We are excited to present the Play with a Purpose blog to the early childhood education community! At Play with a Purpose, we pride ourselves as a leader in providing physical activity products for young children. Now, through this blog, we aim to be a top-notch resource of tips and tricks that teachers and child care professionals can implement with children under their care. All blogs are written by educators for educators, providing you with field-tested ideas and research. With a love for active play, our authors are educated in all aspects of early education and can’t wait to share their experience with you!

Thank you for visiting the Play with a Purpose blog!

About Play with a Purpose

Play with a Purpose came into this world in 1995 as a division of Gopher Sport, a company with more than 70 years of industry experience. Just as the first years of life can be critical to the development of young children, the same can be said of businesses!

We’ve learned from our parent company, tested our limits and boundaries, developed skills, and grown from every experience, every adventure. Now we are out there, industry leaders ourselves! What sets us apart is excellent customer service and unique product selection. We’re passionate about what we do, and it shows.


Karen Phillips
Karen PhillipsPreschool Teacher
Karen has been dabbling in teaching environmental science for about 33 years through the National Park Service, non-profit organizations, California Air Districts and as a school docent. Her BS Degree in Environmental and Systematic Biology led her to a nearly 15 year career working in inspection and enforcement for two air districts in California. She is entering her eighth year teaching preschool in a play-based school with a strong science emphasis, and she just completed an AS Degree in Early Childhood Education. In Karen’s free time she cares for several honeybee hives, gardens, watercolor paints, travels, and loves outdoor Dutch oven and solar cooking.
Brian Smith
Brian SmithKindergarten Teacher
Brian Smith is a kindergarten teacher at Oxford Elementary, which is part of Catawba County Schools. He also teaches in the education department as an adjunct professor at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, North Carolina. He is proud to be have been named an ASCD Emerging Leader in 2015 and an understood.orgteacher fellow for the 2019-2020 school year.He has been married for 20 years to an amazing woman, Liz, who not only puts up with but appreciates his shenanigans and is the proud parent of a 15-year-old daughter, Ella.
Robin Dean
Robin DeanNana's Learning Post
My name is Robin Dean and I have been truly blessed to work in Early Childhood Education. I love to inspire children with a lifelong love of learning. I love to bring fun learning experiences to the children in our care. Watching children grow and bloom into confident, curious, and creative children fills my heart with joy. I truly enjoy sharing my passion about teaching young children with other educators so they can also create fun in their learning experiences. Being in an outdoor environment bring me peace as I breathe in fresh air, and listen to nature sounds such as birds, cicadas, and wind chimes (to name a few sounds). We soon learned that having an Outdoor Classroom helped children engage and focus on tasks better than inside four walls, and they were calmer as well, so it paired well with our PWPBS.
Alisha Kriege
Alisha KriegePWAP Brand Manager
Alisha Kriege is the Brand Manager for Play with a Purpose. She has been working with the Play with a Purpose brand since graduating college and recently received her MBA in International Business Management. Alisha has a passion for helping Early Childhood professionals enhance their classrooms and help find fun ways to keep PLAY in the classroom. Outside of work Alisha can be found hanging out outside with her husband, Greg or traveling the globe.
Preston Blackburn
Preston BlackburnFounder Pop, Hop, & Rock
Preston created Pop, Hop & Rock in 2000 when her children were preschoolers. What started as an exercise program has evolved into one that focuses on creating opportunities for kids to hone fundamental strengths and skills that allow them to develop physical literacy and build aerobic, core and other foundational strengths proven to make kids better learners. Preston believes that kids who are confident movers are also confident on the playground, sports field, classroom and most importantly, in life.