Since I was a young boy, I loved to play with wood and to build. I remember rummaging through bins and barrels of discarded wood scraps behind the cabinet shops and factories near where I lived in New York. I carried home bags and boxes of wood shapes to build castles and forts for my knights and soldiers.
I grew up and became a teacher. I learned about Friedrich Froebel, the Father of Early Childhood Education, who taught that the child is divine and that play helps the child discover and express their inner creative power. I believe, like Froebel, that within the child—within everyone—there is a divine creative being, a sacred spirit that seeks to express itself in joyful ways.
In 1975, I worked as an early childhood consultant in the Worcester Public Schools in Massachusetts. I handed a set of blocks to a kindergarten teacher, Sue Zack, and asked her to give them to her children and observe what they did with them. Sue Zack took pictures of the structures the children made and listened to their stories of what they built. From that block experience the children then wrote wonderful stories and drew amazing pictures.
In 1978, my wife, Kitty, and I—inspired by the response to the blocks—made up 100 sets, and set out on a cross-country trip. We visited thirteen states: from Boston to California, New Mexico to Texas and Florida. Like Johnny Appleseed, we left 100 sets behind us with Early Childhood Educators across the country. And Dr. Drew's Toys, Inc. was born.
Since then, much has occured with Dr. Drew's Toys. Awards have been won, Play Workshops have occured in many communities across the country, and my family has grown.
But I have never lost my awe of what simple, free, open-ended play—with multiples—can mean for children and for the many adults I meet who benefit from getting back to play and all the rewards it brings.
Dr. Walter Drew, Ed.D.