Kidaru Indoor Playground and Learning Center

La Cumbre Plaza in Santa Barbara, CA
(805) 682-7400 or

Open Play Daily - 9am to 6pm
Parents Night Out Fridays - 5pm to 9pm

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About Kidaru:

Kidaru is owned and operated by a local Santa Barbara family. 10% of the company's profits are donated to benefit underprivileged children in our community.

Our Vision:

At Kidaru, we strive to create a therapeutic environment where families are nurtured and supported, time stands still, and everyone can relax, recharge and rediscover their authentic selves -- a safe place where parents enjoy being with their children.

Our Approach:

Kidaru approach to creating a safe and empowering space for children and families is grounded in principles of Gestalt Play Therapy with Children and Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Childhood Education.

Kidaru Operating Principles:

The Environment

Any organism exists in an environment and thrives (or not) depending on that environment. We don't blame the seeds in the garden for not growing, instead we look at their environment and try to find optimal growing conditions for that particular plant. We ask what is the right light, water level, fertilizer, temperature? We keep providing the best environment and waiting patiently for the seed to sprout, and then to bloom, knowing it takes time. There is no universal "right" environment. As human living organisms, we are all unique, and require different conditions in order to thrive. A nurturing environment will first and foremost offer physical and emotional safety. Only a child who feels safe and secure in their environment (welcomed and accepted for who they are) is able to develop and learn to the best of their ability. Nurturing environment makes us feel free, ignites our senses, invites curiosity and discovery, and fosters healthy relationships.

The Dialogic Relationship

As opposed to the classic image of all-knowing teachers and parents barking out and enforcing orders, in this relationship model children and adults are working together to construct knowledge (and values and identities) – creating meaning through processes of building, sharing, testing and revising theories. It is a relationship based on mutual respect.

The 20th century philosopher Martin Buber described two different kinds of relationships: I-It and I-Thou. I-It relationships happen when you see the other person as an object, it is transactional. I-Thou relationships, on the other hand, are ones in which you connect with the other person fully and deeply. "We meet each other as two separate and equal individuals. I am as authentic as I know how to be - I am myself. I do not use a teacher voice or a patronizing voice. I will not manipulate or judge. Although I am perpetually optimistic regarding the healthy potential of the child, I will not place expectations. I will accept her as she is. I will respect her rhythm and will attempt to join her in that rhythm; I will be present and contactful. In this way our relationship flourishes." (as described by Violet Oaklander in her article The Therapeutic Process With Children and Adolescents).

Child's Identity

Children are viewed as strong and capable, complex, creative beings with an endless desire to know and understand the world around them. Just like adults, children deserve respect and unconditional positive regard -- the basic acceptance and support of a person regardless of what the person says or does. Behavior is always communication.

Experiential Learning

A significant body of research in cognitive psychology shows that we learn through experience, not by having a teacher or parent lecture us. Learning starts with inquiry – wondering, formulating a question, developing a hypothesis. Testing the hypothesis involves playful experimentation. Learning comes as a result of trial and error, collaboration, curiosity, exploration and experimenting. We learn by doing. We learn together – as designers and inventors – in design-based activities to create our own personally meaningful projects. Parents and teachers are involved as facilitators and collaborators, co-constructors of knowledge rather than purveyors of wisdom.

The Hundred Languages

Children communicate through play and they have more than a hundred languages. A language of painting, drawing, dancing, clay, nature, cutting, building, racing, running, gluing, dress-up, puppets, stories, magic, sand, water, dolls, cars, crayons, markers, forts and hideouts. Behavior is also a language we all use to communicate. Offering a child a safe space to encounter many types of materials, many expressive languages, many points of view, empowering them work actively with their hands, minds, bodies, senses and emotions, allows children to discover and express who they are. The process of creating, mastery and self-discovery is emphasized, not the final product.

No way.
The hundred is there.
The child is made of one hundred.
The child has a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.
a hundred, always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds to discover
a hundred worlds to invent
a hundred worlds to dream.
The child has a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and Christmas.
They tell the child
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.
They tell the child that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
are things
that do not belong together.
And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says
"No way- The hundred is there."

Loris Malaguzzi
(translated by Lella Gandini)

We welcome any and all comments, questions, suggestions, collaborations, and opportunities for a productive discussion. Please email us at to share your thoughts.