For Schools

About EYEPlay

The EYEPlay Story

EYEPlay began with a simple idea: “How do we create tools that allow preschool teachers to become confident and enthusiastic facilitators of drama-based lessons in their own classrooms?” At Childsplay, we knew from decades of work with young people that learning through drama supports language, literacy and social emotional development. We saw it every day, in the classes we taught through the Childsplay Academy and through teaching artist residencies in schools. We also knew that we would never have the capacity on our own to bring drama-based learning to our entire community, but we just might be able to expand our reach by empowering classroom teachers to teach drama on their own. We became particularly enthralled with the preschool space – with the teachers who believed in the power of learning through play and with 3-5 year olds whose openness and honesty kept us on our toes!


What began with a simple idea has become over a decade-long exploration of what it means to teach drama for preschoolers: What is the clearest way to transfer drama facilitation skills to teachers? How can drama support language learning? How can drama support emergent bilingualism? How do you measure effective drama facilitation? How do you measure children’s learning and social/emotional development when they participate in drama-based lessons? We hope you will take some time to look at our research page and continue this learning with us.


EYEPlay’s evolution has paralleled its own pedagogical framework: learn, reflect, iterate, and learn some more. The program design today is a direct result of the active participation of hundreds of classroom teachers, teaching artists, researchers and, of course, children. To date, it has been implemented in 122 classrooms, including 24 bilingual/dual language classrooms in Arizona and Florida. Childsplay is extraordinarily grateful to the many community partners who helped us develop EYEPlay. We are particularly indebted to the Helios Education Foundation, which helped EYEPlay grow from a spark of an idea into a multi-state program.





  • Childsplay creates a keynote experience at the City of Phoenix Head Start conference. We discover the amazing joy and playfulness of preschool teachers and realize – we’ve found our people!



  • The Helios Education Foundation funds an 18-month pilot program that allows Childsplay staff to transform its existing Drama Frames professional development program into a program specifically designed for preschool teachers and learners.
  • EYEPlay – Early Years Educators at Play is named (by playwright-in-residence Dwayne Hartford)
  • Arizona State University(ASU) professor Dr. Michael Kelley joins the program as an independent evaluator



  • The Helios Education Foundation funds a two-year implementation program in 32 preschool classrooms throughout Metro Phoenix. Childsplay recruits teachers and paraprofessionals from public, non-profit, and faith-based preschool sites to participate in a year-long job embedded professional development program during the 2012/13 and 2013/14 school years.
  • ASU creates a formal research team to conduct a quasi-experimental study of EYEPlay’s impact on teacher and child achievement. Results demonstrate statistically significant increases in teacher facilitation skills as well as in children’s scores in the literacy and cognitive elements of Teaching Strategies Gold.



  • Childsplay partners with Paradise Valley Community College to offer a semester-long version of EYEPlay as part of continuing education for preschool teachers.



  • Using the dynamic reading strategies developed through EYEPlay, Childsplay begins offering LEAP into Literacy programs for parents and caregivers to encourage active reading during storytime at home. Adult/family literacy programs are offered at schools and First Things First Family Resource centers throughout metro Phoenix.



  • Childsplay, ASU and the Creighton and Osborn School Districts receive a four-year grant from the Helios Education Foundation to create a dual-language version of EYEPlay and to study the impact of dual language learning on children’s academic achievement.


  • Childsplay launches Lit Lab, a bite-sized version of the EYEPlay professional development program that allows teachers to learn one unit at a time.



  • EYEPlay Dual Language begins in 13 Phoenix classrooms.
  • First scholarly publications about EYEPlay appear in the journals Childhood Education and International Journal of Education and the Arts



  • EYEPlay Dual Language expands to Florida in partnership with Orlando Repertory Theatre and Orange County Public Schools. The Helios Education Foundation funds a parallel study with ASU researchers to continue studying the effectiveness of drama as a teaching strategy for emergent bilingual children.



  • Childsplay and ASU receive a four-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s AAEDD program to conduct an experimental design study in 90 Phoenix-area preschool classrooms. This study will focus on the impact of creative drama on children’s language and social emotional development.



  • EYEPlay’s interactive website and online learning platform goes live.


Participating Teaching Artists

We gratefully acknowledge the contributions of the teaching artists who helped shape the EYEPlay program. You keep us thinking and learning and laughing every day:


Korbi Adams, Laura Berger, Patricia Black, Raquel Denis, Sarah Dolens-Moon, Megan Flod, Bradford Forehand, Emily Freeman, Jen Gantwerker, Mollie Gittleman, Liliana Gomez, Ximena Gonzalez, Iris Gutierrez, Ashley Hare, Gigi Hernandez, Haley Honeman, Maria Katsadouros, Molly LaJoie, Carlos Lara, Crystal Lizardo, Andrea Lombardi, Kim Manning, Karen Marulanda, Rachel McCabe, Lindsay McEuan, Katie McFadzen, Sean Medlin, Laura Mejia, Jenny Millinger, Kathleen Pennyway, Iva Pereira, Stacie Perez, Elizabeth Polen, Lillie Richardson, Julio Sauceda-Lara, Brianna Stapleton Welch, Sarah Sullivan, Carlos Urtubey, Xanthia Walker


EYEPlay Research Team

These amazing folks keep asking questions…and asking questions about questions…and making our work smarter and better and more thoughtful every day. We would not be here without their partnership and support:


Dr. Katie Bernstein, Dr. Katie Chapman, Dr. Kathleen Ferrand, Dr. Michael Kelley, Dr. Sultan Kilinc, Dr. Scott Marley, Melissa Pierce, Dr. Laida Restrepo, Dr. Lauren Van Huisstede 


EYEPlay Leadership

Jenny Millinger is Childsplay’s Associate Artistic Director, where she has been an ensemble member since 2003. She is a playwright, dramaturge, director, and passionate advocate for preschoolers and early childhood educators. She has led in the design and development of EYEPlay throughout its truly wonderous journey. Jenny’s favorite children’s book to dramatize is The Red Wolf by Margaret T. Shannon.


Kathryn Brantley is Director of Education and School Programs, responsible for establishing inclusive learning environments that inspire creativity, promote courageous empathy, and foster a life-long love for discovery and the performing arts. Kathryn is a teaching artist privileged to work as a teaching artist at theatre companies and community organizations including; Theatre Noir, Florida Studio Theatre, Dramatic English, Boys and Girls Clubs and many elementary schools. Kathryn earned a B.A. in Media Communications from Asbury University and an M.F.A. in Theatre for Young Audiences from the University of Central Florida.


Sarah Dolens-Moon is the Education Programs Manager at Childsplay.  She has been a theatre artist and educator for over 15 years. She has a BA in Theatre and Elementary Ed from UW-Milwaukee and recently obtained her MFA in Theatre for Youth and Communities from ASU. Sarah loves the boundless energy and imagination of young people, especially preschoolers! Sarah is also a proud parent to Dylan and Penny!

Her favorite children's book to dramatize is The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch.