Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Behind the Scenes | Playapy

Welcome to the second installment of Behind the Scenes. Today I am excited to have Amy Baez, MOT, OTR/L, founder of Playapy, here to share her story

Please tell me a little bit about yourself. How long have you been an occupational therapist? What is your primary practice area?

I have been practicing as an occupational therapist in South Florida almost exclusively in pediatrics for 14 years. I have worked in pre-school, private school, outpatient clinic, and home health settings. I have a particular interest in fine motor, handwriting, and coordination skills. 

Tell me a bit about Playapy. Where did the idea come from and how did you take it from idea to reality?

Playapy is a child development resource for parents and educators that I launched in 2013. It provides consultation services on-line as well the creation of publications and the production of workshops in the Miami area. Playapy was created to serve a need to communicate with parents and educators about child development from a therapist perspective without direct therapy services or referrals. With the increased demands on pre-schools and the adverse effects of increased use of technology, many parents are finding that they need additional support for their children without the resources, insurance, time, or understanding of how to get it. Playapy is promoting the concept of Smart Play Made Simple by simplifying the methods used by therapist to promote efficient, fun, and functional play. Since I already had experience being self-employed since graduating from school, I worked on creating a business plan and a team of professionals that could support Playapy and its mission. Making it a reality is still an ongoing process as I learn more and focus on a more specific target market that we can best serve.

You’ve also created your own handwriting workbooks. Again, how did you go from having an idea to creating an actual workbook?

I am a creative person and spend a lot of time around artistic people like poets, designers, photographers, and painters. I like to look at the toys and tools that I use as a therapist and modify or create new ways to improve them. When I started seeing children in a clinic and private school setting, I noticed I was receiving more patients with handwriting concerns. Some of them had been exposed to the same programs for years with little progress, so I began to play around with my own ideas including using simple action words and drawings including a cute monkey. Over the course of a couple years I saw how much this method was helping a variety of my patients. One idea for a book led to another, and I put more and more time into making simple worksheets and putting them together into a book layout. From there, I made the conscious decision to maximize my potential and hired a designer, self-published the books, and created a company that would support and market my ideas and the services I had in mind. It really paid off not only from the progress I see in patients, but also to be receive recognition from Creative Child Magazine with the 2013 Book of the Year award for Educational Activity Books.

There are a lot of handwriting workbooks out there. How are your workbooks unique?

The first two publications are purposely divided into uppercase and lowercase letters to be completed sequentially according to development. This is not how the mass market is teaching children. Both books use specific action words that correspond to strokes used to create the letters. These action words help to promote proper directionality, formation, and alignment particularly for the lowercase letters. The Treasure C.H.E.S.T. and Heads, Tummies,& Tails workbooks are simply designed using a traditional 3-line format with a friendly mascot as the instructor. The letters are introduced in groups instead of alphabetical order so letters are associated by their similar formation or alignment. The child is encouraged to say the action words as he or she is writing to foster a multi-sensory approach. This also allows for the parent, educator, and/or therapist to use the same language as well. The books also do not require more than a one-page instruction due to the simplicity and are easily to use and affordable in addition to being engaging without also being distracting.

What are your dreams for Playapy? Where do you see Playapy in five years?

I would love to see Playapy as a known and trusted resource for parents, educators, and therapists working with young children globally. My dream to see continue publishing more workbooks, conducting workshops nationally and through webinars. I also have a dream to see Playapy workshops conducted in developing countries and meeting the needs of the Spanish language market both in the US and elsewhere.

What has been the most surprising thing about creating Playapy?

Since I am still a practicing therapist and have another company that I own and operate, time is always a factor. What has been most surprising is how much time and effort it takes to make something from nothing even something as simple as a logo. Starting a traditional therapy business seemed so much easier partly because the foundation of occupational therapy has been in existence for 100 years. Playapy has the challenge of competition and educating the public and why you are needed. Overall, there is always a to-do list to be better and improve what you have to offer and how you are offering it. This is also want makes it interesting and fun.

Play seems to be very important to you. How do you fit play into your everyday life?

It’s funny that you mention that because finding time to play is what is most challenging about starting a business. It’s a good thing I get to play for a living! In my everyday life I seek play through playfulness, leisure, and adventure. My version of play is to create, appreciate art, dance, take pictures, write poems and stories, listen to live music, swim in the ocean, travel to different countries, challenge my fear of heights, and spending time with friends.

Connect with Playapy:


P.S. Are you an occupational therapist doing something cool? If you'd like to share your story, please send me an email at AbbyPediatricOT {at} gmail {dot} com. I'd love to feature you in an upcoming post!

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