest to other investigators or developers, within the grantee’s field of endeavor, and will be amenable to beneficial application or adaptation elsewhere. In essence, the foundation’s goal is to provide seed money for those imaginative endeavors, addressed to the needs of young children, which appear most likely to bear fruit on a national scale.
Frank and Theresa Caplan were pioneers in the development of creative, imaginative, educational toys for young children. In the early thirties, Frank Caplan was a youth worker and one of the first male nursery school teachers in the United States. In 1949, he co-founded Creative Playthings, a company that designed and manufactured toys to enhance the imagination and learning of young children.
By the 1950’s, Creative Playthings was one of the most important manufacturers and suppliers of early childhood educational toys and equipment. They collaborated with internationally known artists, such as Nino Vitali, to design toys, as well Milton Hebald, Isamu Noguchi, Robert Winston and architects like Louis Kahn to design outdoor playscapes and sculptures.
Creative Playthings researched and developed innovative curriculum materials for schools and furniture that could be stacked and rearranged to allow for flexibility within the classroom. They introduced dolls, which were racially diverse, and anatomically correct boy and girl dolls, which were provocative at the time.
In 1975, Frank Caplan and his wife, Theresa, created The Princeton Center for Infancy and Early Childhood, a pioneering research and publishing organization focusing on materials for parent education. He researched and co-authored, with Theresa, a national bestselling series on early childhood development called The First Twelve Months of Life (1977), The Second Twelve Months of Life (1978), and The Early Childhood Years: The 2-6 Year Old(1983). In addition, Frank and Theresa co-authored The Power of Play in 1973.
Throughout their lives, Frank and Theresa worked to develop innovative and beautifully designed educational toys and equipment for home and school environment. They wanted to encourage parents’ understanding and knowledge about the extraordinary time of infancy and early childhood.
The Caplan Foundation for Early Childhood was created in 2014 as a result of a bequest from Theresa Caplan stipulating her estate be used to incubate innovation and research addressing the needs of children from birth through age seven.