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Invest in Exploratory Play for Kids

Help me create a sensory-rich, indoor playspace for kids 0-8, focused on exploratory play.

pledged of$25,000 goal
181Days Left
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Campaign Ends on December 30, 2022

Project Description

My son will be 4 years old next month.

He is spirited - a spitball of energy. Always in motion - running, climbing, jumping, with a silly grin over his face.

He loves to explore and experiment. You will often find him trying to peek into forbidden cupboards, mixing ingredients, or testing out the laws of cause and effect with random objects.

Did I mention my son is autistic?

His imagination and spirit are wild and free, but his ability (and desire!) to follow the typical "rules" that many other kids his age seem to have figured out are a daily struggle. We have bounced from activity to activity, trying to find a space that will allow him to safely explore and let his curiosity run wild.  It’s a struggle for any parent to entertain our little ones all days long. However, the unique experience of seeing my son be continuously told "no" in play areas or trying to get him to follow arbitrary rules that do not acknowledge developmental diversity was the inspiration behind my business idea - Explore + Play + Discover.

Children learn through playing and engaging in different types of play allows them to develop in different ways.  Explore + Play + Discover is a caregiver-supervised children's activity and enrichment center that provides a range of parent/child activities devoted to the physical, social, and emotional development of children. Rooted in early education framework and focused on sensory play, children will be immersed in a world where they can explore their environments safely and freely, all while still having fun!  While many playspaces focus solely on imaginative and creative play or physical development, Explore + Play + Discover will provide six zones of play to offer little explorers the opportunity to use their senses to explore the world around them, while simultaneously building critical thinking, creativity, and socialization skills.

Explore + Play + Discover will be comprised of a range of environments for kids to use their imaginations, develop skills, learn and freely follow their curiosity. The space will feature six, evidence-based play zones for children to explore. Each zone will offer a variety of unstructured, exploratory activities for babies and toddlers up through early primary school age (approximately second grade). Zones will regularly feature different items throughout the year to maintain interest for our frequent customers. Staff will also rotate items in the zones so that morning items target 0-5 explorers, and afternoon items focused on 3-8 learners. Kids will be immersed in the ultimate “yes” environment where they can push, pull, throw, toss, jump, run, and climb, all while our trained Play Guides offer opportunities for interaction and extended play.

Our planned location is in Elk Grove, CA, which has seen nearly a 20% population increase in the last decade. The majority of these new residents are families with young children.  Currently, there are nearly 25,000 kids in the 0-8 age range in the Elk Grove area. Families are eager to find engaging and fun activities for their children. Activities for children, especially for little learners 0-5, are in demand. Parents love Elk Grove because of its many parks, fantastic recreation programs, and great schools. Yet, they often complain that there is a shortage of activities designed for their younger kids. Or places they can take their children to play when the weather makes it impossible to enjoy the outdoor playgrounds. Additionally, as many caregivers now have the flexibility to work from home, they are interested in finding activities where they can keep their littlest kiddos engaged in safe, enriching play, while still being able to complete work tasks. Thus, there are few indoor activities for toddlers, preschool, and early primary school age children.  And of those that are available, none offer a space that is 100% dedicated to open, unstructured, creative and exploratory play. 

Additionally, as part of goal to improve accessibility and inclusivity to all residents, we plan to develop a nonprofit subsidiary which will allow us to offer options such as the opportunity to volunteer in exchange for memberships, sliding scales for families with children participating in Head Start or California benefits programs, and scholarships for our events and enrichment camps. We also will have special open exploration sessions for kiddos that require a different sensory experience as well as donating meeting space for Elk Grove Special Needs Families.

Opening a playspace is a huge endeavor. I have the education, creativity, and drive, and just need a bit of support from the community to make my dream a reality.  One hundred percent of the money from this campaign will go towards the purchase of materials for our play zones. Specifically, with these funds I am hoping to purchase:

  • Large play structure
  • Zip line
  • Rock wall
  • River stones
  • Indoor sports and movement equipment (e.g. indoor basketball, balance board, sit n'spin)
  • Sand and water tables
  • Sensory bins, scoops, and pitchers
  • Toddler/Kid seating sets
  • Shelving and bins
  • Art supplies
  • Musical instruments
  • Building blocks
  • STEM learning kits
  • Construction and building kits
  • Pikler triangle
  • Sensory books 
  • Fidget toys
  • Fabric cave/tent
  • Nugget couch

About Me

Hello! My name is Dr. Nicole Mendoza, and I have been the first in my family for many things: the first person to live outside of the U.S., the first person to earn my doctorate, and now, I will be the first business owner.  During my 15-year professional career, I have done just about everything there is to do with children. A former behavioral therapist, K-12 educator, curriculum and instruction director, and university professor, I have dual Master's degrees in Clinical Psychology and Reading Education, and an Ed.D. in Organizational Change and Leadership. I have extensive experience in the development of educational and developmental programming for children since 2007.

In addition to more than a decade in K-12 and university education, I have worked for two successful California nonprofit organizations - The Social Policy Institute of SDSU and the Child Abuse Prevention Center - and contracted as a consultant for various county community action organizations.  The positions have provided me amazing understanding of the inner workings of managing teams and budgets, as well a wealth of knowledge on business organizational structure, program development, and program evaluation.

I want to thank you so much for your time and consideration in supporting this project!




The Campaign FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. When will Explore + Play + Discover be open?

We are currently working to secure a location and are expecting a soft launch in December 2022/January 2023.

2. What type of services will Explore + Play + Discover offer?

Our signature service is the Open Exploration, available from 8:00am - 8:00pm, Monday - Friday, and weekends from 9:00-7:00pm.  Kiddos have the opportunity to engage in 100% unstructured, sensory, and creative play in all of our six play zones. We will also offer Guided Exploration Thursdays-Sundays. This unique experience allows caregivers to leave their children to independently explore our space with our Play Guides. Additionally, we have space for birthday parties, and will offer monthly themed events, as well as summer and winter STEM and project-based learning enrichment camps. 

3. What makes Explore + Play + Discover "evidence-based"?

Each of our play zones have been designed using peer-reviewed literature and best practices in developmental psychology and early education. We have consciously sought to include activities, toys, strategies, and materials that have been found statistically significant in facilitating the achievement of developmental milestones.  Our philosophy blends some of the best work from theorists such as Piaget, Vygotsky, and Montessori, as well as more recent research on the importance of exploratory play for long term cognitive development.

4. What makes Explore + Play + Discover different from any other indoor playground?

One of the most unique characteristics of our space is that it is a YES environment. That means that kids are allowed to (and encouraged!) to run, jump, toss, climb, create, and EXPLORE!  Additionally, our staff, or "Play Guides" are there to facilitate play. While our model is parent-supervised, we know that both kids and parents can benefit from seeing how others interact with materials. Our Play Guides will be trained in positive interaction and guided practice teaching methods to maximize the fun for all our guests.



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Just Because I Care

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About the Entrepreneur


Monetary Contribution

Just Because I Care

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