Play Elevated’s Deb Weber on championing the positive benefits of play
Deb, thanks for making time. Before we discuss your exciting new venture, Play Elevated, how did you find yourself working in toys?
Well, it was an unexpected yet fortunate situation of being in the right place at the right time! I was completing coursework for my PhD – with the career goal of becoming a college professor for Early Childhood Development and Psychology – when I met the former Fisher-Price Play Lab Director. She had a special project that required an outside consultant that was an expert in kids and technology, and ultimately hired me.
I was their educational consultant responsible for helping to develop the user interface and content for a first to market children’s computer peripheral toy line. I loved working at the company and was ultimately hired on full-time as Researcher for the Play Lab team. The rest is history!
Yes, you eventually became Senior Director of Early Learning Childhood Development Research at Fisher-Price. Could you talk us through some of your responsibilities there?
Sure! For the past 25 years, I was an integral part of the evolution of the Fisher-Price Play Lab and responsible for child development research for many Mattel brands, serving as the in-house early childhood development and play expert. This involved overseeing child development expert teams in the US and China.
I managed a global team of researchers for the past eight years, researching, observing and analysing play. Working side-by-side with product designers, engineers, and marketers, I helped to create the best gear and toys for babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers across the world! Together, with my team of child development research experts in the US and China, we crafted the perfect recipe for great products: equal parts science and fun. And when not working with children, I worked with other thought leaders in the field of early childhood development.
From higher education to other relevant fields like technology and innovation, I continue to love sharing my learnings with others – and learning from them.
Are there any products or product features you could tell us about that have your fingerprints on from your time at Fisher-Price?
That’s a tough question… If I had to name three it would be the Laugh ‘n Learn Smart Stages learning toy collection, the Jumperoo entertainment center for babies and the Space Saver High Chair. All of which stemmed from the challenge of innovating in a category, using ethnographic and direct observational research as a catalyst to create, and design thinking as a process.
The Jumperoo has been a hit with my one year old! You were at Fisher-Price for close to 28 years. What is it about the company that keeps people there?
The culture and people at the Fisher-Price headquarters in East Aurora is what keeps everyone there for long stints. The people are first-class, inspirational individuals, with integrity. And for me, it was the diversity of the people including their backgrounds and expertise, as well as the excitement and daily challenges. Knowing that each day was going to be a new experience with a new challenge was incredibly energising and motivating to me – in a good way!
So, Play Elevated! Talk us through what your new company focuses on and some of the services you’re offering?
Play Elevated’s services include Inventor Partnerships, Design & Development Consultation, Early Childhood Development (ECD) Framework Development, Supporting Marketing & Retail Services, Research and ECD Collaborations. It’s a consultancy that works with global leaders in children’s programs, products, toys, entertainment and digital play experiences, helping to elevate the positive impact and developmental benefits of play experiences.
My areas of focus and expertise include toys, juvenile products, content, curriculum, and digital platforms, as well as supporting the creative and development process with research insights from ideation to completion.
You mentioned inventor partnerships there. How are you looking to collaborate with this community?
Working with Inventors is one of the aspects of my consultancy that I am most excited about! I’ve been fortunate to be able to work with the inventing community for the stint of my career, and it’s been incredibly rewarding and thought provoking – pushing myself to think in new ways and understand different perspectives.
I’m excited to partner with inventors in many ways – from helping make their ideas even better for kids, to making concepts more marketable to organisations and parents who are looking for developmentally rich play experiences, to co-creating products and product lines rooted in ECD benefits. I can collaborate virtually or in person, and am open to helping out with the needs individual Inventors may have.
Throughout my career I’ve enjoyed collaborating with many of the world’s most creative toy designers, and now I’m looking forward to continuing that journey with the amazing world of inventors!
Great to hear! For anyone interested in collaborating, what’s the best way to reach out?
Please contact me via email DeborahWeber@play-elevated.com or message me on LinkedIn – Deb Weber, PhD.
Deb, this has been great and congrats again on the launch of Play Elevated.
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