Explorations Early Learning

Promoting play, defending childhood, and empowering caregivers.

Explorations Early Learning

About Jeff A Johnson

Explorations Early Learning is the internet home of early learning trainer, podcaster, author, advocate, and former toymaker, Jeff A Johnson.

About Explorations Early Learning

It all started back in 2003 when Explorations Early Learning was the name of our family child care program. Over the years, the business has evolved, but the name has stayed the same.

After 16+ years, in a moment of frustration and exhaustion, Jeff quit a job he loved with a large non-profit agency. He walked in the door as a volunteer and ended up directing a child care program and community center that served hundreds of children a day.

Twenty minutes after quitting, he realized he was burnt out and unemployed. His wife, Tasha, assistant director of the child care center, quit the next day–she had been burnt out for years.

They quickly started a family child care program focused on child-led play and learning.

They ran the Explorations Early Learning family child care for 10+ years. During that time, Jeff had the opportunity to write some books for Redleaf Press that focused on play, relationships, and caregiver self-care. He also began to spend a lot of time traveling as an early learning speaker.

In 2013, they closed their program to focus full-time on providing early learning training as well as creating and curating digital content promoting play, child-led learning, and caregiver self-care.


Jeff did his first presentation in the fall of 2000 at the Iowa AEYC annual conference. That went well, and gigs as an unpaid speaker led to paid speaking gigs.

Since then, thanks to word-of-mouth promotion from satisfied attendees, he’s presented across the United States, Canada, and Australia. He’s also done periodic online training for about 15 years. Attendees describe his sessions as heartfelt, inspirational, high-energy, and humorous.

Exhausted and homesick from spending up to six months a year on the road, in late 2017, he decided to cut back on live and in-person events and focus on online training.

Now Explorations Early Learning offers regular live sessions via this website, collaborates with other agencies to offer open-to-the-public sessions, and is available for hire as an online trainer.

Here are a bunch of photos taken while running the roads in the last few years of the 20-teens:


Jeff began podcasting in 2013. In additional to his original show, The Child Care Bar And Grill, Explorations Early Learning now hosts and produces several early learning focused shows featuring popular early learning authors like Lisa Murphy, Heather Shumaker, Angela Hanscom, and Dan Hodgins. There are currently over 1600 episodes–totaling over 700 hours of content—available.

Jeff’s Books

While Jeff currently prefers the ease and immediacy of sharing content in the form of podcasts and blog posts, he was lucky enough to have the opportunity to write some books back when he favored that format–mostly during the Explorations Early Learning family child care days.

Do-It-Yourself Early Learning | Redleaf Press

Finding Your Smile Again | Redleaf Press
The Child Care Alphabet Book of Early Learning | Self-Published

Everyday Early Learning | Redleaf Press
The Child Care Alphabet Book of Manipulatives | Self-Published

Babies In The Rain | Redleaf Press

Keeping Your Smile | Redleaf Press

Let Them Play | Redleaf Press

Let’s Play | Redleaf Press

Let’s All Play | Redleaf Press

Playvolution HQ

In 2016, Jeff founded Playvolution HQ as a companion site to the Explorations Early Learning site and a home for original and curated early learning content. The site now houses all those podcast episodes as well as thousands of early learning quotes, do-it-yourself projects, article, and more.


At one time, Explorations Early Learning was also a toy company. Jeff spent over a decade making low-tech, high-think wooden toys. While it was enjoyable and rewarding, it also took up lots of time and space, and the toy making ended in 2020 to make room for other projects.

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