Donna runs a wonderful small school that our daughter has loved for 3 years now. It is beautifully intimate, where every child has a huge amount of individual attention. The classes are fantastically creative, we've had to ration what goes on the walls. Every holiday is celebrated with costumes, colours and food, it really is a fun and happy place. I hear they have a cool yoga teacher too.

Kit Munday

Child’s Play is one of Santa Barbara best kept secrets. Donna Child’s Play founder and lead teacher is acclaimed by parents as the “child whisper” Her gift to foster each child’s untapped potential is a talent known to a few.

Child’s Play’s families are as diverse as our city of Santa Barbara and equally as beautiful. Growing friendships across all borders teaches what it truly means to be a friend and provides opportunities to learn about the diversity in families.  I have found many lasting friendships that have survived well past my Child’s Play years. I am grateful for the amazing memories of the time spent there. And I my kids liked it too!

Andrew Knox

Zoom Motors

When I was little I thought of Child’s Play as an extension of my own home. Growing up I have always regarded it as a major influence on my creativity and social skills. Donna and her group of caretaker-teachers truly spun my in-born creativity from out of my hands to where I could see it, touch it and mold it myself into the shapes that were specifically me. Nothing could be more precious. Through their skills as caretakers, artists, people and simply through the vastness of their love for our daily development, they expanded a place of safety in which we were free to explore ourselves.

The sheer brightness of the house; the upright piano beside the window; at a mock-formal dance, thoroughly enchanted by painted, paper butterflies that dangled from the ceiling towards my upturned face; the dimmed front room drowsed with our nap time of soft music and tiny, sleeping arms splayed on blankets; ”Backwards Day” when we splashed in the wading pool with our clothes on inside-out and I ate my dessert first, lying on my stomach in a red wagon; October lunches “Ghost Mush” (that’s Cream of Wheat to you); hand-churning ice cream; bringing to life a giant, fabric dragon on Chinese new year; the myriad play-sets, trees, shady corners of the backyard; my grandfather visiting for my birthday and playing us his own songs on folk guitar to a round of us near the tire swing and on and on.

I’m even still in touch with three of my pre-school friends 20 years later. And I still have the individualized graduation book that Donna (8 months pregnant at the time) handmade for each one of us with pictures, drawings, and quotations dictated by our friends to her all bound with maroon covers. At Child’s Play I not only learned to love, who I was and to care about others, but I learned to love learning itself. Louise Guck says, “We look at the world once, in childhood. The rest is memory.” The more I live, the more I am thankful that these things are what I continue to see

Alyssa Goldstein

Donna has an uncanny understanding of what children need, how they think and feel, and what conditions will inspire in them. She provides a sense of security, sparks confidence, encourages independence and fosters each child's creativity & imagination. She takes obvious delight in creating a wonderland where children can learn and play to their hearts content. I started going to Child's Play when I was 18 months old and stayed there until it was time to go to kindergarten, now I am 25 years old and still stop by to see the kids and if I am lucky to help Donna around the school. To put it simply, if someone were to ask me when the happiest time of my childhood was, I would simply reply "Child's Play".

-Gennie Pennie Badone 

Child's Play Alum circa 1988 

Child's Play is a delight to walk into greeted by an abundance of color and shapes, a garden, a warm kitchen and snacking area, and the greatest tiled bathroom!  Donna has the magic that brings out the creativity and self-confidence in children. My daughter Gennie attended Child's Play from the time she was 18 months until she went to kindergarten. What a wonderful time that was! Donna allowed Gennie's creativity to flourish, (we still have great art projects from that time) with her instruction, her gift of seeing inside a child, and most of all her love.
It's been 20 years, and I still drop by to see the kids, and give Donna a hug.

Susan Badone

I recently visited the preschool my daughter attended  21 years ago. Living in Montecito, I wanted a local preschool, but after visiting several schools, I was charmed by the intimacy that Child's Play provided.  Donna, the owner and teacher is the same, but the site looks different. The magic it holds for all of us that have experienced preschool at Child's Play, is now evident the moment you walk in! The memories my daughter and I share from her preschool experience are some of the best of her life. Thank You Donna!

Becky Todd

Child's Play provided an amazing set of skills for my two boys.  Every child leaves Donna's school with a sense of humor, authentic compassion for others, and solid self esteem --- I have seen it time and time again.  Sure, I knew my kids' creativity and love of learning would be fostered at Child's Play when we enrolled.  And I knew that the program there would prepare them very well for entering grade school.  But I never expected that Donna would manage to give the boys the skills that would serve them throughout the rest of their life and prepare them to be caring and productive citizens.  My boys are now 22 and 19 years of age --- and we still stop by Child's Play to see Donna!  If you are considering enrolling your child in preschool, run - don't walk!  There is no better program available.  

Margie Grace

Grace Design Associates

What I remember of Child's Play is the, mmmmmmm creamy oatmeal, (It had a special funny name).  Nap time which I miss sooo much. I will always remember the bench my dad made, I loved when he came in and worked on it, I remember the big Spring egg hunts and human size bunnies. The thing that means the most to me about all these memories is that child's play is actually one of my first memories. I really miss those good old times. Miss you and love you Donna Thank You!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Savannah Horwood


Donna Mrotek truly found her calling in life and she's used her gifts well.  Donna has the ability to teach small children and get them to listen, focus and think for themselves; by doing problem solving in unique, fun ways. She ignites a child's instinctual passion for learning.  Part magician?  Donna has the ability to do 'crowd control' with a group of unruly kids --without even raising her voice!  If that isn't a gift, then I don't know what is. Plus, she never loses her cool. Donna's method of teaching children is that they learn through play and in my opinion, she is truly a living Pied Piper.  That may sound cliché, but nobody does it as well.

Our family experience at Child's Play could not have been any better and the memories are dear. Our oldest children, David and Stephanie started out with Donna from day one. (1983-1990) There's not one thing that I wished had been done differently. I consider their early childhood education to have been exceptional and they were always so excited to go.

Every day was a new adventure and special days such as holidays and birthdays were reasons to celebrate (and learn) and get dressed up in costumes. We had Indian plays, field trips to the zoo, pirate adventures, Halloween and other great holiday spectaculars. It was a magical time, so many great memories, of which, I have photos and videos of everything!

Donna is among the most creative people I've ever known and I'm happy to say that I still know her after 26 years. Of those first two babies of mine, David has graduated from college with a degree in Economics and the Stephanie is still in college, getting a degree in Marine Science. Both kids excelled through school and I've always credited their early childhood education.

When the time came for our kids to "graduate" from pre-school to kindergarten, it was like leaving family.  Child's Play was a sweet, special time in our lives. From the bottom of our hearts, Thank You Donna.

The Olson Family

I really appreciate learning the value of   'Magical' experiences in children's lives!! Thanks for all of the magical moments! (too many to name!!) Oh, and I still send out GINORMOUS Valentine's Day cards and make my wrapping paper for various special occasions!

  Adrienne Murrillo


Child's Play has been, and even continues to be, a big influence in   my son's life.  He is 14 now.  Child's Play gave him the place to   start to grow socially, and responsibly, through daily play,   projects, and interactions with other kids and adults. He just had   fun and laughed a lot, and was so happy to go there in the morning.    Child's Play is just such a warm, safe place to be a kid.  At the   same time it is a place where getting along with others, learning to   work out differences, cooperation, respect, are all expected from   each other -adults included.  All are equal.    Donna,  the owner and teacher, is a wonderful, strong, funny, human   being.  She relates so well with the kids, and parents as well.  She   is straight forward, but has such a great sense of humor and   responsibility!  The celebrations at Child's Play are memorable- from   the change of seasons, to Wacky Wednesday (my son's favorite, and   still talks about it), to holidays, Donna, with the kids, makes them   not only great fun, but a way to integrate teaching, learning, and   family through art, food, fun, imagination!    The kids really do learn to help, ask questions, listen, laugh,   think, and grow.    And one more thing - my son, who has always been good at eating and   trying new foods, but didn't like lettuce - Donna got him to eat   salad with a smile!    Child's Play - such a great place for your child to explore. 

  Lynona Cannon