Allie Ticktin: Early Childhood Development Through Play
Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Welcome back! Spiffy here, your interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs working to make this world more equitable. Today I’m super excited to speak with Allie Ticktin, the founder of Play 2 Progress.
Spiffy: Hi Allie, thanks for being here today. What challenge are you addressing through Play 2 Progress?
Allie: Happy to be here, Spiffy! At Play 2 Progress we help set children up for success by partnering with families to address early child development from birth through early elementary. We empower parents to understand how to play with their baby to benefit their development and engage their sensory system, which is key to building critical neural connections in the brain. Additionally, we provide a community to connect like-minded parents. The three main ways we set up a strong foundation for development and act both preventatively and reactively are by addressing social emotional regulation, meeting physical milestones, and facilitating a community of like-minded parents. We do all of this through play which means our days are filled with fun!
Spiffy: How fun, now I want to join in! What motivated you to do it?
Allie: My story really starts in my own childhood. Growing up, I was always either playing with dolls at home or outside playing and creating new activities with the neighborhood kids—snow or sun. I loved being active and making different creations. It was through play that I was able to explore my interests and learned very early on that my calling was to work with children. I was also sensitive and at times had a hard time keeping my body regulated. I struggled to understand my own body's needs. In OT school, I started making sense of my own childhood. Because of my experience as a child, I am even more passionate about helping children understand what sensory tools their own bodies need just like I wish I had known all those years ago.
Spiffy: How would you say you’re working towards a more equitable world?
Allie: Inclusivity is one of the biggest values we stand on. Our clients are often neurodiverse children who struggle with self-regulation. They are the first to be punished in schools and extracurricular activities, and we are often the only place where both the child and their parents feel safe and supported. Our kids are frequently misunderstood and mislabeled as behavioral. Neurodiverse children face an uphill battle with schools not accepting or accommodating their needs. We are working with kids and families to help them understand their unique needs and advocate for them in school and at home. This includes asking for body breaks when needed and using body tools (tools that help regulate) in school.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organizational milestone or initiative. What impact does that make on your community?
Allie: We have launched many exciting programs in 2022, including our class subscription model, pre-preschool, and on-demand parent coaching. We opened our first satellite location inside The Pump Station, a local Santa Monica business, in early September. Each of these benchmarks is exciting but for me the biggest wins always come with the change we see in our kids. We have many stories of kids who have been kicked out of other places and then come to Play 2 Progress, where they feel respected and understood, which allows them to thrive and make progress.
Spiffy: Please share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from it?
Allie: I am a big believer that everything happens for a reason, and we have certainly faced our fair share of challenges over the past few years since starting Play 2 Progress, but out of those challenges often came something great. We have tried many things that didn't work out perfectly as we had hoped or even at all, but 100% of the time there was a lesson in that. This includes the pandemic. During this time we launched an online class membership for kids that didn't take off and we had to close it. During this time I also learned that I love connecting with parents online and teaching them virtually. It is much more efficient and works much better for parents. We have continued this, even though we no longer run virtual classes for kids.
Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Allie: I am an unlikely founder of a company. I am a female with a background in occupational therapy and no business education whatsoever. I never let that stop me. It is easy to doubt me or underestimate me, but I have faced and got through every challenge and plan to continue doing that as we continue to grow Play 2 Progress. I have learned that a strong passion for what you are doing is one of the most important driving factors when starting a business. It can be hard, but if you love it, you can get through it and the long hours feel much less challenging.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Allie—it’s been an honor!
Allie Ticktin is an occupational therapist specializing in sensory integration. She is the founder of Play 2 Progress and the author of the book, Play to Progress: Lead Your Child to Success Using the Power of Sensory Play. Allie believes that the best way to support children is by arming their parents, from inception, with the knowledge and skills necessary to encourage their child’s development for success through childhood and beyond. (Nominated by Charlotte Michailidis at Parenthood Ventures. First published on the Ladderworks website on January 23, 2023.)
© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.