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What Is an Indoor Sensory Playground?

Shoes off. (You too, Mom.) That’s the first thing you hear when you step inside EQ Kids Club, an indoor sensory playground in Frisco. Why go barefoot (or at least shoe-free)? The reason is simple, says founder Marcia Morales: While playing, children learn all the way from their feet to their brain. The bottom of the foot just happens to be the most nerve-rich part of the body, stimulating healthy muscle and tendon development.
So go ahead, start unlacing. 
Sensory learning has long been a focus for Morales. Before founding EQ Kids Club, she wrote children’s stories that incorporated the use of all five senses. Eventually her ideas jumped off the page and became a safari-themed play village for kiddos age 8 and younger. 
So what does an indoor sensory playground look like—and how does it benefit kids? EQ Kids Club has three distinct areas of sensory-rich play to encourage growth and development:
Low-Energy & Low-Sensory
The first and most calm area, the low-sensory area, is where you deposit your shoes and embark on the safari. Kiddos can start on one of the seasonally rotating STEAM crafts, such as the touch and smell play dough (which children make themselves using essential oils) or the touch and sight sprouts workshop, where kids learn about nature by combining soil, seeds, water and a live worm in a cup. 
For more energetic kids, the move and groove workshop uses a large parachute and brightly colored scarves are to engage the senses of sight and touch. 
For an activity that hits on smell, sight and touch, kids play “guess that smell”—blindfolded, they must rely on their nose and fingers to decipher which food is in front of them. Each activity is purposeful and fun, fostering motor skills, neural development, problem solving and creativity. 
Medium-Energy & Role Play
Situated in the middle of the safari, the medium-energy and role play area features five playhouses, a theme vehicle and the iSandbox, an augmented reality sandbox (yep, really—more on that in a minute). Pop inside one of the playhouses for the chance to play chef at a pizza shop, add groceries to a shopping cart, or cook out at a camper van. Then ride in style in the zebra-print safari Jeep equipped with two steering wheels and corresponding vests, hats and binoculars.
By acting out real-life situations in physical environments, children are challenged to be imaginative and practice both verbal and nonverbal communication skills. 
Then there’s the iSandbox, an augmented reality sandbox that engages sight, sound and touch. Lights above the sandbox project landscapes on the sand, like waterfalls and volcanoes. As the children build, sculpt and mold mountains of sand, red lights create the illusion that their “volcanoes” are erupting. Through the actions of scooping and molding the sand, children improve hand-eye coordination and small muscle control, plus it’s a chance to unleash their creativity and imagination. (And let’s be real—it’s just plain cool.)
High-Energy & High-Sensory
Finally, the high-sensory area incorporates a music corner, trampoline and slide-slash-tree house. In the music corner, kiddos can tickle the ivories at a baby grand piano, find their rhythm on the drums or tambourine and make some noise on the xylophone. Experimenting with various sounds allows kids to exercise their listening skills. 
While kiddos bounce around on the trampoline, they’re not just learning body control and coordinated movement—they’re actually developing intellectually too. Jumping has even been linked to future academic achievement. Not to mention that exercise stimulates anxiety-reducing endorphins. Couldn’t we all use more of that?