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A Play Space for both Parents and Kids

Nibbles Play Cafe, Wheeling

Nibbles Play Cafe, Wheeling

There are two small luxuries to a parents of young children. A hot cup of coffee and being able to finish a sentence without interruption. I don’t know how I drank coffee before we got a microwave three years ago. If I can’t find my cup at any given moment it’s probably in the microwave forgotten after its last reheat! Having an adult conversation with that hot coffee? Well that is even rarer.

However there is a trend that has been spreading rapidly in Chicago and is now finally appearing in the suburbs, Play Cafes. Play cafes combine coffee shop and indoor play place. They allow the parents to enjoy (hot!) coffee, conversation, or to work, while their kids play nearby.

Lake County is home to two great play Cafes Nibbles Play Cafe (13 Huntington Lane, Wheeling) and Stay 2 Play Cafe (1475 Dilleys Road #6 Gurnee). While they each have their own unique features and are set up a bit different the premise is the same. Parents can enjoy coffee and conversation while their kids enjoy crafts, dress up, and other play stations nearby.

Nibbles Play Cafe just celebrated its fourth anniversary in Wheeling. It has a full service cafe that offers a variety of snacks and meal options and includes healthy kid favorites and baby food. Nibbles is also a peanut free zone and has ingredient lists on hand as well as vegan options to cater to any dietary restrictions.

Nibbles is set up with the cafe in the center and the play areas circling around it in little walled off sections. These rooms each have a theme; dress up, trains, books, building, the play kitchen and a craft area. While this set up does allow for more cafe seating it was a little difficult for me with a new walker who needed help going in and out of each room.

Nibbles offers plenty of special events throughout the week from their weekly free coffee monday to musical guests and costumed character visits. They have also started offering new arts classes and have teamed up with Creatively Caring ( to offer family service progjects. You can learn about all of Nibbles classes and special events at their website,

Stay 2 Play Cafe is Gurnee is brand new, opening at the end of last summer it has quickly become one of our favorite places to go on school holidays and rainy days. Like Nibbles, Stay 2 play combines the coffee shop experiences with a large open place space. The difference here is that at Stay 2 Play the cafe and play area are separate and Stay 2 Play is more cafe offereing lots of coffee and snack options but a more limited menu provided by Pear Tree Catering. The play area is large, open and bright and is fully supervised. You sign your kids in and then you can sit and chat, work, read, whatever you want to do in the cafe. All children and adults are given wristbands and there is an attendant at the door so the little ones can’t run out. They also have added a smaller baby room with a few tables inside the larger play area where moms with younger kids and non walkers can sit and enjoy coffee while their kids play.

Stay 2 Play also has special events including parent tot dance classes, a weekly storytime and constantly changing arts and crafts area. They also offer Parents Nights )ut, usually around a holiday, where you can drop older kids off for a few hours and go out to dinner or run errands. This spring they have also been begun offering extended parent supervised hours for a reduced rate. Full event information can be found at their website.

If you are, like me, a parent who relishes long conversation had over still steaming cups of hot coffee I would run (don’t walk!) to whichever cafe is closest to you. It’s worth every penny to sit and drink my coffee hot while my kids burn off that seemingly endless energy.

Nibbles Play Cafe
13 Huntington Lane, Wheeling
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 8:30AM-2:30PM
Sun. closed for private parties
Admission: $7.50 per child, $3.75 for siblings.

Stay 2 Play Cafe
1475 Dilleys Road #6, Gurnee,
847-336-4S2P (4727)
Hours: Monday – Friday 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Saturday 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Daily Admission for One Child $12, Each Additional Sibling $9
Express Play (90 minutes or less) for One Child $8, Each Additional Sibling $6

See my gallery of photos from both locations at: /grayslake/community/galleries/2012/04/play-cafes/

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