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The Latest Trend at Toronto Cafes Has Nothing To Do With Coffee as Kid-Friendly Spaces Start to Sprout

Posted by Rick McGinnis / September 30, 2009

Kid Friendly CafesThere are certain Toronto neighbourhoods that have become virtual incubators - the kinds of places where every other car has a car seat or two permanently strapped into the back seat, where wagons and strollers have pushed the Muskoka chairs off the porch, sidewalks are covered in wild chalk scribbles, and the local playground gets busier than St. Lawrence Market on a Saturday.

They're the sorts of areas that couples move to because of the restaurants and bars, but discover they're no longer as welcome as they used to be when they try to push a stroller through the door. It's inevitable that these are the neighbourhoods where kid-friendly cafés will start to sprout - a place for moms (and dads) to get a dose of java and a muffin without worrying that their bawling toddler or their breastfeeding will invite a wave of stink-eye from adjacent WiFi parasites.

Kid Friendly CafesLeslieville got its first kid-friendly coffee shop this week, with the opening of Lil' Bean N' Green, the brainstorm of three friends who saw the need for a place to recharge while their offspring had room to roam. "As a parent, especially a new parent, you feel isolated, and you need to reach out," said co-owner Meray Mansour, who recalled the December when she and pal April Cook both gave birth. (Mansour's sister-in-law, Laura Hing, is the third wheel of the tricycle.)

Kid Friendly CafesThe choice of Leslieville was obvious: "The three of us live in the area, and there seemed like there were more strollers on the street than people walking." The result is a big, bright room with a dignified, adult space at the front, and a rubber-floored area at the back complete with treehouse. The menu leans to the organic, with gluten-, milk- and nut-free options, and the trio have plans for read-alongs, puppet shows, dance, arts and crafts, yoga and baby CPR classes.

Kid Friendly CafesLeonor Filipe opened the Gingerbread House Family Café in the Junction three months ago with a similar goal of providing not only food, but a social service for parents at loose ends, many of them on parental leave and faced with weeks and months stretching ahead of them in the almost constant company of someone who doesn't read newspapers or watch movies.

Kid Friendly Cafes"I have a group of moms who come in for their 'weekly adult conversation,'" Filipe tells me. She says that creating relationships and forming networks with her customers is an important part of the job. "It was important for me not only to be family friendly but community friendly as well."

Kid Friendly CafesFilipe is expecting to have to hire on extra help in the winter, when inclement weather will drive customers off the playgrounds, but has already acclimatized herself to twice daily rushes, one before noon and one in the middle of the afternoon. "I always know when it's nap time in the Junction."

Kid Friendly CafesKid Friendly Cafes



Parkdalian / September 30, 2009 at 11:17 am
Great. Another way to strip people of money for the sake of kids.

Given Toronto's middle to upper middle class-java-loving population though, I guess Toronto will pay for it.
jack / September 30, 2009 at 11:58 am
don't worry these people are rich.. i hope these places carry enough insurance... and wonder if these are the best places to catch h5n1 flu
Ratpick / September 30, 2009 at 12:04 pm
I wonder how long it will be before Jilly's puts in a playroom, so Rufus, Millie and Hudson have a place to go while daddy gets his "adult time."
Fuzz McJaven / September 30, 2009 at 12:12 pm
Totally agree! Toronto should only cater to us creative, edgy, alterna-trendy youth. No one else. It's great for the economy since we have so much disposable time and cash (what with our parents paying our rent so we can avoid soul-crushing 9-5's, which are for losers who don't have the unique ability to question society's oppressive parameters). Quite honestly, it's people with families, the elderly, the middle aged, the welfare class, single parents, and immigrants who are ruining this city. It's not our fault that these people are simply not cool, nor made any effort to be interesting. They have no real desire to drink coffee in public, nor should they even be allowed to! Well, I guess that's a bit harsh - we should let them go to Timmies or Coffee Time, or one of those Coffee Time knockoffs, just as long as it's not a "real" coffee shop and just as long it's located in the suburbs.
mick / September 30, 2009 at 12:15 pm
I have to admit this is a good idea. If all kid-friendly coffee shops adopted this policy, you'd instantly know what environment to expect when walking in the door --helpful to both breeders and the child-adverse alike. I dropped $50 at Mitzi's on College last week for the privilege to not hear my best friend talking due to the two squalling brats beside us, which was really uncool. This isn't to single out Mitzi's (food was tasty/service great), but rather had I known in advance that they were kid-friendly, I would've chosen another place. Posting such a "child charge" would be a handy shortcut.
gord / September 30, 2009 at 12:17 pm
charging for kids to play is rediculous. There's a kid friendly cafe on the Danforth near Coxwell called Small Wonders Cafe that doesn't charge a cent for kids to use the play area.
Parkdalian / September 30, 2009 at 12:23 pm
This idea is as absurd as Mr. Corcoran's article today in the Post about liscensing cyclists. What are people on??

No other place in the world will you see this behaviour(*actually, that is true, regarding the cyclist issue)

Is it that HARD to recognize that a cafe will be child-friendly or not?

Why not just raise the menu prices to pay for kids toys, so only the families that can afford eating out at fancy cafes, pay for it.

Done. Problem solved.
danielle replying to a comment from Fuzz McJaven / September 30, 2009 at 12:26 pm
Well put.
Chris / September 30, 2009 at 12:28 pm
"they're no longer as welcome as they used to be when they try to push a stroller through the door."<p>That's because most strollers nowadays are the size of a compact car. I recently spied a retro 80s stroller somewhere and was stunned at how tiny it was. Let's bring back sanity to stroller sizes!
Brad replying to a comment from Fuzz McJaven / September 30, 2009 at 12:28 pm
Well played. x2.
ChrisP / September 30, 2009 at 12:30 pm
Theres another one in the Junction called "The Gingerbread Cafe", and they offer a free play space, along with free Wifi.
marts / September 30, 2009 at 12:50 pm
Ellington's Cafe on St. Clair at Winona has a big play area in the back - and it looks like all the toys were donated by patrons. Plus they have live jazz on weekday mornings - lots of parents and kids enjoy it. But it's not an exclusively kid oriented (i.e. super cutesy) place.
Adam replying to a comment from Fuzz McJaven / September 30, 2009 at 01:05 pm
Homogenization of neighbourhoods (or indeed the whole city) via gentrification is a big potential problem. And charging for kids to play is greedy and just plain poor business sense. But get a grip, Fuzz McJ, -- I mean, must you seriously dump a big, ugly ball of hatred on people for putting out some kids' stuff at a coffee shop?

If you care so much about lower socio-economic strata, take a beef with the people who actually make life difficult for them: bad landlords, unsafe drivers, drug dealers and other criminals, overzealous cops, Tory politicians, big corporations ...

... I mean, are the folks who own or frequent the independent café down the street really the bad guys on whom you must crap?
jen / September 30, 2009 at 01:46 pm
I applaud the entrepreneurial spirit and recognition of a niche market. I've often heard from at-home moms that they get bored hanging out at home and crave adult conversation. Plus it gives me a list of places to avoid.
Michelle replying to a comment from Adam / September 30, 2009 at 01:46 pm
Um, I think that Fuzz McJ was being sarcastic...the point was to highlight how ludicrous the other posts seemed.
Ratpick replying to a comment from Adam / September 30, 2009 at 01:59 pm
"If you care so much about lower socio-economic strata, take a beef with the people who actually make life difficult for them: bad landlords, unsafe drivers, drug dealers and other criminals, overzealous cops, Tory politicians, big corporations ...

... I mean, are the folks who own or frequent the independent café down the street really the bad guys on whom you must crap?"

I agree. Independent-cafe yuppies are squeaky clean and have never caused the poor folks any trouble. Except, of course, when they're bad landlords, or work for large corporations, or are Tory politicians, or unsafe drivers, et cetera...

jamb / September 30, 2009 at 02:07 pm
I am shocked that so many people are opposed to this idea. Here is a simple solution. Don't go!
Stay home and write more blog comments criticizing new ideas.

Well done Lil' Bean N' Green.
ddt replying to a comment from marts / September 30, 2009 at 02:45 pm
Jazz an kids in the same place....there's an instant migraine latte..
Mr Hate replying to a comment from mick / September 30, 2009 at 03:37 pm
Mick -

Hey ya think those little kids making all that noise while you were trying to eat your huevos rancheros are the same kids who stumble drunk up my street between 1 and 3 AM Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights whooping and screaming while I'm trying to sleep? No? They're not the same kids? Well, anyways, I just roll over and get back to sleep. Not that big of a deal.

It's called a city. Get used to the noise or get the fook out.
Laura replying to a comment from jen / September 30, 2009 at 03:45 pm
My sentiments exactly!
Gregor / September 30, 2009 at 03:52 pm
If it keeps them out of the cool places, fantastic.
Fuzz McJaven replying to a comment from Adam / September 30, 2009 at 04:24 pm
Adam, you are so right. I see the error of my ways - no need for all the Haterade, is there? Now, I would take a stand and help the less fortunate, but you see, I am not who I say I am. I am not a creative, edgy, alterna-trendy youth. I am homeless. My name is not even Fuzz McJaven.
I can tell from the tone of your response that you have a moral fire blazing within your youthful, toned body. I assume you are young and may one day change the world for myself and my friends.
Regretfully, I have no clout in society whatsoever so unfortunately whenever I take beef with the bad landlords, unsafe drivers, drug dealers and other criminals, overzealous cops, Tory politicians, and big corporations, nothing ever changes. Oh wait - you will be happy to know that I once stabbed a drug dealer and stole his wallet, but that's all.

I imagine judging from the big words you used, that you are educated, important and also quite attractive. As such, I know that you will have no reservations against donating some money to my community: https://www.canadahelps.org/DonationDetails.aspx?cookieCheck=true

Good luck with all those other urban evils who I have no doubt you and your like-minded friends will one day take down!

Thank you. And God Bless...
kay / September 30, 2009 at 04:46 pm
i can't wait to go their and curse.
parkdalian replying to a comment from jen / September 30, 2009 at 04:55 pm
If by "niche" market you mean a segregated market, that's sad.

Also, you don't need to pay $3 to "know" what place is kid-friendly or not. Just stick your head in and you'll figure it out.

But hey, if you wanna pay three bucks while other more normal places don't charge at all, then be my guest.

Mr Hate / September 30, 2009 at 05:41 pm
Adam misunderstands Fuzz's post then Fuzz misunderstands Adam's post.

By the way, I'm the president of Uzbekistan.
bill mcmurray / September 30, 2009 at 06:33 pm
Why is almost everyone so smug, sarcastic, angry and snarky on blog.to? Honestly is that what living and loving Toronto all about? The articles are ok here, but I start to feel sick when I read the comments, if all of you are my neighbours - what kind of city is this?

I'm from NY and I always defend and promote TO, I'm starting wonder if I've missed the mean spirit that seems to be part of the culture.

ddt replying to a comment from kay / September 30, 2009 at 07:38 pm
Awesome idea kay, you f'n rock...lets go swear like the Nasty show, ha
Mr Hate replying to a comment from kay / September 30, 2009 at 08:40 pm
Kay - Hopefully your illiteracy won't rub off on the kiddies while you're teaching them swearwords.
Princess Máxima of Denmark / September 30, 2009 at 08:52 pm
What if you don't pay the $3? Will they ask your kid to leave?

Bill McMurray: Yes, you missed it. We're very crotchety, it's a byproduct of winter and our victorian roots.
cara replying to a comment from Mr Hate / September 30, 2009 at 11:03 pm
Argument FAIL.
cara replying to a comment from Mr Hate / September 30, 2009 at 11:04 pm
Sorry...Mr. Hate, I can't take anything you say seriously. Grow up.
Andrew W. / October 1, 2009 at 10:16 am
I have a question - does anyone who reads Blog TO actually have children? Given the comments here, it would appear not.

I appreciate Blog TO's attempt to speak to parents however, even though these kinds of cafes don't really interest me you see, because I'm perfectly find with taking my kids whereever I like.

That's the beauty of living in a big city - your kids get to experience the full range of life the city offers, from great parks to the mentally ill - it's all good, because it builds a tolerance for others that seems sadly absent from many of the people who comment here.

And as a parent, I have to laugh at the child-haters, mainly because, in about 5 years, they too will pine for the cool "child-friendly" spaces they now so relentlessly mock. Most of us know that your loathing of some kid ruining your beer buzz is merely the deep-seated fear of having to take on the responsibility of having a child. But it's OK, you'll grow out of it.

jen replying to a comment from Andrew W. / October 1, 2009 at 10:38 am
"And as a parent, I have to laugh at the child-haters, mainly because, in about 5 years, they too will pine for the cool "child-friendly" spaces they now so relentlessly mock."

Aw, when did my mom start posting here?
FBSks / October 1, 2009 at 12:12 pm
Having babies is trendy now. Do all you single people feel left out?
parkdalian / October 1, 2009 at 12:24 pm
I changed my mind.

I don't mind families paying extra for this service(*if they can afford it) Just as long as the establishment is well insured and there's a paid person looking over the child area.

I don't wanna be a hater. I wanna be a solution-er.
keven replying to a comment from Andrew W. / October 1, 2009 at 12:28 pm
"And as a parent, I have to laugh at the child-haters, mainly because, in about 5 years, they too will pine for the cool "child-friendly" spaces they now so relentlessly mock."

Way to preach on that 'diversity' you speak of :P

"I'm perfectly find with taking my kids whereever I like."

See people generally don't hate kids. They hate parents like you.
jack / October 1, 2009 at 12:32 pm
why can't people make coffee at home? is it that hard?
jen replying to a comment from jack / October 1, 2009 at 12:42 pm
It's not about coffee so much as about socializing and being out of the house.

I'm in my 30s and I know I don't want kids. It's not hate, it's just not something I feel I need to do.

And listening to a baby cry, scream and whine during a meeting yesterday just reminded me how great this idea is.
Mike der Moustache / October 1, 2009 at 02:40 pm
I actually don't have any problem with kids. I love them - they are so cute! Ever talk to one? I swear they say the funniest things. I guess I was around a lot of kids throughout my life, so they don't really freak me out. Parents are people too. Also, most people don't hate kids or make a big friggin' deal about a child making noise or whatever. Most of the kids I see in public are well behaved, anyways. Where have you people been hanging out where kids are such a big nuissance, screaming and crying everywhere? I think this may simply be a non-issue.
Devon / October 2, 2009 at 10:20 am
I think it's great that there are cafes that parents can go to with their kids. But paying for kids to play, is that really necessary? It seems greedy.
Jenelle / October 2, 2009 at 12:59 pm
Why is "(and dads)" in parentheses?
Natalie replying to a comment from jamb / October 2, 2009 at 08:59 pm
I am so with you sister!!! what's with all the lil bean bashers??? if you don't want to go then don't! very simple concept!
P.S. Best coffee in Leslieville so far!!
Kat / October 7, 2009 at 11:21 am
I think people who don't have kids cannot fully understand the satisfaction of walking into a place and knowing that they wont be getting the stares of disappointment because of their fussy baby. I had a chance to go to this cafe and it was nothing but satisfaction.... Friendly service, great coffee, amazing atmosphere.I definitely will be returning
CC replying to a comment from Gregor / October 9, 2009 at 02:49 pm
I was so please to hear about this cafe sent to me by a friend. I can't wait to check it out! So I read the review and then I decided to read the comments. I find it appauling what this world has come too. The internet is a vessel for venting and hate mongering. Out of all the comments posted I think there might have been two comments that were positive!! Get a grip people. It is way too easy to be protected by a computer identity and write ridiculous comments. These are the tipical passive aggressive people who would never say this in person in a social situation. You all need a shrink.

Are you that self absorbed and insane? I really can't believe the amount of haters spending quality time writing comments on a review about a new cafe that caters to families. I mean I thought being cool and edgy took up most of your day yet somehow you managed to spend your time here.....Makes me think that maybe this deep rooted HATE comes from a deeper place like wanting to be a parent!!! And please I am begging you.... Can you please define "cool"? Writing hateful comments...is that cool?
Bottom line: The cafe is a great idea.
You don't like it don't go.
They charge to keep the place running and clean I assume. (kids sometimes have a tendency to break things or scribble on furniture etc.) Replacing these items can add up.
And if you took the time out to do research cuz you obviously have the time, we are the only major city in the world that hasn't caught on to this idea. It exist everywhere else and yes wait for it....... THEY CHARGE!!! OMG!
It is this simple: I have a kid and trying to go out for a coffee to starbuck or wherever is impossible because of stupid haters like you who give dirty looks and make comments. Also my baby wants to walk around and talk to people and touch things cuz guess what that is what a toddler does EXPLORES.....We all did it (before you became a sorry excuse of an "ADULT" lol! you were a toddler too!) Also I can't drink my coffee in peace because I am chasing my toddler around....This way my baby plays and I have my coffee....works for me.

So I will gladly pay three whole dollars for the enjoyment of my toddler playing in a safe clean environment, learning new skills like TOLERANCE towards others and sharing whether it be a toy, a city or a restaurant! Or what, are you expecting us to keep our children in hiding in our homes so they aren't socialized properly and end up like most of you here....Now that's a scary thought!

So please go back to your wonderfully fulfilled lives and please remember to keep hating because it is always good to use up all your time and energy in being mean.

Oh and please, please, please do society a favour and do not procreate! That will mean I less hater in this world!

Thank you.
momof1 / October 21, 2009 at 02:58 pm
I love the idea and live nearby. I am a stay at home mom and will pay $3 any day to get out of the house and have somewhere the hang out. There's a few crappy indoor playgrounds that cost $9+ and certainly don't sell coffee. Way to go Lil Bean, we will definately be regulars.
Emma W. / December 15, 2009 at 12:08 am
Great idea. I have already been once and will definitely go back. Like the PP said, there are places that charge $10 just for your child to play and they are not nearly as full at this place was when I went! Like so many others have said, if you don't like the idea, don't go there. There are a million coffee places out there that don't cater to children and parents of children. Can we please have this one??
Acornart replying to a comment from danielle / July 27, 2010 at 11:36 am
Agreed. Well said Fuzzy one. To the rest of you jaded youth not yet at the procreation phase in life, I think you are forgetting something. You were a snotty nosed kid once. In fact, we all started out that way. Put your ipads down for a nanosecond and think about that. You can be sure that at some point in your childhood, your parents experience rolled eyes and annoyance when they dared to take you out in public, be it a restaurant or otherwise, to god forbid teach you how to behave out in society.

So, even if you aren`t planning on ``breeding`` (if you are fortunate enough to have the choice) then on behalf of the gene pool, thanks.
Megan Mooney replying to a comment from Devon / October 16, 2010 at 05:11 pm
Hey Devon,

The places has a whole playground toy room thing in the back. It's kind of like the 'indoor playgrounds' that are all over the place. The fee is to cover the cost of making that kind of space and equipment available. I'm assuming that when you run a restaurant each table represents a certain amount of money per month. The space is at least half the size of the cafe and would easily fit 9 tables or something like that. So, that's why they'd need to charge per kid.

Also, I'm just guessing, but I suspect there is liability insurance to pay for when you're providing actual equipment for children and stuff.

Plus, it's $3 a kid, and most indoor playgrounds seem to run around $10 per kid (except the city run one, which, I think, is $3).

So, it's not like they're saying 'it's $3 to let your kid roam around and entertain themselves with the tables and chairs because we advertise in a way that means you won't get judgment for having your kid here'. That would be unconscionable. It's $3 to let your kids play in their indoor tree house and swings and toys and on and on.

We just went today and it was pretty cool. The whole thing still cost $10 once I had a latte and my partner had a coffee and we paid for the play, but, for the same price as one of the indoor playgrounds, we got to enjoy great coffee while our toddler played.

It was a good experience.

Yvonne / February 2, 2011 at 09:47 am
I heard about this cafe recently from one of my mom friends and thought it was such a great idea. I just read the first few posts and wondered what was wrong with these people. Wow, what's the point of being so negative?
Emm replying to a comment from Parkdalian / February 25, 2011 at 11:52 am
This person certainly didn't have kids. The cafe is an amazing idea I will pay the money for my sanity
Jessica / June 15, 2011 at 11:12 am
Hello!!! Children are the future of this planet. It completely blows my mind that some people STILL think they should be seen but not heard. Open up your minds and hearts, we were all once children! Embrace this fact and embrace the better ways to accommodate and integrate the people of the future into our present day. This is not only intellegent but necessary. GET WITH THE TIMES. Some people expect more for their pets than the children in their neighborhoods and local cafes.

Oh and charging for kids is just boring and not business savvy. Be more creative than that Toronto entrepreneurs! If you want to make some extra money to cover the cost of the kids section, sell kids items either on the menu or in a toy section that has a greater profit margin.
MercedesMats replying to a comment from jen / January 10, 2012 at 02:45 pm
Then don't have meetings in coffee shops. Simple. It's a PUBLIC place.

Get over youselves, people. If I have children I will take them wherever I please. If you don't like it - then YOU can leave. That's the beauty of living in a free country. (BUT if my child were to "whine, scream and cry" - I would leave. Not all parents are rude.)

PS It is my firm belief that the MAJORITY of child-haters out there are fully desperate for children themselves and are likely pathetically single and dying to not be. Most 'childless by choice' are not sensitive about babies, have no issue with children and actually enjoy having them around.
Ossington / February 16, 2012 at 10:43 am
Christ, I think I hate all of you people. I think I'm moving to Paris where people have kids, bring them along, and no one gives a shit. Also, peoples' children are well-behaved. I bring my son out to eat 3-4x a week, he has great table manners and no-one's *ever* complained. And he's a year and a half old. Toronto is just full of such whiny shitheads with worse manners than most 5-year-olds.
Ima Mom replying to a comment from Fuzz McJaven / January 5, 2013 at 09:47 am
Fuzz McJaven, you crack me up.
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