I've spent the week thinking about play cafes - a place where you can have a cup of coffee and hang out with a friend, but where there is a space for kids to play too.
Sounds pretty straightforward, so I'm not sure why there aren't more of them. Why aren't there more spaces for grown ups and litte ones to hang out together more generally? You have the park, maybe museums or galleries... and what else? I've definitely lost touch with some friends since having kids - but I wonder if there were better places for us to hang out and catch up, would that be the case?
Of the play cafes I have been to, the quality varies dramatically. At one end of the spectrum is an aesthetically dreamy cafe with delicious coffee, freshly baked goods, kids meals, sensory toys, colouring pages and a chalk wall. At the other: a slightly kitsch tea room with a penned-off space in one corner with broken toys and donated books. But when it's raining outside and the alternative is to cancel plans, beggars can't be choosers.
It got me to thinking: if I were to start from scratch and design a perfect play cafe, what would I put in it? I've put down some essentials below.
What have I forgotten - and where should I look for inspiration? Let me know! 📧
If you're rationing your caffeine for any reason, you know it has to be good when you have some. Maybe I really am a Hackney girl at heart now, because when I think of good coffee, I think of Climpson and Sons.
One thing about looking after young kids (i.e. those who aren't in school during the day) is that your exposure to garish primary colours goes up dramatically. In contrast, the best cafes to spend time in are calm and relaxing - and the rise of brands like Liewood shows kids can love this vibe too.
I've liked this sofa since I saw a smaller version of it in After Noah on Upper Street a year or two ago... perfect for lounging away an hour or two catching up with a friend.
Beauty and safety go hand in hand at Totter + Tumble, whose beautiful playmats make a wonderful alternative to the self-assembling foam mats seen in so many places. We're big admirers of their work (catch our profile of them here!).
Nothing like novelty to keep a child busy: anywhere that has toys too big to have at home - from fantastic balance boards to mighty rocking horses to an all-out ball pit - is sure to be a favourite.
To balance the need to keep things fresh with the desire to find a trusty local place, it would be great to find somewhere that has a roster of events events like storytimes or water play activities throughout the month.