When Caitlin Huertas searched for a fun place to take her two children in her West Seattle neighborhood, she had a tough time finding an inclusive play space designed with both kids’ and parents’ needs in mind. She decided to build her own.
Outer Space, Huertas’s dream made manifest, is now open — but it took years to get to this point. From finding the right location and affordable rent, to challenges with prospective landlords, the journey hasn’t been easy. But her hard work paid off: she finally found the ideal location right off of Alki Beach, one of Seattle’s most beloved destinations.
The 1,677-square-foot space isn’t massive, but Huertas took advantage of the high ceiling with a three-level vertical play structure placed atop a soft, padded floor. She chose a space theme to foster an early interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), something many parents can appreciate here in tech hub Seattle. Outer space is something “timeless and versatile that would interest everyone,” says Huertas, reasoning that the galactic theme would be universally appreciated by kids of all backgrounds and identities.
PHOTO: JOSHUA HUSTON
Inclusion is important to Huertas, who made it her mission to include elements for young people on the autism spectrum or who might otherwise benefit from a low-sensory environment. Every day, the space will have sensory backpacks available for check out that contain noise-canceling headphones, sunglasses, fidgets, a stress ball, and putty. They also have a Sensory Room featuring a rotating selection of items and activities for kids, including a movement chair and weighted blanket. Monthly dates for low-noise, low-light mornings will be announced on the Outer Space website.
Seven days a week (Monday-Saturday is available for open play; on Sundays, the space can be rented for parties) Outer Space can accommodate 49 people. This may seem like a small number, but Huertas stressed the importance of comfort during play, instead of kids being tightly packed into a chaotic atmosphere. A lower head count makes it easier to keep an eye on the kids from the sidelines, freeing parents to relax and chat while their children play. Fewer kids doesn’t eliminate germs, however, and Huertas is mindful of the need to keep the equipment clean. The space will be cleaned throughout the day, with more thorough cleanings every night and deep cleanings monthly.
Huertas takes safety seriously. There is a gate at the reception desk, and no one is allowed to come or go without checking in with the desk greeters. The facility is also nut-free, easing the worries of parents who have kids with peanut allergies.
Kids of all ages are welcome at Outer Space, and there’s an area especially for ages 5 and under. Huertas hopes Outer Space creates an experience for everyone that’s truly out of this world. “This space isn’t just for our kids, it’s for our whole community,” she says. “That is the driving force behind this.”
Outer Space, 2820 Alki Ave SW, #2