What if parenting could be a creative collaboration between kids and adults, one which is more play-based and joyful? That’s the idea behind The Workspace for Children, a resource website, and a blog founded by Lizzie Assa, our NJMOMpreneur of the Week. A former pre-school teacher with a master’s degree in education and mom to three girls, Lizzie’s insight brings parenting to a different level—giving moms and dads a chance to connect with their kids through play. Her site is chock-full of simple-to-set-up activities, recommendations on supplies and toys that promote kids’ expressive sides, education-based advice to help kids develop social and emotional skills, and the kind of real talk that lets moms know they’re not in it alone. We had a chance to sit down with her to chat about parenting during a pandemic (hint: no one’s doing it perfectly), how being an entrepreneur has taught her kids life lessons, and her favorite local spot to sneak away for a perfect socially-distant family outing.
Featured image via Lizzie Assa
You have a background in education and are a mom to three, which seems like an ideal combination of experience for your business. Tell us about what you do and how you got started with The Workspace for Children.
The Workspace for Children started five years ago when I opened a small process art studio for young children and their grownups to gather, create, and learn. I photographed and shared the work we were doing in the studio. As my Instagram account gained traction, I started blogging about art, play, and parenting. My posts cover everything from “The Best Playroom Toys for All Ages” to issues like “Super Parenting and Perfection”. Last spring, I decided to try my hand at an ebook all about quiet time and independent play, which currently has over 2,500 downloads. That success gave me the impetus to create an online course, helping moms all around the world to avoid parenting burnout by bringing back play. The course offers ways to encourage quiet time and independent play for kids so that they’re not on a screen—I find it thrilling to share my knowledge and help so many people.
Right now, we are all spending more time than ever at home, which has parents looking for strategies and ideas to keep their kids engaged and stimulated. How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed what you do and how you help families?
I love this question—I’ve changed my website and Instagram to reflect what’s happening with my audience. Dreamy images and after-school art provocations are on hold and instead, I am offering families more information-based graphics that will help them engage and connect with their children, while also being clear on their boundaries and limits as a parent. No one needs to be winning any perfection awards right now (or ever). I’ve also been writing blog posts around what it’s like to navigate the particular challenges with kids during this time, like helping your child understand and get used to wearing a mask.
What have you learned most as a parent and through your business?
I have learned that in mothering and business, showing up as your true, authentic self is always a good idea. You might not know all the answers and that is okay–no one does.
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Do you avoid messy play, especially indoors? You are not alone. Allowing our children to get messy can feel intimidating and overwhelming, and I totally understand that. Here’s the thing, though. Getting messy is SO important for healthy child development. When our children are engaged in rich sensory play, they are LEARNING a lot. They are in the zone and developing imperative life skills. Messy play supports language development, fine and gross motor skills (hello, pre-writing!), spacial awareness (math all the way!), independent play (you deserve a break), and a chance to process their world. They are making predictions and finding out the answers all on their own. Most importantly, this kind of messy, sensory play allows our children the freedom to create their own play. Now, obviously, you DO NOT need to bring a bucket of mud inside, even just some simple soapy water or paint will do just fine. Today, I am on the blog with FIVE TIPS FOR HANDLING MESSY PLAY INDOORS. Clickable link is in my profile above. Please tell me what it is about messy play that scares you? Or maybe you have a tip on making it easier and you want to share that? I will hop into stories later today with the answers. ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• #theworkspace #raisingcreativekids #openendedplay #learningthroughplay #sensoryplay #preschoolathome #ourcolorfulkids #enchantedchildhood #earlyyearsideas #mymotherhood #messy_motherhood #momtruth #momsouttherekillingit #thebigkidyears #honestmotherhood #momlife #flashesofdelight #mytinymoments #mommyblogger #letthembelittle #liveauthentic #ohheymama #lovelysquares #documentingmotherhood #motherhoodthroughinstagram #themagicofchildhood #teammotherly #bestofmom #momtruth
What do you think your children have gained by watching you grow your business?
They have learned so much from this, and it is so wonderful having them along for the ride. They’ve taken part in the highest highs when I launched my first product and the sales poured in. They’ve also seen me cry and yell with frustration when a webinar crashed, or a post I worked so hard on bombed. My children have waited patiently (and not so patiently) while I have spent weekends locked in my office working. They’ve also been the receiving end of trying out new scooters and toys and have even gone on hosted vacations, which is a fortunate benefit to all of this. Being an entrepreneur is a lot of highs and lows and my family has been a part of it all—I am so proud to share this journey with them. It has taught them not to quit when things are hard. It has also shown them that failing can be a huge gift, as long as you run into it with open arms.
Tell us about your favorite local places to visit with your family.
We love the woods—the South Mountain Reservation is nearby and we spend a lot of time exploring there. We’re always riding bikes and scooters into Maplewood Village, but now we do it in masks, pick up take-out instead of eating in, and enjoy our food together in Memorial Park.
What advice do you have for a budding NJMOMpreneur?
Go in with your whole heart and have realistic expectations. When you build your business, it’s going to take time and a lot of hard work, but always remember why you’re doing it to help you through the hard times.