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About Playful Efforts®

Playful Efforts® was formed in 2000 by Erik Strommen, Ph.D. Its purpose is to provide research services that assist in the design, manufacture, and sale of products that encourage children to achieve their maximal creative and cognitive potential through play and other developmentally appropriate activities. We believe this goal is achieved by not only applying the results of published psychological and educational research to product development, but conducting new research as needed. Playful Efforts® information services include reviews of educational and psychological research as well as expert reviews of toy designs and storyboards. Research services range from the simple direct testing of specific prototypes with children up through complex “wizard of Oz” studies, where product ideas are mocked up through puppets and play props (the “man behind the curtain”) and tested with children to assess their appeal, ease of use, and educational potential.

Erik Strommen graduated with Honors from Cornell University in 1983. His Masters thesis (Rutgers University, 1986) examined the development of representational drawing in children ages 5 through 8. While at Rutgers he also worked on a study of the development of play in preschool children, and taught courses in research design and statistics, general psychology, and child and adolescent development. He studied the development of logical reasoning in children for his Ph.D. thesis (awarded 1988). In 1989, Erik joined Children's Television Workshop, makers of the TV show Sesame Street. Over the next seven years, as Research Director for the Interactive Technologies Division, he designed and studied interactive learning products for children of various ages on almost every interactive platform available. Among them: Nintendo, SEGA, CD-I, DV-I, CD-ROM, online services and more. He has published research and theoretical papers on a wide range of interface issues, covering everything from speech recognition to electronic drawing pads. In 1996, he joined Microsoft’s Interactive Toy Group, designing educational activities and interfaces for intelligent, animated characters. Since 2000, he has been a private consultant assisting toy companies to design learning interactions for toys using new technologies to promote educational play.

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