Renowned Speaker and Play Activist Jenny Ward has brought the joy of life all over the globe. She received her MFA from New York University, is a licensed Life Coach and Author of three books. She is the CEO of, and a proud mother of Leela, her greatest teacher on play.

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The Art of Play at Work

When I graduated from high school everyone was telling me that it was time to “grow up.” Not knowing any other choice I followed the rules. I went off to college, got a full time job and grew up (so to speak.) As time went on I began to notice that FUN wasn’t a part of “work.” Work was meant to be taken seriously, which I totally understood, but always left my cubicle with a void. It isn’t taught in our society that joy needs to be just as important as salary and status. In fact we only ourselves “hobby” time which is usually minimal. When I was fourteen, I had a roller skating party for my birthday. As my dad and I were skating he said something to me that I will never forget. “Jenny, enjoy this time because once you hit eighteen, it is time to grow up and be responsible.” I couldn’t believe it. I only had four more years of fun until I had to grow and act like an adult. To this day, I don’t really understand what that means. Why is it important to put our joy last in order to be responsible. We are taught that work is not meant to be enjoyed or something we love, yet we spend most of our time there. Most people I meet tell me that they are looking forward to vacations, weekends and retirement. I find this saddening. Why spend most of your life looking forward to a time when you can finally have fun? Why not have fun now? Enjoy all of your life, not just some of it.

Work and play are one and the same. Passion is an important part of creating, and creating is play. We are all told that life begins once we retire, but I disagree. I believe that life begins now and that I don’t have to wait until I am sixty-five in order to be happy. Happiness is a choice, and its time to bring play into all places of work.

Imagine your co-workers as playmates. As children it didn’t matter what size jeans our playmates wore, the color of their skin or background, or what GPA they had. What mattered was fun . Coming together to create and share different points of view that didn’t have to be “the only way” or right.

Where imagination was your best friend and it didn’t matter how messy you got. Life is our greatest teacher, and every moment it offers us a chance to experience Joy, especially at work. Here are some playful suggestions to bring to integrate into work.

  • Wear glitter under your suit/outfit
  • Hang a picture of you (as a kid) above your computer
  • Write memos in crayons
  • Skip outside during lunch and practice your kart-wheels
  • Ask an employee over for playtime and tea
  • Create a playful lunch full of marshmallows, peanut butter and jelly
  • Plan a meeting where every employee says one thing they love about working there
  • Have play dough available for use throughout the day
  • Give yourself a dance break (2 minutes is perfect): put your favorite tunes on and invite others to get up and just move
  • Write (in crayon) one thing you love about yourself each day, and have that list right by your desk
  • Give a round of applause when each employee comes in for work in the morning
  • Pretend its Halloween one day

When we begin to become aware of the essence of play, it begins to become a way of being . We don’t need to schedule play into our lives, because every thing we do comes from a place of being playful.

We walk differently. Hug longer. Skip instead of run. Learn from kids, not just teach them. Watch the moon. Love ourselves.

It’s all on how we choose to perceive life. It can be an adventure or we can just go with the motions, without seeing the playfulness life truly is about.

Create each moment with the intention to be playful, and pass it on.



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