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Lattes & Lollipops

Play cafe offers equal chill space for adults, kids

Upon entering the coffee house with saffron and terracotta-colored walls in Powell, you wouldn’t expect a haven for rambunctious children would be on the other side of one of them.

Yet adults read magazines, thumb smart phones and peruse the Internet on laptops as baristas prepare espresso drinks and lunch items that are hand-printed on a chalkboard.

What you don’t hear is the sound of screeching kids at Lattes and Lollipops, a play cafe that opened in 2012 at 337 W. Olentangy St.

That’s because they’re having a good time in another room, visible through picture windows. I spy youngsters sliding down a bounce-house slide, playing dress-up and removing wooden cookies from a play kitchen oven.

The 2,300-square-foot cafe adequately accommodates both: Caregivers enjoy some downtime while children get some let-it-all-out time in the well-supervised play area. When I visited with my young children, ages 4 and 6, there were three caregivers supervising a half dozen children.

The two spaces, which feel worlds apart because of the sound control, are separated by a wall with large windows, so you can see your children, but not necessarily hear them. If you’re so inclined, you can sit at a bar table with stools that looks into the play space, allowing parents and children to see one another at all times.

My children enjoyed playing in the bounce house and pretend fire station the best. After an hour’s play, though, they were interested in what mom and dad were doing and exited the play area for snacks. Home-brought food isn’t allowed at the cafe, requiring you to purchase the tempting juice bars and chips.

The cafe’s website emphasizes that it’s not a daycare – parents are ultimately responsible for their children.

How does it work?

You show up, pay the fee and sign a waiver. Children enter the playroom, take off their shoes and go at it, while parents and caregivers take a well-deserved break. No reservations are needed.

Cost for two hours of play is $15 for first child and $10 for siblings. Daily happy hour is from 2-3 p.m. and costs $6 per child and $3 each additional child.

Hours are 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday through Friday; and 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Saturday. After hours are reserved for planned parties.

For more information, visit lattesandlollipops.com or call 614-798-2071.

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Peapod Play Cafe

Coffee shop with indoor play space just right for Gahanna, New Albany

Peapod Play Cafe recently opened its doors in northeast Columbus, joining a string of indoor play spaces in central Ohio offering fun for youngsters and a coffee-shop atmosphere for parents.

Peapod, at 4874 Thompson Rd., fills a void, says owner Chien Shu Cho, who opened her spacious, modern gathering place in November.

“There are no indoor playgrounds in the area to serve New Albany and Gahanna,” said Shu Cho, during a soft opening in late October. “Moms here need a place for their kids to play, especially in the winter.”

What makes Peapod different?

Shu Cho, originally from Taiwan, offers an assortment of unique toys and play items, mostly from her home country. There’s a sturdy, plastic bowl that several children can sit inside and rock. There are also four-wheeled riders that children pedal while standing up.

“Toys are important,” Shu Cho said. “I want to offer something that kids never see and want to play with.”

Shu Cho and her husband, Tengyin Hu, built a wooden playhouse and an ice-cream truck for the cafe and even created ice-cream treats out of fabric.

The duo are graphic designers by trade. Shu Cho moved to Columbus 17 years ago to attend the Columbus College of Art and Design. After being laid off from a design job one year ago, she said she felt the need to reinvent herself.

Having two young children, the couple was drawn to the play cafe business and saw an opportunity in northeast Columbus.

Their cafe is geared toward an age range of children beginning to walk through 7-year-olds. Other play items include rubber balls, train sets and a metallic wall for sticking magnetic letters. There’s also a lot of carpeted space for children to romp around.

For the parents there is a separated space with seating and free Wi-Fi. Coffee and healthy snacks also are for sale.

How does it work?

Just show up, sign a waiver, pay and allow your kids to play and yourself some “me” time.

Cost is $10 per child. Price decreases with additional children ($6 for second child, then $4 each additional child). The cost for crawlers is $4.

Half-priced admission is available during the last hour of playtime.

Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed from 1-2 p.m.), Monday through Friday; and 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Saturday.

The space also is available for parties during after hours.

For more information, visit www.peapodplaycafe.com.

Firefly Play Cafe
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Firefly Play Cafe

Community vibe keeps customers coming back to Clintonville cafe

Since opening in 2010, the original of the play cafes in central Ohio has made itself at home in the Columbus neighborhood of Beechwold.

Firefly Play Cafe, at 4822 N. High St., has become a welcoming gathering spot for children to play and adults to socialize in the environmentally conscious community.

The 2,500-square-foot cafe is sparsely decorated, resembling a warehouse or a big basement, with exposed ductwork and a concrete floor topped with mismatched remnant rugs. There are colorful splashes of lime green and tangerine on the walls, where paintings by local artists also hang. Toys lie scattered about – rubber balls, magnetic tiles, wooden scooters and hula hoops.

The cafe is geared for kids ages 2 to 6. They can jump in the bounce house, climb and slide on a wooden play set and romp around in the open space as adults catch up with friends or sip on locally roasted coffee or freshly brewed tea.

The cafe also serves light snacks, juices and sandwiches by the Columbus-based business Fresh Box Catering, which supports local, homeless families.

I visited the cafe with my two young children on a Tuesday night, when hours are extended until 8 p.m., and a local musician entertains the crowd. I sipped on “Scarlet and Grey” tea, a delicate blend of Earl Grey and dried red roses, while taking in the atmosphere from a corner seat.

It’s an unpretentious place. This welcoming vibe was accentuated by the laid-back guitarist, who encouraged children to sing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” at lowered microphone stands or join the jam on tambourines and small guitars.

The cafe also offers regular art activities and story time. Visit Firefly Play Cafe on Facebook for information about upcoming programming.

When closing time rolled around, I was surprised to see that all the toys had been neatly put away by all those using them, as if the cafe was their own house.

Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; 9 a.m.-8 p.m., Tuesday; and 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Saturday.

Admission is $4 for children ages 1 to 23 months; and $6 for those ages 1 to 11. Children younger than 1 year and those older than 12 are admitted free. Guests with children are asked to sign a waiver, which is available for review online.

For more information, visit www.fireflyplaycafe.com or call 614-230-2375.

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Piccadilly Play Cafe

Respite for parents, rumpus room for kids in Bexley

Play cafes are popping up like posies around central Ohio, offering rumpus room for restless children and a degree of respite for tuckered parents.

Included among the pack is Piccadilly Modern Play and Creative Cafe, which opened last year at 2501 E. Main St., Bexley.

I visited the colorful cafe while attending a superhero-themed birthday party with my 3-year-old son, Max. He and his friends decorated fabric capes, ate cupcakes and clambered around a wooden play set that had a ladder and slide.

Meanwhile, we parents chatted in comfortable chairs, drinking herbal tea and munching on crackers and hummus. It was the perfect place for a play date. I felt no nagging urge to clean as I watched the children strew toys by the bucket.

“Our goal is to make your life easier,” owner Allyson Morena said as she dished out pizza to party guests. Piccadilly is the latest venture for Morena and her husband, Stuart Hunter, who have two young boys. They also own three roll: bicycle shops in central Ohio.

Piccadilly is in a transformed office space and offers coffee and healthy snacks on one side and a play area on the other. There’s a big, spongy floor mat that’s meant for babies. There’s a train set surrounded by cubbies full of puzzles and toys for toddlers. There’s the wooden play set with underneath coves for preschoolers to play house and hide-and-go-seek. There’s a stadium-style seating area for viewing movies, and a rear room for creating crafts and hosting birthday parties.

Other services include babysitting and daily innovative classes for babies to preteens, such as how to cook by color.

Hours are 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m., Thursday; and 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Saturday. The space is closed for private parties on Saturday afternoons and Sundays.

Admission is free for those younger than 6 months and age 13 and older. Day passes for children cost $10 for the first child and $5 for each additional child. Ages 6 to 12 months cost $5.

For more information, visit www.piccadillydally.com.