My son and I have a deal. If he gets to school before “circle time” I will stay and play with him until the bell rings to gather all the children. It’s a good deal for both of us. He gets extra mommy time and I get both kids to school on time (his sister’s school starts right before his does).

For the past few months, my participation in actual play time at school has been luke-warm. At first, my son loved playing with me in the mornings but now he’s made friends (he doesn’t need me there but never wants me to leave – and we did make a deal). The playtime has also moved outdoors with warmer weather and that means playing in the sandbox. If there’s one thing I hate, it is sand in my shoes. So I let him run off into the sandbox with his friends and his shovels and I hang around awkwardly watching the kids play and wishing I was somewhere else.

Today I made a different choice. When he handed me a shovel and beckoned me to follow him, I did. I stepped into the sandbox. And I entered a whole world I wasn’t really aware of. There’s a hiding place inside the play castle that I didn’t know was there, and the shovels are energy weapons of some kind, and there’s a grudgingly played game where one kid swipes stuff and buries it in the sand and the other kids have to find it and unbury it if they want it back. And there’s sunshine, and parents near the fence waving with love as they leave for the day, and imaginations shining at the far side of the sandbox too.

When we choose play, we choose life. Sometimes getting to the play means risking sand in your shoes, risking discomfort. But it’s so worth it.

When the bell rang, I gave my hugs and kisses and goodbyes. I felt better than I had in weeks. Instead of coming home and mindlessly zoning out for an hour (as I might do another day after kid drop off), I chose to write this article, and start another.

The really wonderful thing I want to share with you all is that play is not just reserved for these moments. Not just for dropping kids at school, or your Fridays out with friends or your weekends away. You can have play at work too. Your work CAN BE play. Even if your work is something very serious, even if you are grappling with critical world issues on a daily basis, you can be saving the world and PLAYING AT THE SAME TIME.

This is the work we’re playing at with Space for Play. If you want in on the conversation, drop a like on our Facebook page or join our mailing list below.