The Explorations Early Learning Toys Origin Story

After writing a book full of Do It Yourself early learning ideas, attendees at speaking events started saying things like, “Neat ideas, but I don’t want to do it myself. Why don’t you do it for me?” So we made some stuff to sell to the people who asked for it.

After the second DIY book came out, people at training events started saying things like, “You should really make and sell some of this stuff. People like me don’t have time to do it ourselves. So we added a few items to our Explorations Early Learning website.

Time passed, more books were published, more people said nice stuff about our products, and we set up the eeltoys.com site.

Now making toys keeps us busy and it’s fulfilling to see photos and hear stories from people who enjoy the things we make.

Our Staff

Jeff A Johnson


Jeff makes toys and shares them with the internet. He’s loved the smell of sawdust, the hum of power tools, and the chance to slice and dice hunks of wood into useful stuff. Seeing kids enjoy his creations is a pleasant bonus.


Tasha Johnson

Seamstress and Anchor

Tasha is the anchor that keeps Jeff form floating away and the glue that holds everything together. She is a huge part of everything that happens at Explorations Early Learning. She sews all our fabric-based products, proofreads and edits, helps with toy making, takes pictures, tests prototypes, and generally keeps things running.



Head Of Security

Alert and perceptive, she’s responsible for keeping everyone and everything safe and secure.


Slinky Dog

Comic Relief

He’s a loyal and dedicated goofball who’s either wiggling and twisting like a Slinky on a trampoline…or napping.


About Us

We’ve been sweethearts since way back in the summer of 1986*.
We have two children, Tyler and ZoĆ«, who are grown and off living adventurous lives. We also have an awesome granddaughter, Rowan and grandson, Ryker. 

We started working with children as volunteers in a community center run by a large non-profit in 1988. We worked with school age children–helping with homework, playing Dodge Ball in the gym, and just hanging out. After a few years I was running the community center. Soon, I oversaw the birth of a child care program for the same agency. It started small in a church basement. It grew quickly and soon Tasha was my assistant director. In a few years the program was housed in a state of the art facility and serving over 120 children a day.

In 2003, after 16 years of center-based care, we burnt out and quit our jobs. We started our own family child care program. For over 10 years, our days were spent with laughs, conversation, play, exploration, discoveries, and fun in a program we built from scratch. It was during this stretch of time that the ideas that lead to this website first worked their way into presentations and books.

On August 14, 2013, we closed the family child care program and ‘retired’ to pursue hobbies: speaking at early learning events, recording podcasts, advocating for child-led play and caregiver self-care, and growing our toy business.

*Jeff Explains How Tasha Picked him Up Way Back In 1986

It was July. I was supposed to be going to drivers education class, but there was a public swimming pool halfway between my house and the school. After a few days, I decided that hanging out at the pool would be a much better way to spend my time.

One day I saw a beautiful blond sitting alone at the pool. She was reading a romance novel and looking all “Madonna” in her purple one-piece swimsuit and black sunglasses. I asked some kid to go spit a mouth full of water on her and tell her I said hello. The kid approached her, his cheeks puffed out with water. She persuaded him not to spit the water on her with “The Look” and a well worded threat. He cracked. He pointed across the pool at me and made his escape.

I bravely approached her and we started to talk. A while later we were in the pool splashing and joking around. I went 90% of the way in for a kiss. She came the final 10%…the softest, sweetest, most electrifying kiss of my life. We’ve been together ever since, and her kisses are even sweeter after more than 30 years.

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