The Inspiring Odyssey of JustGrowPlay: How Play Leads to Healing
Welcome to the fascinating journey of JustGrowPlay, where recreation meets therapeutic innovation. In this blog, we'll embark on a captivating exploration of the origin story, remarkable growth, and exciting future aspirations. Discover how Ellen Cullen – Founder and Owner seamlessly intertwines the joy of play with therapeutic benefits, creating a unique and impactful approach to development that transcends traditional boundaries.
Setting the Stage
The birth of JustGrowPlay traces back to a notable collaboration around 2009-2010 between Ellen Cullen and Sandra Turner. Ellen’s background as a school-based Occupational Therapist (OT) laid the foundation for what would become a revolutionary journey. Her expertise in OT was instrumental in recognizing the potential of combining play with therapeutic benefits. When Ellen was first introduced to Sandra, Sandra happened to be working on a therapeutic creation herself, the two visionaries found themselves working closely with kindergartners, nurturing their development, and understanding the profound impact of play-based therapy.
From Observation to Innovation
JustGrowPlay took an inspiring turn when Ellen realized the immense potential of the tools initially created for kindergartners could make a significant impact on a much larger scale. This realization spurred the development of the pioneering product, the 'Peg in the Egg,' a remarkable therapeutic tool that soared above the classroom setting. Designed to engage and challenge children, the 'Peg in the Egg' offered a host of therapeutic benefits. It not only promoted the development of core strength and fine motor skills but also nurtured essential abilities such as hand-eye coordination, wrist strength and concentration. This innovative product served as a testament to the power of play-based therapy, paving the way for the broader mission of JustGrowPlay to touch the lives of individuals of all ages and abilities. Here’s a sweet factoid – as a symbol of Ellen’s personal connection and dedication, she decided to name her business 'JustGrowPlay’, which happens to be fusion of the first letters of her sons' names – Jeff, Greg, and Paul.
Ellen at the AOTA Inspire 2023 in Kansas City
The CADimensions Partnership
Ellen's alliance with CADimensions was marked by a series of incredibly positive experiences, and the pivotal roles played by the design services team including Jesse Sprague, Sara Reynolds, and Amy Peterson. From the very beginning, the expertise of these three team members and unwavering support ensured a seamless collaboration, while Ellen’s commitment to the project's success was evident every step of the way. “I truly would not have a product, I would not be where I am without CADimensions.” – Ellen Cullen.
Amy's creative genius truly shone through, offering groundbreaking design solutions that elevated JustGrowPlay's vision. “I created the design Ellen asked for, and through some brainstorming, I suggested themed "putty sticks" that you could roll in the putty to make patterns. She was excited about the idea, so I helped her design three putty stick concepts. Each stick has stamps on the end, that you can add to your rolled out pattern.” – Amy Peterson
The original design Ellen came to Amy with.
A "road trip" putty stick- With a road, sidewalk and trees with a car and traffic light on either end.
A "celestial" Putty stick- with stars, and a moon
An "Under the Sea" putty stick- with waves, seaweed, clouds and a fish and bubbles on either end.
Amy’s talents were on full display as she masterfully devised forward-thinking design alternatives that not only met but exceeded the necessary standards, ensuring that JustGrowPlay's therapeutic tools were as effective as they were entertaining. These collaborative efforts between Ellen and the CADimensions team showcased the power of partnership, leading to pioneering products that continue to impact the growth of both children and adults.
A Heartwarming Success Story
Ellen encountered a concerned mother of a four-year-old who had reservations about her child's grasp skills. It was in this moment that she introduced her to the Peg in the Egg® tool and suggested dedicating just 10 minutes a day for six weeks to playfully engage with the activities outlined in the accompanying booklet and game. The result was nothing short of remarkable. After this relatively short period, the child exhibited a noticeable improvement in their grasp, displaying a functional and efficient pattern. As time passed, the child transitioned into school-age with confidence, free from any further struggles with pencil grasp or the fine motor demands of their education. This heartening success story reaffirmed the profound impact of this product on young learners, leaving no doubt that it had to find its way into eager hands of children everywhere. “I was thrilled to see that it worked!” – Ellen Cullen when concluding with this inspirational story.
JustGrowPlay – Looking Ahead
JustGrowPlay's plans include an expansion of educational content, aiming to empower educators and learners alike with innovative tools and resources. Beyond their educational value, JustGrowPlay's products hold the potential to serve as remarkable behavioral health tools, offering a means of distraction and stress relief in various settings. In addition, Ellen elaborates on her aspiration to make JustGrowPlay accessible to older adults, emphasizing the importance of breaking away from the misconception that older individuals are stagnant in their thinking. She firmly believes that people of all ages, including seniors, deserve opportunities for creativity, growth, and exploration in their thoughts and ideas, regardless of their stage in life. “ I also think that teens, adults, and seniors would love JustGrowPlay's products! It is a putty pencil and the putty can be viewed like paper, so the possibilities are endless in how they use it or need to use it. “ – Ellen Cullen
Ellen at the AOTA Inspire 2023 in Kansas City
Ellen's extensive background in OT and her unwavering dedication to enhancing the educational experience have been the driving force behind JustGrowPlay's mission. Her deep-rooted commitment to making a positive impact on people's lives and mental well-being has propelled this initiative forward, setting the stage for a brighter and more inclusive future where the transformative power of play and therapy converge to bring joy and growth to individuals of all ages.