Thursday, August 30, 2012

Plug & Play Austin: My Morning Off!

Plug & Play Austin, a new space catering to parents looking to get some work done while their children are actively engaged in play and learning activmties in Reggio Emilia-based "classrooms", recently opened up in Northwest Austin, and as soon as I heard about the concept, I just knew that it would be a great fit for my needs.

As a freelance writer, local blogger and full-time mother, I have many hats to wear. My life is a giant juggling act, and given that for the above three labels, I work from home (I also work outside of the home, but that's another story entirely!), I have a hard time finding balance at home. Though working at home is doable, it's certainly not ideal, as any woman who has ever sat down to work and then remembered the laundry sitting in the dryer for the third day in a row can attest to.

Enter Plug & Play. This gorgeous, open space had been created with the working parent in mind, with conference rooms, comfy nooks with lap desks to create a more home-y feel (that's where I worked and it was lovely!), private, curtained desks, a work bar (bar as in long bar table, not the booze kind, much to my productivity's relief!), and many other varieties of work spaces where you can conduct a conference call, hold a meeting for your start-up, blog, work on freelance writing assignments, and much, much more (Confession: While I did work a significant portion of my time there, I may or may not have also completed my college pick 'em entry. Priorities, y'all!)!

Here are a few of the comfy spaces you can choose from to work:

There is also a fully equipped media center, complete with printer/fax/scanner for any needs that may arise during your visit. And, if you happen to be working through a meal, why not heat up your lunch at the microwave on hand? 

As for the childcare portion, I'm hesitant to even refer to it as childcare. The structured schedule, which includes time for art, music, learning centers, quiet time, snacks and lunch and more, is far more reminiscent of a preschool classroom, and is separated into age groups for developmentally appropriate activities. Ava was in the 2-5 class, which I loved, since she is so interested in older kids and I am a big advocate for classrooms set up in large age groupings! What better way for a younger child to learn a new skill or become interested in a slightly advanced concept than by being motivated by their older peers? I truly cannot say enough good things about this style of classroom.

The class itself was founded on the beliefs of the Reggio Emilia school of thought, of which some major tenants include a focus on children engaging all of their senses in the learning process, giving children some control over the direction of their learning, and encouraging the endless ways in which children can express themselves.

I think we all can admit that I'm a bit of a granola parent in my take on things, and - given that she's safe and healthy - allow Ava to express herself in an abundance of ways and engage her learning through active exploration of our community, so this was a great fit for us. It was also A's first "classroom" experience and time in the care of someone other than me, David or his parents, so it was a big morning for us!

As for my productivity, I will admit to having a hard time hunkering down and working. For a mom who so frequently has time to herself, it was tempting to spend a couple of glorious hours on Facebook, but instead I chose to get my work done and was able to get a ton of posts and little projects that needed my full attention (rather than the half attention I can give when working at home) completed! It's easy to forget how much we can accomplish when our entire attention is focused on just that, instead of that, your child(ren), your DVR, the laundry, that pesky stain on the carpet, etc!

Another thing that really stood out to me about my time at Plug & Play was how respected as a working individual I felt. It's so common for those who work-at-home to be pigeonholed as not having "real" jobs and not having their time and contribution respected by others, so to have an entire community of members that recognize that was such a refreshing feeling. Everyone there that morning - and there were about five other women) was respectful of each other's need for space and quiet, and yet  you didn't feel isolated or alone the way you can at home. In short, I was impressed.

If you're interested in experiencing Plug & Play for yourself, you'd be wise to contact the extremely congenial and lovely Amy Braden, who owns and operates the space. If you're not sold yet on membership, I should mention they have a refreshment station that has candy and coffee! I should mention that you're able to come in and try it out for yourself for free!

As for Ava's take on the whole experience, well, I'll let you see for yourself!

That's one satisfied little customer!

Thank you so much to Plug & Play for allowing us to come and visit for a couple of hours! Ava has talked about nothing else since and feels like such a big girl for going to "school", and I got some much needed work done! We can't wait to visit again!!!


  1. Hey there. Just wanted to stop by and introduce myself. I'm heading to BBC Dallas on the 15th. NOt sure what to expect - it's my first blog boot camp - but am very excited to go!

  2. I'd been wondering about this place, thanks so much for the review!


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