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Tic Tac Grow PlayWear - February 1, 2018

Words on infant clothing spark playful moments to foster brain development, engagement, and relationships between babies and parents.

Photo of Judith Lavender
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Updates: How has your idea changed or evolved throughout the Prize? What updates have you made to this submission? (1500 characters)

The IDEO submission process has helped me tighten my focus and clarify my communication about Tic Tac Grow PlayWear. It stretched my thinking for possibilities for structuring scalability. My idea has components of non-profit mingled with for-profit. Bringing the two together in a collaborative effort will increase PlayWear's reach for underserved babies, toddlers, and their families. The mentors who engaged with me offered helpful connections that I contacted and set meetings.

Name or Organization

Tic Tac Grow, LLC Judith K. Lavender, Founder


Tic Tac Grow is located in Albuquerque, New Mexico

What is your stage of development?

  • Early Stage Innovator, with at least one-year experience in ECD


  • Individual

What is the stage of your proposal?

  • Piloting: I have started to implement my solution as a whole with a first set of real users.

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (600 characters)

Knowing life is busy, time is short, and play is essential for healthy infant development, Tic Tac Grow PlayWear brings early childhood development to ALL parents. PlayWear takes evidence-based research--infants cry, babble, giggle and use facial expressions to entice parents to play with them--and makes it user friendly. Short sayings and phrases placed on infant and toddler clothing encourage playful interaction between babies and grownups. No books or video are needed--instead focused engagement with baby based on simple words.

Select an Innovation Target

  • Product: A new or enhanced physical product that creates value for end beneficiaries.

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

In 2016 Harvard School of Education announced an initiative to transform early childhood education in the United States. Jack Shonkoff MD at its Center on the Developing Child promotes ideas for strong development based on interaction between infants and parents. James Heckman at University of Chicago focused on investing in early childhood as well as social inequality. In an age where busy and stressed parents are overloaded with information, PlayWear seeks to simplify the conversation in an effort to provide evidence-based information to support and teach parents about what their babies need. Our information placed prominently on clothing is to be seen as daily guides for interactions that matter.

What problem are you aiming to solve? (3 sentences)

Parents have busy lives with demands on their time creating stress and tension to balance work and family. Tic Tac Grow PlayWear addresses the 36 months of infancy and toddlerhood with intentional, sensitive, and universal messages to inspire parents to engage with their babies using playful exchanges. Early childhood research shows the life-long impact on brain development and relationships when intentional give and take interaction occurs between parents and their infants and toddlers.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

In an effort to inspire healthy play and relationships during the first two years of life, short phrases silkscreened on infant clothing unpack a map for parents. For example, I'm New To This reminds parents that their baby has only been alive for a few days, a few weeks, or a few months and supports each of them as they learn together. We're In This Together acknowledges that baby needs mom, dad, grandparents, and other grownups to foster his/her healthy development. Give Me Time, a double entendre, nudges parents to let baby explore and learn as they get to know each other. Wiggle Giggle Grow describes babies' physical activity in the first year of life--a moving baby is a learning baby. I Like Messy spotlights the delight babies find in exploring food and objects and toddlers have with water and sand play.

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

ALL children and parents benefit from nurturing attention and playful interaction. Intentional exchanges create strong relationships and build healthy brains. For 48 years I have worked directly and indirectly with young children and their families as a teacher, as a facilitator of parent groups, in community outreach, and numerous leadership roles in non-profit boards for the arts, child welfare, education, and museums. These experiences exposed me to diverse groups of individuals and families. When working with parents I recognized that parents need easy ways to engage with their babies and young children. Some parents find it awkward to play or talk to their infant. A mother said to me, "I'm shy and quiet and never thought to talk to my baby." Babies cry to communicate--some see it as a nuisance behavior rather than communication. Unaware that crying is an attempt to communicate, parents project their feelings on baby resulting in missing baby's cues and clues. Tic Tac Grow PlayWear strives to minimize stress and tension between parent and baby that in severe situations can lead to emotional abuse or shaken baby syndrome. Our nurturing messages about development on our PlayWear give gentle reminders of what babies need. They support parents with easy-to-remember playful ways to engage with their babies.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (1500 characters)

Play is essential for ALL babies. The USA should be the best place in the world to be a baby! Through Tic Tac Grow PlayWear messaging about early childhood development, the conversation increases and gets louder. Busy parents with limited time and busy lives realize that playful moments and engagement add up in the course of a day. The impact of their intentional give and take on their babies' brains and emotions sets the foundation for life-time pleasure for learning and connecting to others. Babies grow rapidly! During their first two years they wear seven different sizes creating opportunity for new messages as they change. Whether distributed in cities or towns, homes or businesses, non-profits or government organizations, the simplicity allows for low-cost delivery. The impact of creating sentiment for healthy babies becomes motivation for high participation from adults, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. PlayWear nudges parents to playfully and intentionally engage with their babies in the little moments every day.

How does or how could your idea impact low-income children? (1500 characters)

Low income children often have adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) through no fault of their own. Evidence shows infants living in poverty and whose parents have little support often become victims of abuse, have poor nutrition, and score high on ACEs. Many low-income children are provided intervention once emotional or physical damage has been inflicted. When conceptualizing Tic Tac Grow PlayWear, I gave much though to how a product could nurture ALL babies, could be universal, deliver highly impactful information, and be preventive. I wanted it to be simple and easily accessible for all families. From my established criteria, PlayWear's every day messages developed. Focused on prevention it has lower costs and can reach more children. It can be adapted to different cultures and be language specific. Because PlayWear will be exposed and delivered peer-to-peer, through non-profit/government entities, or retail businesses, it offers the opportunity for more infants and toddlers to receive its positive and nurturing messages. With opportunities for playful and intentional moments between parents and babies, stress lessens for both. Research shows when infants live in a safe and loving home and community they learn to trust those around them. PlayWear promotes care and love through its positive messaging.

Innovation: What makes your concept innovative? (5000 characters)

In the past a parent got information about early development from reading books or viewing videos. Today, a parent is likely to use Google or find a 2-minute YouTube blurb for information they seek. Looking for a low-tech way to get early childhood information to them captured my interest. PlayWear is a simple low-cost, soft touch product with a high tech way to do so. Rethinking long-time proven clothing products--infant bodysuits and toddler t-shirts--our silk-screened messages with intentional words inspire play, foster loving relationships, and promote healthy brains. Placed front and center on each garment, Tic Tac Grow messaging gets seen whether feeding, changing a diaper, out for a walk, or tucking in baby for a nap. Realizing parents are too busy to read books about development, our words gently nudge them towards playful behavior. They encourage back and forth interaction between baby and parent. This soft approach touches infants and parents regardless of ethnicity, education, or socioeconomic status. Designed with infants and toddlers at heart and parents in mind, PlayWear messages can be understood across generations from older sibling to parents to grandparents. It invites all ages to playfully and positively interact with babies and toddlers.

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of end-users. (1500 characters)

The cost of prevention in the early years supersedes the cost of intervention in later childhood and teen years. Getting it right from the beginning means every baby born can be targeted for PlayWear's easy-to-use messaging. In every country, every day, around the world thousands of babies are born and new families formed opening the door for Tic Tac Grow PlayWear to be a global product. Play, brain development, and emotional bonding to establish trust are universal needs for all babies. Our messages will be sensitive to culture and language issues. Our adaptable business plan starts small to uncover and tweak weakness, identify strengths, and clarify advertising. The greatest barrier to this startup is sufficient money to support payroll, production, and bridge income and outflow of payment in the beginning and as it scales up. Increased sales will lower garment and silkscreening-per-unit costs. Families in all income levels can be targeted with appropriate collaboration using peer-to-peer gatherings, non-profit fundraising and partnering, government initiatives, and retail business. A business such as Toms Shoes serves as one model for outreach.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (3000 characters)

Numerous activities around prototyping have occurred over the past three years. Initially, I designed custom fabric to use on infant wear such as bibs, hats, booties and diaper covers. A local manufacturer sewed prototypes using my fabric and designs. The cost points were too high to reach a cross section of families so I went back to the drawing board. Early prototypes for bodysuits with messages were too ordinary and not eye-catching. More designs were created until the current ones emerged. Having done extensive research and development, I believe Tic Tac Grow PlayWear is a scalable business. To move this to the next level, it needs human and capital investment. This idea will advance with skilled individuals who have business, marketing technology, operational, and financial knowledge. To date, I have spent my time and money on logo development, trademarking, business development, prototypes, marketing materials, advertising, Internet payment products, and building out both the front and back end of the website and regularly updating it. I collaborated with different graphic designers and silkscreen artists searching for the look and quality I want to achieve. Currently, each piece is hand-silkscreened by a young Navajo artist/entrepreneur who owns his business. I use women-owned businesses for graphic design work and website development. Using lean start-up strategies, I surveyed potential customers through conversation and Internet surveys. Positive comments came back from people who received them as gifts or purchased them online or at a holiday marketplace. Past experience when I co-developed a footwear product to benefit a well-known urban zoo and partnered with a large shoe manufacturing company to make and distribute the shoes showed me the value of collaboration. My plan is to continue to engage audiences to raise public awareness of the first three years of life, to seek business, government, and non-profit partners to promote healthy development and to support parents as they adjust to their new role with each child that arrives and their family grows. I will continue to promote Tic Tac GrowPlayWear as growing an idea is much like a developing child and takes time, effort, flexibility, adaptability, and patience.

Business Viability: How viable is your business model? (5000 characters)

Wearing t-shirts with images and words is universal. Our adaptation of messaging early childhood development information on infant clothing borrows from previous and current businesses engaging in sales of ordinary clothing that everyone wears. The business model is straight forward from obtaining the garments, applying silkscreening, labeling items, and packaging and shipping to end users. PlayWear, a soft-touch consumer product, must have high tech support and structure. By 2025, 20 billion devices will be connected to the Internet. Our business model keeps that at the forefront of its structure and adapts as tech innovation continues. Our sales and customer service depends on high quality and ease-of-use communication using the Internet and electronic support for gathering data, enhancing marketing, controlling inventory, establishing communication with customers both business and individual. Barriers will occur with issues from insufficient funding, unforeseen production problems, incomplete communication, technology failures, and issues with shipping during peak times. Setting a plan for growth based on income and expenses, and scaling to avoid over-production will minimize cost overruns. Holding costly inventory will be avoided by aligning production to projected sales and demand. A thoughtful five-year roll out plan with planned target marketing to create impact will utilize advertising dollars to greatest advantage. Developing short-term and long-term goals requires daily attention to details and accountability by everyone participating in Tic Tac Grow PlayWear. Our employees must believe our company values and culture.

HCD: How have you used human centered design to build or refine your concept? (5000 characters)

The concept for Tic Tac Grow PlayWear began years ago while facilitating parent groups. While listening to their woes and joys, I learned many parents raise their children based on how they were raised. Few read books about early development--most fly by the seat of their pants. I reflected on my own parenting experience and listened intently to how parents described their experiences. I learned from working with diverse individuals about their issues. I watched stores that sold products for children, followed new products and saw how they were marketed to families. Observing behavior and products made me astute to various attempts to capture parent's attention. I banked conversations and experiences and mulled solutions based on all comments regardless of perspective. My research took many turns and led me down diverse paths to art non-profits, child welfare agencies, and educational institutions focused on outreach to families. I shared my knowledge with moms, dads, and community outreach projects. Parents talked to me and babies and toddlers played with me--I applied what I heard and learned. New activities reconfigured ideas emerged. I read constantly, mentored teachers, and advocated for better programs always reflecting for understanding. I culled information and conceptualized it. These activities and thoughts inspired the concept for Tic Tac Grow PlayWear. Several iterations followed over two years. Strategyzer gave me tools that helped define and map Tic Tac Grow PlayWear strategy. I used the business model canvas. An online survey reached 150 people that gave feedback about my initial PlayWear idea. A local group of entrepreneurs held a hackathon where we questioned every aspect. Those two activities pushed me to rethink product and message. Listening, observing, and trying different ideas created an aha moment in 2017 leading the way for today's Tic Tac Grow PlayWear. Because it is an evolving idea I continue to listen, learn, and incorporate ideas and information from others. My IDEO mentors helped me clarify what I had to say. They generously connected me to people, business, and government programs. Their insight propelled me towards additional information.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

My experience with early childhood started when I was born the fourth of eight children in a family living in a small rural New Mexico town. Since graduating college, I spent 48 years creating my professional pathway in early childhood. I began as a music teacher in a small preschool on a military base in Idaho, taught 3-5 year olds in Florida and New Mexico, guided parent groups in Illinois, facilitated a community outreach event for 1500 attendees of young children and their parents for a major world museum, served on over thirty non-profit boards for arts, child welfare, educational institutions, and museums while living in Chicago Illinois. My husband and I raised two children that use their creativity to entertain audiences around the world as writers in the entertainment industry. I read to them daily and let them play when they were children to foster their imaginations. Now, being a grandmother, I'm enjoying the fun of reading to my grandson, playing with him, and delighting in his discoveries. After living in the metro Chicago area for 34 years, my husband and I returned to New Mexico in 2010 with the intent to give back to the state that formed us in our childhood years. I kept my focus in early childhood as New Mexico hovers at the bottom of outcomes for vulnerable children. In the past six years, I started an early childhood and family center in my rural NM hometown that has a large Native American population, worked as an interim director for a baby fund at a community foundation, and educated NM early childhood educators about public policy to determine the structure for the early childhood education profession. Currently, I serve on the 9-member Council on Accreditation for National Association for the Education of Young Children in Washington, DC. Woven into these activities has been my effort to create Tic Tac Grow PlayWear--a dream I have to provide a user-friendly way to give early childhood development information to parents and the pubic. My varied and broad life and professional experiences have given me considerable insight into the needs of infants and young children, their parents, and their communities. Outcomes with limited budgets and with unlimited budgets are part of my story. From living life I know that change always happens, flexibility is a must and that to achieve success a thoughtful plan led by people with passion to implement it ensures sustainability. My father started a new business when he was 68 years old. He grew it to a profitable entity that supported low income families. After retiring at age 98, he lived to be 102! My mother is 97, teaches piano, and lives on her own. With my parents' genes and my healthy lifestyle, I have the time to create a business to foster quality of life for infants and toddlers and theirs parents with Tic Tac Grow PlayWear. There is still much work that needs to be done focused on early childhood.

Do you have the people and partners you need to do what you’ve described? (600 characters)

Tic Tac Grow PlayWear's long term goal is to have an international presence. To get there it needs sharp regional plans to spread its message, promote its product, and tweak its business strategies. I seek partners that understand my mission, embrace quality for young children and their families, have experience in soft touch of clothing, grit for wholesale and retail business, curiosity to keep up with technology, persistence to adapt to an ever-changing brick and mortar business model and e-commerce space, and that have hearts to care for ALL babies and toddlers and their parents.

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (1800 characters)

Tic Tac Grow PlayWear will benefit from mentoring from individuals who have already scaled an idea, know business planning and structure, sales and advertising, marketing and public relations, social media and technology, and implementation of strategies for early stage business. It is important for PlayWear to gather support and build contacts to develop further. To grow PlayWear, a strong team with grit, patience, and persistence needs to be identified and developed to support business growth and each other in the challenges of start-up experiences. To push this idea into the mainstream, I need people with experience at networking and ability to connect not only to babies and parents, but also to organizations and businesses. Age, ethnic, gender, and skill diversity will benefit this project.

Would you like mentoring support?

  • Yes

If so, what type of mentoring support do you think you need? (1200 characters)

Mentoring support is needed for sales and inventory management, financial management, advertising and public relations, social media and technology, short and long-term planning and networking.

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with Gary Community Investments?

  • Yes, share my contact information

[Optional] Biography: Upload your biography. Please include links to relevant information (portfolio, LinkedIn profile, organization website, etc).

Judith Lavender, M.Ed., has deep understanding of early childhood development and passionately advocates for play and developmentally appropriate experiences for young children. During her career she has led organizations, chaired outreach projects, started a school, served on over thirty non-profit boards in Chicago, IL and on educational boards in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New Mexico. She serves on the nine-member NAEYC Council on Accreditation.

[Optional] Attachments: Please upload relevant attachments or graphics or show us how you prototyped.

Mentorship: How was your idea supported? (5000 characters)

Conversation with my mentor helped me identify myriads of ways I had prototyped for Tic Tac Grow PlayWear during the past two years. Further, resources she provided gave me more in depth reading about business communication strategies. Another mentor connected me to two individuals that I contacted and had further conversations. I plan to touch back to my mentors through email with further questions. Both had terrific suggestions and easily explored my ideas with me.

What is your stage of development?

  • Early Stage Innovator, with at least one-year experience in ECD


  • For - Profit

What is the stage of your proposal?

  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing my idea.

Select an Innovation Target

  • Product: A new or enhanced physical product that creates value for end beneficiaries.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Tamara Kaldor

Love seeing another Erikson alumna pushing playful interactions with young children, Judith! I would love to see some shirts with questions an adult/older sibling could ask their baby to support emotional connections and language development. The possibilities are endless and hospitals.organizations could send parents home with a starter set of onesies and board books to help parents and older siblings that can read.

Photo of Judith Lavender

Hi Tamara...thank you for reaching out. There is nothing better than human centered design to push possibilities. Where are you?

Photo of Tamara Kaldor

I'm the associate director of the Technology in Early Childhood (TEC) Center at Erikson. I think we may have met many years ago at an alumni event. Our former program coordinator, Amanda Armstrong is getting her Ph.D. at NMSU. Lots of great EI people in New Mexico. Sending hugs!

Photo of Judith Lavender

I think we met when I attended a tech conference at EI in Chicago a few years ago. It would be great to make contact with Amanda. If you have her contact information, would you please send it to me via my website? Would you be willing to brainstorm your suggestions with me in a couple of weeks? Your encouragement is much appreciated.

Photo of Judith Lavender

I think we met when I attended a tech conference at EI in Chicago a few years ago. It would be great to make contact with Amanda. If you have her contact information, would you please send it to me via my website? Would you be willing to brainstorm your suggestions with me in a couple of weeks? Your encouragement is much appreciated.