Sometimes You Just Have to Stop and Smell the Play Dough


By Esti Barker

Some will say it’s free coffee and all-you-can-eat lunches. Others will go with dental plans.

But I found that the biggest perk of working for my company is the in-house daycare center. It was a huge attraction for me when I was hired for creative marketing, a newly single mom of several kids, the youngest of whom was merely 17 months old. I’d never held a full-time job before, and there was no way I was leaving my baby, she of wispy pigtails and cheeky smile, in someone else’s care for eight entire hours a day!

Never mind the new situations that faced me: My team was the exclusive, tight-knit, genius idea factory with years of experience under their belt, and I was the newbie on her first day of school. That I would need to hit the ground running, pick up all sorts of insider jokes and shop talk, and crank out projects to prove myself was not my main concern, however, and I shed gallons of tears at the thought of my approaching start date. I was squeezing in long afternoons at the park, cuddle sessions, and cookie decorating.

Looking back, I should have worried less about daycare, and more about how much chocolate I could have fit into my drawer.

Because where the office was fast-paced, competitive, and high pressure, the daycare room was warm, safe, and non-judgmental. I took the time to have lunch with my baby, and visit her several times a day. When I had a second, I popped in for a hug.

When my idea was tossed out the window at a meeting, I dropped by for an emergency bonding session. The staff was affectionate and caring, and every kid in the room was well-fed, clean and content. Sometimes I’d just pass by to see what she was up to, and it gave me incredible peace of mind to see how she enjoyed the atmosphere.


Eventually, this baby became a preschooler and outgrew daycare. But I still found myself making a beeline for the daycare room whenever things got hairy at work. The daycare room holds all of life’s simplest goodness between its walls; it is a place of pure happiness, and happiness begets productivity.

So if I needed ideas, I took a few minutes to tell the toddlers a story I made up on the spot. If I wanted a fresh take on something, I’d park myself in the room and watch the kids squishing play dough at brightly colored tables, because the act of simply creating shapeless masses brought them immense joy.

And there is nothing like giving an impromptu puppet show to two-year-olds to inspire creativity. I would always go back to my desk refreshed and ready to tackle that project. And what’s more, my friends sometimes let me shoot pics of their kids for our annual fundraising catalog.

These days, I’m still a big believer in an occasional trip to the daycare room. I sometimes yearn for the times that my own baby was right down the hall from me, but I’ll settle for the benefits of having a convenient source of tiny muses.

And I pay attention to everything, especially the play dough.

Because you never do know where your next flash of inspiration will come from.

esti-barkerEsti Barker enjoys her work in Creative Marketing at Oorah, which also happens to be a built-in sock puppet factory, social scene, and Parisian café. In her spare time, she cajoles her five (very tolerant and cooperative) kids to stand still long enough to photograph them in various area parks, after which there is usually oodles of ice cream for all.

2 thoughts on “Sometimes You Just Have to Stop and Smell the Play Dough

  1. Sarah Kasendorf says:

    Well written article… It is so important to surround yourself with little ones that will help keep you young. The innocence of children and their ability to find even the most simple things entertaining makes you want to be a kid again. A child’s laughter is the best remedy and it is contagious.

  2. How old is LO? What is the age range in the classroom? Our first dacyare which LO attended until she was a year had all infants in the same room 6wks – 13 months. They did not put all the infants on the same schedule so there was not a lights out quiet time. Around the time LO was really crawling, napping really suffered. She went from napping 3+ hours a day at dacyare to less than an hour total. When we changed dacyares, the new one has a split infant room (she was in the older half) where they established a definite schedule. Everyone ate and slept at the same times. They didn’t do lights out through.Now that she’s in a toddler room (started at about 15 months), they have lights out quiet time for their nap. When we made the change to the new dacyare, the older infants all were about a year old. They were all transitioned to one nap after lunch that was 2-3 hours long.Also, we found that LO couldn’t nap near certain other kids. Too much interaction between cribs and not enough sleeping. I belive LO ended up in a crib in the corner most of the time with no one around her.Also, does your LO have a comfort item (a lovey and pacifier)? Our LO sleeps much better if she has some object that she can cuddle with. She’s not particular about what it is as long as she has something.I would suggest the following:1) request a crib move.2) request that your LO be put in the crib at specific times (after 2 hours of awake time for example)3) request that even if LO doesn’t fall asleep that they don’t remove from the crib for a certain amount of time. Our LO sometimes babbles herself to sleep.

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