Photo from a Creative Playthings catalog showing two young children playing in front of a large plywood structure. Toys from the company are displayed inside the structure. Photograph taken in the mid 1940's.

Caplan Foundation for Early Childhood


The Caplan Foundation for Early Childhood is an incubator of promising research and development projects that appear likely to improve the welfare of young children, from infancy through 7 years, in the United States.

Welfare is broadly defined to support, acculturation, societal integration and childcare. Grants are only made if a successful project outcome will likely be of significant interest to other professionals, within the grantee’s field of endeavor, and would have a direct benefit and potential national application.

The Foundation’s goal is to provide seed money to implement those imaginative proposals that exhibit the greatest chance of improving the lives of young children, on a national scale. Because of the Foundation’s limited funding capability, it seeks to maximize a grant's potential impact. ፨

U p c o m i n g L O I d e a d l i n e U p c o m i n g L O I d e a d l i n e Upcoming LOI deadline •
Sep 30, 2024

Program Guidelines

The Foundation provides funding in the following areas

  • A close-up image of a child’s hands with spread fingers and five finger puppets made by Creative Playthings placed on them.

    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.

  • A young girl whispers something into the ear of a young boy. Both children are smiling. This image appeared in Creative Playthings catalog.

    Early Childhood Welfare

    Providing a safe and nurturing environment is essential as is imparting the skills of social living in a culturally diverse world. Therefore, the Foundation supports projects that seek to perfect child rearing practices and to identify models that can provide creative, caring environments in which all young children thrive.

  • A young boy stacks squares with different arrangements of holes onto matching pegs. This image appeared in Creative Playthings catalog.

    Early Childhood Education and Play

    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.

Funding Limitations

​The Foundation will not fund:

  • programs outside of the United States
  • the operation or expansion of existing programs
  • the purchase or renovation of capital equipment
  • the staging of single events (e.g. concerts, seminars, etc.)
  • the creation or acquisition of works of art or literature
  • the activities of single individuals or for-profit entities
  • political or religious organizations
  • programs with religious content
  • programs to benefit children residing in foreign countries
  • medical research applicable to both adults and children

All letters of inquiry that don't comply with the limitations will be rejected.

Policy on Funding Indirect Expenses for Grants

The Foundation will not fund arbitrary or excessive allocations of indirect expenses even if a project is worthy. The Foundation’s Board will only approve a maximum of 15% of a project’s direct expenses, when earmarked as general and/or administrative overhead.

Policy Regarding Multiple Year Funding Requests

Consistent with the Foundation’s mission, as an incubator of innovative research and development directed to improving the general welfare of young children, we will not fund more than the first year of multiple year projects. It is our belief that having multiple funders, of those worthy projects that demand more sustained efforts, increases the likelihood of their success by ensuring broader oversight and greater long term promotional possibilities.

Application Process

The Foundation employs a two-step grant application process that includes the submission of both a Letter of Inquiry (LOI) and a Full Proposal–the latter only by those applicants requested to do so. This ensures that consideration of Full Proposals is limited to those applications that strictly comply with the Foundation’s programmatic guidelines.

The next deadline for submitting a LOI is September 30, 2024.

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:

  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
  9. A description of how your project and/or research is innovative in nature

Your Letter of Inquiry must follow the number format listed above. Failure to follow the specified format will disqualify your LOI from review by the Board of Directors. Please note LOI and the name of your organization in the subject line of your email.

There are many proposals that we do not consider because they do not meet the criteria stated in our website. We strive to fund ideas that are adventurous, thoughtful and challenge the status quo. They should have a fresh concept (not rehash an older idea) and a defined method of implementation that promotes new approaches and understanding of early childhood and pushes the boundaries of academic, social and cultural studies and practices.

All written correspondence to the Caplan Foundation for Early Childhood should be directed to Amanda Liedtka, CPA, P.O. Box 746, Lock Haven PA, 17745

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.

Grant Recipients

To Develop Downloadable Print and Play Cards Using Scientific Specimens
Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access — 2024 · $40,000
Communication in Autism Parent Coaching Program
A.J. Drexel Autism Institute — 2024 · $53,000
To Develop a New Model of Pediatric Primary Care
Boston Medical Center — 2024 · $40,000
To Teach Caregiving Sensitivity Through Video Coding of Parent Child Interactions
Vanderbilt University — 2024 · $40,093
To Improve the Lives of Young Children by Better Preparing Tomorrow's Parents
Harvard University — 2024 · $51,795
To Enable Students to Utilize Both Teachers Initiated and Self Initiated Play to Traverse Multiple Experiences in a Variety of Content and Skills Areas
University of Southern California — 2024 · $30,000
To Develop an Innovative Instructional Approach to Promote the Use of Advanced Arithmetic Problem Solving Skills
Boston College — 2024 · $32,500
Free Online Educator Resources for Early Science.
University of Illinois at Chicago — 2024 · $50,000

About Us

Frank and Theresa Caplan seen smiling seated side-by-side in the 1980’s.

Frank and Theresa Caplan were pioneers in the development of creative, imaginative, educational toys for young children. Throughout their lives, Frank and Theresa worked to develop innovative and beautifully designed educational toys and equipment for home and school environment.

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. They researched and wrote 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.

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.