Why I love Little Explorers Play Café, Staines
Soft play is exactly like Goldilocks’ stolen porridge – too hot, too cold, or just right.
Some venues are pure soft play
hell heaven, with an entire warehouse dedicated to toddler cage fighting, with punchbags, bottomless ballpits and superslides. Some are just a room bolted onto a garden centre cafe with a few sorry looking blocks and a canvas ‘Spot the Difference’ poster.
Little Explorers Play Café is Little Bear’s porridge. It’s warm, inviting and just right. If you turn up expecting Kidabulous or Giggles – you may well be disappointed. But if you’re shopping in Staines and the children are bored of being dragged around the Elmsleigh Centre – Little Explorers is an absolute godsend.
Husband and wife team Lucas and Milena opened the doors on their café/soft play/baby sensory haven just three months ago after failing to find anything like it for their own son. And it’s clear they’ve invested a lot of hard work, heart and soul into it.
The venue itself is an old pub. Not that you’d ever know now. Phew. (Wouldn’t hurt to bring in parents’ Happy Hour though… would it?!). The floor space is vast, so it’s perfect for the new clientele of groups of friends with buggies to spread out their parenting paraphernalia and feel at home.
There’s a soft play cage area which is small but clean, shiny and new (quick while there are so few germs!) and has a big slide dropping straight into a ball pit. My three year old loved it. There’s a section next to it for smaller little ones too – from baby to two-ish I would think where they can play with big squidgy farmyard shapes or cruise around safely.
But the real gem I think is the baby area – the whole front section is dedicated to the youngest customers. Nine month old Little P was in awe of the bubble lamps, mini ball pit, numerous mobiles and little baby tables she could bash and practise standing against. It was like all the toys I really wanted to buy her at Christmas, but couldn’t justify were there waiting for her. Baby heaven! Outside the stair-gated off baby area is a large area with rocking horses and ride-on toys for slightly bigger babies to get active.
The café itself serves toasties, pancakes, spag bol and mac & cheese as well as a couple of pasta dishes if the grown ups are hungry too. Decent coffee too, by Milena’s barista sister, so you can expect a strong caffeine refuel.
You pay for each child on entry – starting at £1 if you go after school, or during the day it’s £2.50 for the youngest babies going up to £4.50 for 2 years plus. No parking, which is a shame though. There are even story-times, arts and crafts and singing in the mornings we’ve yet to check out. The French rhyme time, Francofolly sounds very cool (I’m a bit of a language geek).
Little Explorers caters best for 0 – 2s, but older kids would certainly be far more entertained here than they would being told “FOR GOD’S SAKE STOP THAT NOISE – OTHER PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO WORK/CHAT/ENJOY THEIR CHILDLESS PEACE!!” in boring old Costa.
I do love a small, local start-up, and this one is run by a rather brave and lovely couple, so think about that warm bowl of porridge and get down there with your own little people to support it.
Little Explorer’s Play Café. Blue Anchor House, 13-15 High Street, Staines, tw18 4qy
01784 559766 between 10am-6pm, Monday to Friday.
Disclaimer: This isn’t a sponsored post – I went down to Little Explorers as a paying customer to try it out and just happened to love it.