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Caplan Foundation for Early Childhood

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.

Program Guidelines

The Foundation provides funding in the following areas:

  • Early Childhood Welfare

    Children can only reach their full potential when all aspects of their development, intellectual, emotional and physical, are optimally supported. Providing a safe and nurturing environment for infants and preschoolers is essential, as is imparting to them the skills of social living in a culturally diverse world.

    We support programs that research best child rearing practices and identify models that can provide creative, caring environments to ensure all children thrive.

  • Early Childhood Education and Play

    Research shows that children need to be stimulated as well as nurtured, early in life, if they are to succeed in school, work and life. That preparation relates to every aspect of a child’s development, from birth to age seven, and everywhere a child learns – at home, in childcare settings and in preschool.

    We seek to improve the quality of both early childhood teaching and learning, through the development of innovative curricula and research based pedagogical standards, as well as the design of imaginative play materials and learning environments.

  • Parenting Education

    To help parents create nurturing environments for their children, we support programs that teach parents about developmental psychology, cultural child rearing differences, pedagogy, issues of health, prenatal care and diet, as well as programs which provide both cognitive and emotional support to parents.

Funding Limitations

​The Foundation will not fund:

  • the operation or expansion of existing programs
  • the purchase or renovation of capital equipment, existing software or programmatic materials
  • single events
  • the creation or acquisition of works of art or literary works
  • organizations that discriminate based on race, color, creed, national origin or sexual orientation
  • individuals or for-profit entities
  • political organizations
  • programs with any religious content
  • organizations and/or programs operating outside the United States

Furthermore, the Foundation will only consider funding grant applications that define measurable outcomes and mechanisms for documenting results, provide for financial accountability, and include detailed program budgets.

Apply for a Grant

The Caplan Foundation for Early Childhood has a two-step funding application process that includes both a Letter of Inquiry (LOI) and a Full Proposal. We invite Full Proposals only after reviewing Letters of Inquiry. The Foundation will only fund proposals that fit our program guidelines.

The next deadline for submitting a LOI is .

Applicants must submit Letters of Inquiry by clicking on the Email your Letter of Inquiry button below. Once a Letter of Inquiry is received by the Foundation, the Directors will determine if the proposed program fits the Foundation’s funding guidelines. Successful applicants will be invited via email to submit Full Proposals.

Each Letter of Inquiry should include the following information:

  1. The organization’s official name, website address and contact information
  2. A brief (250 word maximum) summary of the organization’s mission and recent program history
  3. The organization’s 501(c)(3) Tax Exempt Status letter from the IRS and its’ Federal Tax ID#
  4. The total amount of the organization’s annual budget
  5. The total amount of the grant request
  6. An indication of the amount and type of support being requested from all sources
  7. Title of the project and a narrative description (1,000 words or less) of the issue(s) or need(s) to be addressed by the proposal, the work to be performed and the anticipated outcome.
  8. A description of how the proposal fits the Foundation’s program guidelines.

Your Letter of Inquiry must follow the number format listed above. In the subject line of your email, please enter LOI followed by the name of your organization.

Email your Letter of Inquiry

This will open your default email client. If you are using a different client, please send the email to, and use "Letter of Inquiry" as your subject line.

Grants Awarded

Providence College

Providence College, located in Providence, Rhode Island, has been awarded a $44,000 grant to test the effectiveness of play and inquiry-based instruction in early science education. To support the development of best practices in science education, two types of guidance will be tested, 1) Scaffolding guidance (solution is not presented); and 2) Solution guidance (solution presented). Other questions to be addressed will be whether play adds any additional benefit over and above the effects of guidance and whether high-ability children respond differently than low-ability children.

University of Florida Research Foundation

The University of Florida Research Foundation, located in Orlando, Florida, has been awarded a $70,942 grant to explore the effects of second language learning on first language skills for pre-kindergarten students with special needs. French will be introduced using multimodal teaching techniques which can include technological resources, such as the use of visuals, graphics, animation, and video.

National Center for Families Learning, KY

The National Center for Families Learning, located in Louisville, Kentucky, has been awarded a $50,979 grant to develop a nature-based learning adventure series for families. The curriculum, materials and workshops will be piloted through their partnership with public libraries, particularly those in urban areas with a high poverty population and a dearth of nature-based learning opportunities.

Worldwide Orphans, NJ

Worldwide Orphans, located in Maplewood, New Jersey, has been awarded a $55,000 grant to develop and pilot an English as a Second Language curriculum, where parents and children participate together. The curriculum will incorporate Early Childhood Development principles and theory and is targeted for parents of children from birth to five years of age

Portland State University, OR

Portland State University, located in Portland, Oregon, has been awarded a $39,683 grant to support Dialogic Storytelling which explores how preschool children in urban, multiethnic, and multilingual Head Start classrooms interact in a child-led storytelling activity called story circles. The primary outcomes of the study will be to illuminate the affordances of child-led teaching practices like story circles so that early childhood care and education teachers have ways of supporting language and literacy learning that rely on the feelings, interests, and ideas of children.

Bay Area Discovery Museum

The Bay Area Discovery Museum, located in Sausalito, California, has been awarded a $50,000 grant to fund the development of the first early childhood education Fab Lab. Fab Labs began at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and have since expanded globally and into middle and high schools. The early childhood Fab Lab is a novel, model learning environment specifically designed for the youngest children to engage in open-ended activities, pursue individualized interest, and gain familiarity with the next generation of creative tools. Programs and exhibits will be based on a robust research framework which establishes that children under 5 learn when they are intrinsically motivated, engaged, having fun and active.

The Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Marcus Autism Center

The Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Marcus Autism Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, has been awarded a $25,000 grant to fund the second stage of a research project addressing feeding disorders in children. Building upon a successful pilot study, an iEAT application will be developed for use by parents to address their child’s feeding disorder. The iEAT application will help diminish the long wait times and high expenses associated with having feeding disorder treatments in an institutional setting and provide follow-up use by feeding disorder specialists.

The Kindling Group

The Kindling Group, located in Chicago, Illinois, has been awarded a $50,000 grant to fund a feature-length documentary and engagement campaign, No Small Matter, highlighting successful center and home based programs and interventions as well as effective parenting methods that best support a young child’s development. The film will be built around the personal stories of a racially, geographically and economically diverse cast of characters, each of whom represents a key stage in the zero-to-five timeline.

ASSET STEM Education

ASSET STEM Education, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has been awarded a $30,000 grant to fund the design and piloting of a professional development session for pre-school teachers that would facilitate future mastery of coding for young children. The sessions will prepare early childhood educators with content knowledge, competencies and confidence to effectively teach coding concepts and processes, like sequencing and math, to young children. The first-of-its-kind professional development program will be enhanced through hands-on training with the research based Bee-Bot learning robot.

Twin Cities Public Television

Twin Cities Public Television, located in Saint Paul, Minnesota, has been awarded a $30,000 grant to support the Brains are Built, Not Born, multimedia messaging campaign. The campaign will raise awareness about the importance of early childhood brain development, while also presenting clear, accessible, and inspirational skills to parents. The project will be designed primarily with and for African American families, although the materials produced will be useful and engaging for all parents.

The Massachusetts General Hospital, Department of Psychiatry

The Massachusetts General Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, Think: Kids has been awarded a $95,569 grant to fund the Giving Collaborative Problem Solving a Head Start project which will focus on preventing early childhood aggression and defiance. The goals of the project are to reduce parent stress and improve child functioning and behavior, and to develop and evaluate a Collaborative Problem Solving parent group curriculum for children under five who are living in high-risk environments.

The Florida Institute of Technology, Scott Center for Autism

The Florida Institute of Technology, Scott Center for Autism has been awarded a $34,200 grant to fund the Ameliorating Developmental Signs in Infants project which will improve ASD diagnosis and treatment and add to the current body of knowledge regarding very early developmental assessment and intervention. A study will be conducted utilizing a modified diagnosis protocol and caregiver-administered treatment to enhance the developmental outcomes of high-risk infants exhibiting developmental delays. The goals are to conduct an in-depth analysis of the adaptation of an assessment and progress evaluation instrument – currently used to identify and monitor developmental delays in toddlers — for its use with infants as young as 6 months of age; and investigate the extent to which very early initiation of caregiver-implemented behavioral intervention, taught to caregivers using Behavior Skills Training, is therapeutically beneficial for infants born prematurely.

Minnesota Children’s Museum

The Minnesota Children’s Museum has been awarded a grant of $25,000 to fund the Power of Play initiative, a data driven program designed to foster healthy parent interactions with children to best support early childhood learning. The project will use a three tiered strategy to reach beyond the Museum’s walls and throughout the community to create and support a playful learning environment no matter the setting. Strategy one is the testing of parenting messages onsite in the Our World exhibit; strategy two will focus on a social media campaign using the hashtag #PlayMoreMN, and strategy three includes the hosting of a national convening on the results of the Power of Play initiative that will be shared with peer museums throughout the United States.

Peabody Research Institute

The Peabody Research Institute, Vanderbilt University located in Nashville, Tennessee has been awarded a grant of $22,848 to fund the Illuminating Evidence-Based Pathways to Promoting Young Children’s Prosocial Behaviors Through Early Care and Education. The goals of the initiative are to provide best practice and program guidelines to help teachers and schools select practices and programs that show real promise for developing prosocial behavior in the specific child populations they work with, and will also focus on identifying effective practices that can be flexibly integrated into the daily fabric of schools, without the expense of prepackaged interventions.

Oklahoma State University Foundation

The Oklahoma State University Foundation has been awarded a grant of $100,000 to fund the Preventing Suspension and Expulsion in Early Care and Education through Targeted Professional Development on Social and Emotional Self-Regulation. The project will identify classroom correlates of suspension and expulsion practices, collect data to determine the needs of early care and education (ECE) teachers, develop an evidence-based professional development program for ECE teachers, and collect preliminary evidence on the effectiveness of the professional development program. The long-term goal is to develop an evidence-based program model of professional development for toddler early care and education teachers aimed at prevention of these practices that can be replicated in programs nationwide.

About Us


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.

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