All work and no play? Not with The Playful Space | Entertainment

What’s in a name? When it comes to The Playful Space, a new creative business, it’s basically a mission statement.

“Play is at the heart of The Playful Space,” said founder Emily Hay. “Its mission is to invigorate the community.”

Born out of her own struggle to develop a personal creative outlet, The Playful Space aims to help people of all ages to connect, create and find joy in their lives through workshops, children’s playdates, retreats and more.

Whether the 8-to-5 work grind or a demanding home life (or both) have left you feeling depleted, that’s exactly the time to get creative.

Hay said, “For adults, the misconception is that the opposite of work is rest, but it’s actually play.”

That concept is more easily embraced by children, which Hay has seen firsthand as a mother of two and through her background in education. She has a degree in early childhood development and psychology from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and worked for the Bakersfield City School District in its special education program. She has worked in traditional preschool settings as well as homes as a nanny in San Francisco and Chicago.

The impetus for The Playful Space developed years ago while Hay was a nanny in Chicago as she looked into creating an actual physical space for children to move and play with art and sensory experiences. She put that idea on the backburner as she returned to her hometown and earned her teaching credential.

After getting married and the birth of her son, Hay realized how unhappy she was not having time to be creative while caught between the demands of home and work as a special education teacher.

Attending a retreat with Jessi Reinhart of InHER Compass, she said she found a renewed focus and committed to five to 10 minutes of creativity a day, along with a daily gratitude practice and “radical self-care.”

Then, like many, Hay struggled to adjust during the pandemic, which had her working from home and teaching via Zoom with a toddler and another baby on the way.

Despite the additional stress, the time at home gave There is a chance to play, both through hands-on activities and art with her son and journaling, art projects, hikes on their ranch and cooking.

After the birth of her daughter, Hay returned to her dream of building something that could help connect others through creativity.

“I had to sit with myself and my dreams. Would I have stayed safe with my classroom and benefits if I hadn’t had time? … This COVID time was a big shock to the system for many. Until you take that risk , make that choice, you’ll never know what’s on the other side.”

The Playful Space began in January as a create and connect retreat with 10 women. The business has grown to include journaling workshops, day and weekend retreats, Creativity + Cocktails evening experiences, mama-and-me play dates and personal workshops.

All the offerings involve a creative project and, for adults, some introspection.

For Heather Laganelli, owner of Locale Farm to Table, who has participated in four events including a retreat, it’s the combination of creativity and self-examination that is intriguing.

“One of my favorite things is the ‘I am’ statement,” Laganelli said. “She (Hay) explains you aren’t what your title is, that you’re a compilation of all things that you love.

“She starts off every class prompting attendees to list 20 things that they are to introduce themselves to the group. Like ‘I am long walks.’ Sometimes it’s not all great — ‘sleeping after my alarm goes off.’ (The exercise) breaks the ice a little bit and allows for a deeper level of connection.”

“It also helps people shift their perspective on how they view themselves and others.”

“We rethink how we introduce ourselves,” Hay said. “It’s what we love instead of our labels. We’re all about digging deeper.”

That expression allows the group to open up.

“They tend to really find the freedom to share their stories when they hear other stories. That opens the door to vulnerability,” she said, going on to quote author Dr. Brene Brown, who said “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”

Workshops involve an “altered book,” a journal or repurposed hardcover book that participants can write in and add art or other personal elements.

“If you’ve got a shoebox with little mementos, items special to you, this is a great place to put those things,” Hay said of the books.

After the session, attendees take their books home and can add to them when inspired and bring them back for other events.

Even just six months in, Hay said she has seen creativity take root in participants.

“Women have become inspired to chase their own dreams thanks to a safe and forgiving environment that allows them to implement the creative process in their daily life.”

She has also tapped into the local creative community, working with Laganelli, Shanell Tyus, creative coach with Black, Creative, and Dope; and Kami Paulsen, creator of the Bako Box.

Hay and Paulsen partnered with other local businesses for a Kids Box, which Hay said is “a great way to get a taste for what we do.”

“The box is a way for kiddos to step away from the screen. It features products from amazing women creatives in Kern County.”

Available at, the box ($125) comes with a voucher for a Mommy & Me Creative Play Date from The Playful Space; sunglasses from Belle Mae Lou; summer-themed pajamas from Little Pajama Co.; “Indy, Oh Indy: Pismo Or Bust!” by author Teresa Adamo and illustrator Jennifer Williams Cordova; a kids ocean animals or science activity book from Quiet Book Queen; a carry-around crayon and sketch pad from Katy Moore of Bako Gifts; an engaging mermaid or beach-themed play box from Allie Yates of Simply Sensory Fun; and organic home-made play dough from Brianda Gonzalez of Kidd Doh.

Journaling workshops continue and a retreat is planned for the fall. There would eventually love to open a brick-and-mortar creative venue, as she initially dreamed, that would be kid-friendly during the day but able to serve as a space for workshops and events for adults in the evening.

For now, the focus is encouraging others to create and connect at every level.

“If I am inspiring one person, then my job is done.”

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.


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