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Play: A Serious Matter

Researchers are pointing to PLAY as a fundamental need, crucial to a healthy adult life. Stuart Brown, M.D., author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul says, “What enables us to innovate, problem-solve, and be happy, smart, resilient human beings is our ability to PLAY. The level of responsibility most women carry often makes them put play on the backburner.”

“In a world that requires work to earn a wage, responsibility to care for families, 
exercise to maintain our health…where does play come in?” –Barbara Brannen,
The Gift of Play: Why Adult Women Stop Playing and How to Start Again

Coincidentally, in a recent study “What makes you feel fulfilled?” conducted by the research firm Penn Schoen Berland, of 1000 women polled, nearly 60% said that if they had an extra hour a day, they’d like to spend it by themselves. Among them, 29% would pursue a hobby or exercise. In an era where women juggle so many responsibilities and are constantly connected to their loved ones and colleagues via Twitter, Facebook, and the phone, women are craving time to invest in themselves!

“Play is not selfish or frivolous; it is a form of social and collective responsibility.
Fighting for women’s play is not simply a women’s issue, it is an issue for society as a whole.”
–Rebecca Abrams,
The Playful Self: Why Women Need Play in Their Lives 

 The Benefits of Play

As Stuart Brown so eloquently describes in his book, with play we increase our capacity for creativity, problem solving, adapting to new situations, learning and happiness.

“Play adorns life, amplifies it, and is to that extent a necessity
both for the individual… and for society
.” –Johan Huizinga

Play’s benefits are myriad:

* Keeps us healthy, physically. We are more inclined to move our bodies when we participate in an amusing activity with others.

* Increases oxygen intake and alleviates stress, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease and hypertension.

* Stimulates the imagination creating new neurons, opening pathways to creative thinking. This continuation of brain development—unique to the human species—is known to slow dementia.

* Brings joy, produces laughter, and creates a lightness of being.

* Reinforces positive socialization, allowing us to create and deepen bonds more easily.

* Increases energy.

* Helps us be more experimental, daring, and open to new ideas and challenges.

* Puts us in touch with our truest self.

* Produces feelings of happiness that spill over to many areas of our lives and those around us.

* Creates a long lasting exuberance that keeps us resilient, hopeful and optimistic.

 “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play
than in a year of conversation.” –Plato

 Mice at Play Is Fun with a Purpose!

As the old adage says, “When the cat is away…” Mice at Play is a community that puts PLAY back into the lives of curious women. Through events such as Trapeze, the Polar Bear Swim, Mixology 101, and Burlesque, Mice at Play has been providing its members an outlet for play and dare. We are inspiring women to carve out playtime for themselves in order to reconnect with their playful and daring side. They gain renewed vitality by experiencing unique and creative adventures that often take them outside their comfort zone.

The group also hosts a Salon Series of short talks by various experts—a beekeeper, former madame, sexpert, holistic health practitioner, Feng Shui master—followed by a Q&A period that helps its members preview new territory and topics in a bite-sized format.

In addition to the playdates and salon events, Mice at Play offers its members an inspirational blog with thought-provoking and playful content.

Mice at Play offers customized group playdates in NYC or anywhere in the world, with a specialty in Europe. Milestone birthday celebrations, girlfriend getaways, and bachelorette party requests are welcome.

Mice at Play is continually looking to grow by engaging members, adding to amazing list of experts and partners, and generally reaching its full potential in meeting the needs of women. 


About Mice at Play:

“Thank you for showing us the path to finding pleasure in our play. You have the courage, energy, spirit and grace to motivate us to take the time to love ourselves and take better care of our spirits. Thank you for your love of mothers.” –Johanne, Brooklyn

 On the Nutrition Brunch with Dana C. James:

I thoroughly enjoyed myself at the brunch with Dana. It was so refreshing to listen to a different viewpoint on diet and nutrition—it was the first time I had really thought about the connection between food and science. Dana made the information so accessible and easy to understand that I felt as though results would be achievable. Dana is a wonderful advocate for healthy living—she’s so smart and patient and I felt as though she explained everything so beautifully.  I think she enchanted us all. Thank you, Mice, for opening another window of opportunity for me, to better myself and help my family to lead a healthy and balanced lifestyle. I truly appreciate it—how thrilling it is to have access to so many professional people to help me rediscover myself and that are there to hold my hand in my own personal Play Revolution. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.” –Sarah, Brooklyn

On Boxing:

KINGSWAY BOXING at its best! I have been thinking about our boxing experience with the Mice! What a great way to get out in the dead of winter and work up some adrenaline doing something I would not have done on my own. It was such a great work out, Lee is an amazing coach, and I never imagined how tough three minutes in the ring with an amateur champion could be! Thanks to the Mice for getting me out there!” –Carla, Westchester

On Trapeze:
Imagine me flying through the air over the Manhattan skyline reaching out to grasp a stranger’s hands with the threat of thunder looming in the distance! That day of the trapeze adventure, I faced at least two of my deepest fears head-on (while wearing a skirt no less): fear of heights and fear of thunder! I never would have dreamed I could do this if it weren't for this Mice at Play outing, I am impressed myself and so is my 12 year old son! This date will always give me the courage to just do it and I would do it again in a heartbeat!” –Kathy, Brooklyn

On Clutter Clearing Workshop with Feng Shui Master Benjamin Huntington:
Last night was really fun! Benjamin definitely took me beyond the reading I have done on the subject, and the group atmosphere was very helpful and fun. I’d like to report that I have used Benjamin’s advice to Keep 10% Clear on my bookshelves (two so far!) and it has been so helpful! Benjamin told us to do only one shelf at a time, and to simply remove 10% of the books, to make space for growth. I loved that! I told my husband last night and he thought it sounded great (he's the book collector!). Anyway, I am so grateful for the advice. You are doing a great job with Mice at Play. What a great idea! I hope to participate again soon.” –Kristin, Brooklyn

On Harlem Renaissance Dress Up Photo Shoot:

“Dear Chief Mice,

“I am writing to belatedly thank you for putting together a fantastic gathering up in Harlem. Every moment and every detail of it was magically surreal, deliciously imaginative and truly memorable. It has made my year, and long after I'm no longer sporting the wig, glamorous clothes, accessories, makeup and mild hangover—I’m still feeling quite fabulous, if I do say so myself! You are amazing women, and it was a pleasure meeting you. I look forward to taking part in more playtime with the group!” –Astrid, Brooklyn


On the Initiation to Rock Climbing:

“I had been wanting to try rock climbing, but thought I wouldn't be strong enough. So it made such a difference to be initiated with a number of women with similar apprehensions and to be able tackle it together. The climbing was actually easier than I anticipated and I was surprised how much fun the group experience was…and the ADRENALINE RUSH was AMAZING! Just another example of a Mice at Play event that rocks.” –Gigi, Manhattan


 About the Chief Mice

nadia stieglitz

Nadia Stieglitz

Born in France and raised in the Alps, Nadia lived in Paris and London before settling in New York with her husband and three daughters. Nadia worked as creative director in publishing for ten years, after which time she became a consultant with an innovation firm. Over the course of her career, she has become attuned to women’s sensibilities and has been involved in projects that seek to meet women’s needs on all levels from self-actualization to health and wellness. 

In 1998, after the birth of her third daughter Nadia began organizing girl’s nights out and weekends to shake up an existence that she feared had become too serious and timid. Yearning to reconnect with her love for adventure and playfulness, she challenged herself to learn new skills and discover more about herself and her abilities in a fun and supportive environment. She invited her girlfriends to join her play endeavor. With activities such as Trapeze, a Roaring 20s Dress-Up Photo Shoot in Harlem, a Mixology Contest, and Burlesque, the group has explored many new playgrounds together. They’ve had many thrills and laughs while pushing their boundaries. Whenever she would gather with friends, she kept thinking about the saying “When the cat is away, the mice play!” She called her group “Mice at Play.” After a decade of leading the group wherever she livedParis, London and NYNadia decided to turn her passion into a livelihood. Sara, an avid participant and supporter since the inception, partnered with Nadia in 2009.

Nadia is also an inspired painter working in oils, acrylic, and mixed media.  Her latest interest in photography has been well-received by viewers. Nadia attended the Art Students League and the School of Visual Arts, where she gained new inspiration as a painter and graphic artist. You can view her artwork at

Sara Baysinger

Sara Baysinger

With Oregon in her heart and New York in her soul, Sara has called Brooklyn her home since 1993. She has worked in the non-profit, film and publishing industries in New York.

When she’s not busy leading the Play Revolution, Sara is raising two spirited boys along with her husband with a consummate joie de vivre. She credits Mice at Play with helping her find the strength to do things she never dreamed of, e.g. jump from a trapeze platform, run a half marathon and participate in 5 triathlons…and counting!

Sara’s best days are filled with any combination of crosswords, time with friends and family, travel, delicious food, reading, writing, physical exertion of one kind or another, and now orchestrating daring adventures for open-minded women and otherwise helping them find their PLAY!

She joined this effort with Nadia because she is irresistible!


Recommended Reading:

Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown, M.D., founder of the National Institute for Play. You can watch his TED Talk on Play here.

The Ambiguity of Play by Brian Sutton-Smith

Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture by historian John Huizinga

 The Gift of Play: Why Adult Women Stop Playing And How To Start Again by Barbara Brannen

 Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly

Join the Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform the World by Tina Rosenberg 

Primal Body, Primal Mind: Beyond the Paleo Diet for Total Health and a Longer Life by Nora T. Gedgaudas 

The Play Ethic: A Manifesto for a Different Way of Living by Pat Kane. You can check his website The Play Ethic here. 

Beyond Love and Work: Why Adults Need to Play by Lenore Terr 

The Playful Self, Why Women Need Play in Their Lives by Rebecca Abrams 

Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá

The Playful Brain: Venturing Limits of Neuroscience by Sergio and Vivien Pellis

Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about Our Everyday Deceptions by Stephen L. Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde

 Feminist Perspectives on Leisure Policies for Women by Chiung-Tzu Lucetta Tsai


Researchers and conferences:

Peter Gray, a research professor of psychology at Boston College writes a column on Play for Psychology Today

Gwen Gordon, life coach, creative and educator, has her own website.

Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, the innovation and design firm speaks on Creativity and Play. Watch the TED Talk here.

Serious Play, the biennial Art Center Design Conference gathering of entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and innovators from many fields and disciplines was last held in April 2011. It explored the essential role of play in business, the arts, science, storytelling, technology, and more.

Two students are leading a fun project on Play in the streets of Philadelphia. Read all about it on: