7-year-old comes up with the idea for a popular indoor playground in Murrieta

Children play at The Little Red Barn, an indoor playground in Murrieta. Valley News/Courtesy photo

The Little Red Barn, an indoor playground at 33050 Antelope Road, Suite 210, in Murrieta, reopened its doors Monday, June 22, after a long stint of being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Brandee Green and her husband first conceived the idea of opening their own indoor playground when their 7-year-old son mentioned it to them in the car one day.

“We were planning on opening an organic coffee shop, and we were a little stressed out about all the competition with Starbucks and the fact that people aren’t really hanging out at coffee shops like they used to,” Green said. 

Her son suggested the idea for a playground instead; Green said she liked the idea and went with it. They’ve been open since September 2017. 

“We created a wooden indoor playground based on the Montessori method, which is kind of a blend of children just leading play on their own. It’s all imaginative play so our toys are not interactive,” Green said. “It leaves it open for their imagination.”

Children from age 0-6 are welcome to play, and The Little Red Barn offers memberships. While normally memberships include unlimited play, due to social distancing guidelines, The Little Red Barn will have limited play times only as it reopens. This change will allow staff to sanitize in between sessions and to limit how many children come through during the day.

“We’re going to do 90 minutes of play,” Green said. “We’re going to have four sessions of play per day.”

While they’ve been closed since March 14 due to COVID-19, their overhead has remained the same, she said. 

“It’s actually bigger because we had taxes coming in and we had renewals for insurances; we haven’t had any rent relief as far as we have heard from our landlords,” Green said. “Anything that hasn’t been paid will be expected to be paid in the next year.”

The Little Red Barn reopens in Murrieta for children all over the valley. Valley News/Courtesy photo

It has caused some financial struggle for the Green family.

“We’re not even getting a fifth of what we were before, so that’s a huge challenge,” she said. “We did apply for the SBA loan, which is the disaster relief loan, and we were initially approved. 

“My husband lost his wallet,” she said. “He is from England so he carries a green card so he lost all of that and he’s since applied for everything, but everything’s taking a long time so because he didn’t have his ID, his green card, so we were denied at the very last stage.

“We were expecting a chunk of money to come in so that we could pay all of that overhead and suddenly we didn’t have it,” Green said.

Tessa Jansen, a friend of Green, started a GoFundMe for The Little Red Barn to help pay for costs that have accumulated since being closed. 

“They have a little toy store in there and they expanded that to try and make more money, and then their rent, I think it’s like over $4,000,” Jansen said. “People canceled their parties, stuff that was already prepaid so they’re refunding parties and memberships.”

So far, the GoFundMe fundraiser has raised $2,145 of its $5,000 goal.

Jansen’s daughter was 2 when she had started to worry about her social development. 

“She was an only child and raised by my husband who’s kind of an introvert, so she didn’t have a lot of socialization,” Jansen said. 

Jansen added that they had been to other indoor playgrounds in the valley but hadn’t found one that fit her daughter’s needs.

“I’m a speech therapist, so child development is really important to me,” Jansen said. “When we went there was a whole other world, it took her a while to warm up, but she was able to warm up to some of the kids there and there’s so many regulars she got to know people.

“I just really watched her grow through imaginary play and playing with the other kids, and it’s a calmer environment than a lot of the other indoor playgrounds, and the other big thing was she never got sick,” Jansen said. 

Christine Moreno, a Canyon Hills resident in Lake Elsinore, chose The Little Red Barn as well due to cleanliness.

“They wipe every tiny little thing down,” Moreno said. “If they see a child move on to something else, they’re there and they’re wiping it down. That counts for so much.”

Moreno and her granddaughter started going almost a year to the date in March when everything began closing down.

“We still have our membership; we have not given up our membership,” Moreno said. “It was so kind of Brandee and Brian to give the members three days a week, but I do want others to come and play and experience that and I don’t want to take away from their time until we can hopefully not too long in the distant future open back up to where we don’t have to worry about how many people, other than reaching capacity per code.”

Moreno asked for a standing Monday reservation.

“I always try to give them a little extra for all that they do and for the cleaning supplies; I don’t want them to close,” she said. “From the moment I stepped in there with my granddaughter, it’s just professional, clean, courteous, fun.”

To support the GoFundMe campaign, visit https://gf.me/u/x8xa6x. Find The Little Red Barn on Facebook or call 951-679-1119 for more information.

Lexington Howe can be reached by email at lhowe@reedermedia.com.