Our Story 2018-03-06T00:17:43+00:00

Our Story

What is PunkinFutz?

  • Punkin – a playful nickname for someone you love, frequently a small person
  • Futz – to play, have fun, make a mess, and be silly
  • PunkinFutz – celebrates the magic of being a kid!

Who is PunkinFutz?

PunkinFutz was launched in 2016 by parents, Lisa and David, to meet product gaps they experienced for their own children. PunkinFutz products:

  • are not one-size-fits-all
  • meet therapeutic needs, while still supporting individual choice-making and creative play
  • foster dynamic self-expression, exploration, and child-led fun
Founders Lisa and David

Founders Lisa and David

Rebekah photo

Head of Design and Production

Whitney photo

Chief Marketing Officer

Peri photo

Occupational Therapist OTR/L

What drives PunkinFutz?

Three values drive the development of our products:

badge therapeutic need


Enabling creative play for every child at a broad variety of ability levels

badge whimsy & wonder


Making fun our value proposition

badge responsible production


Supporting our community, including job creation, sustainability & environmental responsibility

What’s so important about play?

By definition, child creative play is child-led. It is a series of choices and constructs initiated by the child. The desire to play to not unique to humans; it is observed across diverse species throughout evolution.[1] According to Dr. Doris Bergen,[2] as reported in the Journal of Early Childhood Research and Practice:[3]

“there is a growing body of evidence supporting the many connections between cognitive competence and high-quality pretend play. If children lack opportunities to experience such play, their long-term capacities related to metacognition, problem solving, and social cognition, as well as to academic areas such as literacy, mathematics, and science, may be diminished. These complex and multidimensional skills involving many areas of the brain are most likely to thrive in an atmosphere rich in high-quality pretend play.”

In addition, psychologist Lev Vygotsky’s[4] ground-breaking work found that Imaginative play is a crucial component of a child’s cognitive and behavioral development:

“Through child-centered play, children take on different roles and try out different language uses, all of which help them on the journey from being externally regulated to internally regulated in cognition.  Through play, children become more competent in their language use and begin to regulate their own thought processes.” 

As such, we believe that creative play is even more important to children with disabilities. According to research (Casby (1997), Neeley, Neeley, Justen and Tipton-Sumner (2001), etc.), children with language, cognitive and developmental disabilities develop through play similarly to their average-developing counterparts. In fact, according to the extensive work of Dr. Maite Garaigordobil Landazabal,[5] the effects of creative and social play on study participants with lower pre-intervention test scores showed the greatest improvements in multiple studies across children ages 3 through 11 years.[6][7]

What’s so special about PunkinFutz products?

At PunkinFutz, we treat therapeutic value as the bare minimum requirement for our product design. Beyond that minimum, our products must support creative play and choice-making for children with differing ability levels. Our design process brings together occupational and physical therapists, designers, parents and children to make sure that we incorporate all aspects of the child. Finally, we source components that support worker’s rights, while protecting our children’s economic and environmental futures.

By making our products in adaptive and supportive workplaces and hiring from the communities we serve, we don’t just focus on your child today. We are also creating jobs for our children tomorrow. As a result, PunkinFutz products are made with a level of care and attention to detail that only comes of mission-driven employees. You can buy the best quality product for your child and support your community values at the same time.   It is a value proposition uniquely PunkinFutz!

[1] Auerbach, Kanarek and Burghardt To play or not to play? That’s a resource abundance question, Journal of Adaptive Behavior, 2015, (23(6), 354-361).

[2] In 2000, Dr. Bergen received the NAECTE/Allyn-Bacon award as Outstanding Early Childhood Teacher Educator and was also recognized as a Miami University Distinguished Scholar. She is director of Miami University’s Center for Human Development, Learning, and Teaching, which conducts interdisciplinary research and education for professionals who work with at-risk populations.

[3] http://ecrp.uiuc.edu/v4n1/bergen.html

[4] Vygotsky was a pioneering psychologist and his major works span six separate volumes, written over roughly 10 years, from Psychology of Art (1925) to Thought and Language [or Thinking and Speech] (1934).

[5] Dr. Garaigordobil Landazabal is the author of 29 books, 60 chapters, and more than 140 articles of research published in journals of recognized national and international prestige. Among her many prizes, she was awarded the First National Award of Educational Research in 1994 and 2003, granted by the Ministry of Education and Science; in 2012, she received the Nicolás Seisdedos Prize for the best Research Work in Psychological Assessment.

[6] Garaigordobil Landazabal, M, Prosocial and creative play: Effects of a programme on verbal and nonverbal intelligence of children aged 10-11 years, Internationl Journal of Psychology, 2005, (40 (3), 176-188).

[7] Garaigordobil Landazabal, M, and Berrueco, L. Effects of a Play Program on Creative Thinking of Preschool Children, Spanish Journal of Psychology, 2011, (14 (2), 608-618).