Indoor Playground vs. Play Cafe: What’s the Difference?
This is a question I get asked quite frequently when I tell people that I own a play café. “Is that like an indoor play gym with slides and rock climbing structures and trampolines?” I guess that’s what happens when you introduce an entirely new concept to your city.
Indoor playgrounds have been around for a while, and there are many of them in our city of Burlington and neighbouring cities of Oakville and Hamilton. They’re the places you take your children to when they want to burn off their energy when it’s too cold outside to go to the park, or when you don’t want them to tear your house apart. They’re the places where your kids can run around through mazes, climb ropes, slide down slides and let out all the crazy!
It was actually at an indoor playground that the idea of Chickadee Family Cafe was born in my mind. I had taken my then two-and-a-half year old to a popular indoor play space in our hometown Burlington and tried to keep up with him as he ran down slides and through mazes. I crouched into tiny corners chasing my little man around and came out utterly exhausted (go ahead, insert jokes about how out of shape I am here).
When I emerged from the play structures, I looked around me at the other parents. Many were standing around trying to keep a visual on their kids’ whereabouts. Some were calling their kids’ names, hoping that they weren’t stuck in a maze … ‘cause c’mon, we all know no adult really wants to have to climb all the way up those structures to retrieve a crying child. Mostly, they looked bored and exhausted. Maybe their kids woke up at 6am too.
Don’t get me wrong, there was lots of laughter and giggles. I had fun with my son, which was the main purpose of going to the indoor playground, but in a place filled with other moms and dads around my age with kids around my son’s age, there was a huge opportunity for building connection with my community that I felt was completely missed. As a new resident of Burlington I wanted to connect with other parents. But the atmosphere didn’t really lend itself to having a real conversation.
I began to research what else was out there for some quality mommy – son time that didn’t require me to crawl on my hands and knees and squeeze my butt through a tunnel fit for a toddler. I found play cafes. Play cafes are relatively new to Canada, but have been around the UK, Australia and the US for years. A play café blends the needs of both parents and children, fueling parents with caffeinated beverages while providing ample play space for kids to explore and have fun.
Play cafes take the community-focused approach of a café and incorporate a play space for kids. At Chickadee Family Café, we provide that coffee shop atmosphere that you’re used to sipping your latte in as well as a fun child-friendly environment filled with toys and imaginative based play activities. Once the play space is closed and the kiddos are in bed, our space can easily transform into an evening meeting space for parent workshops, a couples’ date night or a meeting place for mompreneurs.
While most indoor playgrounds either don’t provide food or serve up fast food options or vending machine snacks, a play café is a full-service café with espresso based beverages and a hearty menu of healthy snacks and lunch items.
A play café is a bridge between an early years’ center and your local trendy café. Most play cafes offer parent and child classes and parenting supports through workshops and support groups, many things you can look forward to at Chickadee Family Café.
I hope that helped to explain the difference between an indoor playground and a play café. We can’t wait to open our doors and invite you to experience the difference for yourself.