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Playful Grounds

Posted by Robyn Urback / Posted on February 2, 2012

Playful Grounds TorontoPlayful Grounds is a kid-friendly cafe that has left the Elmos and Alphabet off the wall. This place has real espresso, tasteful decor, healthy snack options, and (perhaps best of all) booze. It just happens to also be a place that was designed specifically with moms (and dads, and caregivers) in mind.

Playful GroundsFirst off, Playful Grounds has no steps, making it stroller accessible throughout. The front of the cafe has a designated "stroller parking" area, and the tables are wide enough apart to allow strollers to pull right up to tables. Needless to say, there are plenty of high chairs on hand, as well as bibs, first aid supplies, and extra diapers to come. There is also a play area with books, toys, and a train table (plus a bin labelled "This toy has been in someone's mouth") and all of the cafe's tables are guarded with have corner protectors.

Playful GroundsWalking into the space, it's obvious that a couple of moms are behind the initiative. And indeed, it is Davina Cheung-Brown and Tera Goldblatt, moms of two and one respectively, who decided to open this cafe on College. Davina tells me she was longing for a place like this after she moved to Toronto from Vancouver not long ago, and found few family-friendly options in terms of neighbourhood cafes. She met like-minded at Tera at the drop-in centre down the street, and the two decided to work together to create a place of their own.

Play Grounds Toronto"The fact that the bathrooms were on the same floor was a big selling point for this space," Davina says as she gives me the mini tour. We head back to the family bathroom and by then it's clear that Davina and Tera have really thought of everything. Yes, there's the changing table, of course, but there's also a potty seat, step stool, and chalkboard wall on the inside of the door. "When you have two children, especially, it's good to have something to preoccupy the second child while you're changing the baby," Davina says, referring to the chalkboard. "Here, they can draw instead of touching things they probably shouldn't be."

201221-coffee-card.jpgBack at the front counter, Davina and Tera take me through the food and drink options for moms and kids. "At some places," Tera begins, "a 'kid's menu' has things like chicken fingers, hot dogs — junk, really. Here we offer the same thing, just smaller portions. So you can order yogurt and granola for an adult ($6) or yogurt and granola for a kid ($3.50). There are also kid-geared options such as Kiju organic fruit juice boxes ($2) and hot chocolate ($1.75) made with organic ingredients. Tera says they're working on veggie and fruit plates (with Tera's homemade tofu dip) and sourcing fruits like organic berries that can be mashed up quickly for baby food.

For moms and dad, there's coffee from Alternative Grounds and tea from Herbal Infusions, various baked goods and snacks, and yes, alcoholic drinks. I ask Tera about the reaction to the wine ($5), beer ($5.50) and specialty coffee options ($6.25) on the menu. "Relief," she replies frankly. "At least from moms. There have been no mixed reactions from that end."

Playful Grounds"Obviously, we understand what moms need," she says as she pours espresso into a cup of hot water Americano ($3/$3.50). "Any other place, if your kid starts screaming, you become a pariah; you can't get out of there fast enough. Here, we get it, and you can meet other moms who are dealing with the same things you are."

You can also get a pretty decent cup of coffee, as I experienced with mine. Though the cup was still pretty scorching when I first got it, the crema was still intact — nice and elastic — with plenty of room for organic dairy milk, rice, or soy. Tera and Davina have opened with limited hours for the time being (M-F, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), though are hoping to extend to weekends as business picks up. They're considering later hours as well, as long as it doesn't interrupt with nap time.

Playful Grounds



Brendan / February 2, 2012 at 09:14 am
Absolutely brilliant! Keep rocking in the wee world!
Breeder / February 2, 2012 at 09:23 am
We need more places like this!
goaway / February 2, 2012 at 09:58 am
Anything to keep kids all together, out of every other coffee shop or restaurant.
Jacqueline / February 2, 2012 at 10:11 am
....and here we go again with the "get them out of our coffee shop" comments.

No more anti-mom and childfree hate now, plzthx. It's a coffee shop, not a moral battleground. GEEBUS.
Jacqueline / February 2, 2012 at 10:11 am
That's is don't hate on either moms or childfree folk.
Keef / February 2, 2012 at 10:12 am
Mother's little helper...
Patrick / February 2, 2012 at 10:29 am
As a father of two little ones, I can tell you I look forward to a caffeine dose early Saturday morning. If the shop makes it easier for me to get in and enjoy, I'll go there. I hope we can keep the negative comments children to a minimum. Seems silly - we were all children at one point. Inasmuch as we were entitled to act like children (not brats), so should our children.
Welshgrrl / February 2, 2012 at 10:35 am
I think its a great idea - the more coffee shops, restaurants, movie theatres that cater to parents with kids in tow the better.

They get to enjoy a place that caters specifically to the needs of themselves and their kids, and the rest of us who want to see a film, eat a meal, or have a coffee in peace without whiny toddlers, crying babies, strollers the size of small tanks, and exasperated parents dealing with all of the above can do so.

Antimeria / February 2, 2012 at 11:51 am
I'm so glad to see that terrible crepe place gone and something so bright and friendly in its place! Welcome to the neighbourhood.
Marie / February 2, 2012 at 12:03 pm
PLEASE OPEN MORE OF THESE!! COME TO THE JUNCTION! As someone who doesn't have children, the sound of a screaming child in a coffee shop where everyone is reading quietly is worse than nails on a chalk board.
Shawn replying to a comment from Patrick / February 2, 2012 at 02:12 pm
That's right, we were all children at some point, and certain posters here still act like it, unfortunately. People like "goaway"'s idea of a coffee shop is one where everyone has a Macbook, Raybans, men wear jeggings, and have an in depth knowledge of every facet of the menu (else they incur the wrath of a douchey barista). The city's coffee shops are almost all either crappy coffee (Timmys, Starbucks' burnt coffee, etc.) or crappy attitudes (like many of the little coffee shops along College).
danielle replying to a comment from goaway / February 2, 2012 at 02:33 pm
Now if only the rest of us had a place to go without miserable and annoying adults, what a wonderful world it would be!
the lemur replying to a comment from Welshgrrl / February 2, 2012 at 02:35 pm
I wasn't aware this was such a huge problem in movie theatres. During which movies? At what time of day? And does that mean we can get movie theatres that bar grown-up idiots who talk through the movie as well?
Welshgrrl replying to a comment from the lemur / February 2, 2012 at 02:51 pm
I would be happy with deep-sixing the rude adult talkers/texters as well.

But in answer to your question, I can only offer anecdotal evidence but there have been several occasions where I have seen parents with babies/preschoolers in tow attending evening showtimes of films that I would have considered wildly inappropriate for the small fry (well, I'm sure the babies were oblivious, but even slightly older children remember a lot more than they're given credit for)
Ken / February 2, 2012 at 08:13 pm
I'm attracted to the 'Grown Up' items on their menu. *Just one more beer junior, and then we'll go to school*
Mandy replying to a comment from Marie / February 3, 2012 at 10:05 am
if you wish to read quietly, go to the library.
Have you been to a library lately? / February 3, 2012 at 12:08 pm
'nuff said.
Eunah replying to a comment from Patrick / February 4, 2012 at 12:17 am
Good comment from the father of two. I hear you. Today some strange individual kicked my child into me as we got on the subway and when she cried, he said shut the @@@@ up. I don't know where the crazies come from or how they get here/there, but thank goodness there's a safe haven for moms/dads/grandparents/caregivers with the kids like this place. The Children's Storefront and College Montrose Children's Place is nearby too for alternatives. Looking forward to trying this shop out. Thank you!
Noneofyourbeeswax / February 5, 2012 at 04:59 pm
And now the child-free know which places to avoid. Thanks1
Gwen Hughes / February 8, 2012 at 10:45 am
A lot of cultures embrace children as a totally normal part of daily life. I just spend a few weeks in Spain and every restaurant, no matter how fancy, had high chairs and were kid-friendly. It was very common to see large families with a range of ages (from babies to old folks) enjoying a meal together. No one had the "kids are annoying" attitude. It was such a refreshing change from snobby Toronto! Luckily there are a few places like this one that are trying to walk a civilized path between child-hating and ChuckECheeze everything. Good for you ladies!
Toe in Teeth replying to a comment from Eunah / May 16, 2012 at 08:38 pm
I would have kicked that guy in the teeth involuntarily and I'm not even a violent person. Something instinctual about protecting your kid.

As for the child haters, are you the same drunken f-tards laughing into the wind at 3 AM on your way home from the Drake Underground on Thursday night? Thought so. In that case, I can understand the child-hating. It's called a hangover.
Eunah replying to a comment from danielle / May 17, 2012 at 06:17 am
I agree with Daniella. Children are developing their emotional management, but adults should already know better.
Eunah replying to a comment from Toe in Teeth / May 17, 2012 at 06:25 am
Hi toeinteeth, even though I may have felt like retaliating, it's safest to simply avoid the crazies. You dont know if they have a knife or needle. Plus, they are already in a personal turmoil, so they are suffering already. Mentally I'll people eventually fade away because no one can really handle them. The best I can do is hold my child and soothe her and tell her that man was wrong. Then in the future she will recognize odd people to not associate with and cross to the other side of the street.
Julie / September 14, 2012 at 11:13 pm
I went to this cafe for the first time this week, and it was amazing. Great cafe items, and when my 5 month old started to get fussy, I didn't feel like I was ruining anyone else's coffee. The owner was super friendly, and so were the other parents in there. I forsee spending a lot more of my maternity leave there, for sure.
Dale / December 13, 2012 at 11:51 am
Both my daughter and I had a great time at Playful Grounds when we visited. My daughter toddled off to play with the other children around the train table and I was able to relax and enjoy my coffee, using only the corner of my eye to keep a look out. Also, I noticed that the cafe hosts events in the evening as well, such as CPR classes and other workshops. Very community-oriented.
Alex replying to a comment from Gwen Hughes / February 9, 2013 at 08:34 am
GwenHugh, the reality is that children are more behaved in Europe than in North America. The raising of children is different and better as well. Culture and environment plays a big role as well.It's funny because families, actually society here, was a little closer and similar to the Europeans up until the 70s. The post-boomer generation parents (incl. Gen x) are too tolerant and don't do anything when their child is acting haywire. They just don't have 'it' or the instinct. Maybe because the younger eras were really instilled as THE children back then. But I'm glad you noticed the difference in Europe.

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