Rent Yourself Some ‘Mental Space’ at South Orange’s ‘Work and Play’ Co-Working Facility

by The Village Green
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Work and Play Grand Opening

Deborah Engel (center) in one of Work and Play’s co-working spaces. Kristine Foley Photography

On Monday, South Orange officials and families oohed and ahhhed as they toured Work and Play, a new co-working space with optional childcare, during its official grand opening celebration.

The beautiful facility — designed by architect Rebecca Gelman, branded by Rachel Zorel, and decorated by Hanh Truong, formerly of Maplewood’s Little One & Co. — offers a shared workspace and a Reggio-inspired childcare program, as well as rentable meeting rooms, an event and birthday party space, and a variety of classes for all ages that are open to the public.

Co-working, a term coined ten years ago, describes a shared office space that allows independent professionals a quiet place to work while offering collaboration and networking opportunities. Only a handful of such facilities worldwide offer the childcare amenity.

Work and Play Grand Opening

Kristine Foley Photography

“There are nearly 800 co-working spaces open nationwide, but combining childcare with co-working is a brand-new concept; only a few such centers exist around the world,” remarked Deborah Engel, founder of Work and Play and a Maplewood mom of three. “South Orange is a prime location for this concept as many SOMa residents have flexible schedules or work from home. At Work and Play, we hope to create a community that supports parents who are trying to balance careers and families.”

“There’s a growing market for this,” said Alex Carter, Professor Of Law at Columbia Law School and wife of Maplewood Township Committee candidate Greg Lembrich. Carter noted that Work and Play provides the all important “mental space” that work-from-home parents need. In addition to the childcare, Work and Play relieves workers from distractions: “You can’t do laundry,” noted Carter.

Some classes and programs are open to the public, but membership is required to utilize the Work and Play co-working space and childcare program. A range of membership plans are available that give members a variety of choices to fit their needs, ranging from a $250 a month “All Access” plan to a $75 Flex Membership for 15 hours in the workspace over three months.

Work and Play “soft-opened” this past winter and has been testing various membership models.

Said Engel. “We are really excited about our new plans — they will certainly solve the many problems that school holidays and snow days pose to working parents.”

The Work and Play childcare program is geared for children aged three months to five years and is available to members on weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and beginning in August, afternoon care will also be offered on Mondays from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.

(By the way, the “Work” and “Play” elements are on different levels and are separated by a sound-proofed floor as well as a code-protected connecting door — so no little people will interrupt your work!)

The curriculum is open-ended and designed to meet children at their developmental stage. Work and Play offers both indoor and outdoor classrooms, and provides materials that emphasize self-discovery and independence. Beth Goldring, Director of Play, oversees the program, which was designed by Maplewood resident and owner of The Workspace for Children, Lizzie Assa.

Parents should know that the childcare is all about play and engagement — there are no electronics or television sets.

This fall, Work and Play is offering a variety of classes for members and non-members, including Scribble Art Workshop, The Little Moving Artist, Yoga Playhouse, Music for Aardvarks, and the Modern Family Center’s Bagel & Blox. In addition, the popular Play Outside and Play Inside will be returning this fall.

The Work and Play community space is also available for weekend birthday party rentals. Party packages start at $100 per hour for Mess Up Our House, Not Yours, which is the basic room rental. Party packages are extensions of Work and Play’s childcare curriculum, such as the Play Dough Factory, where imaginations run wild while children mix their own play dough, and the Toy Reinvention Party, where attendees disassemble old toys to create new playthings.

The public is invited to tour the facility, located at 19 Prospect Street, during Work and Play’s Open House from August 10 to 14 and August 24 to 28 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. For more information, visit

Click on any image below to see a slideshow of images from Work and Play’s grand opening celebration and also showcasing its interior spaces.


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