When we moved back to Toronto we had a little more than our carry-on luggage to account for. We had a 1 year old kiddo (and two French speaking cats) that I hadn’t imagined fitting into my pre-Europe world of living beside Dufferin Grove Park, daily trips to The Common, and spending every Saturday enjoying all-night poetry readings. Seriously, life in Toronto with Aodhan was new and slightly scary.
Once I had shaken off my fear of taking my kid into Crema (really the only thing that disturbs the young hipsters with their trendy frames and highlighters is just how damn cute he is) and let myself still spend every weekend just roaming around Kensington – because, man, my kid can roam, I realized that despite Holyday’s warnings, this city was made for kids.
Obviously, other people figured this out long before me because there are kids everywhere in Toronto. Like, everywhere. You can’t take a walk without having to sidewalk salsa dance with a few Bugaboos, and businesses like Baby on the Hip are able to go chain store style in communities like Little Italy and Leslieville – where only the cool daddies wear their babies.
But, us ex-hipsters can’t be expected to go without our caffine and opportunities to out-cool each other. Jesus. Be still my heart. I did move back to Toronto for a reason you know. Some forward minding folks have been kind enough to provide us with a place to drink coffee, wear black AND play with our kids. Popping up all over this fair city is the baby cafe. Yes, coffee, tea and a good selection of eco-friendly, bamboo, not-made-in-China products await at a trend centre near you.
Leslieville has Lil’ Green and Bean, a lovely little cafe on the Queen Street car (at Queen and Jones). This place is bustling! My favourite has to be the giant tree house-style play area at the back of this bright and clean space. In the heart of Little Italy, Playful Grounds has recently opened their doors to provide a similar opportunity to families living in the more western regions of TO. With a slightly different vibe, this cafe has a great local and organic focus. Run by 2 awesome sounding women, Playful Grounds is run for parents by parents!
These cafes are great and our city can easily support more of these businesses that carve out a space where families can connect with each other and where the isolation of raising our children is made a little less overwhelming. Sadly, Aodhan has outgrown these great spaces and needs a different type of interaction – enter SMOCK.
In my opinion, Smock is Roncesvalles‘ most wonderful spot. In the middle of the still remaining authentic Polish shops, the required Thai food offerings and some newer eco-friendly boutiques is this little creative wonderland. Smock ramps up the offer of play, and beckons our non-baby babies with an offer to create. Although this cafe does consider the newest of our broods with baby-friendly playspaces and toys spread about – it isn’t that bit of lovely that I am interested in. At the back of this wonderfully light and lovely world sits a giant table covered with canvas, ready for kids to come and make art.
Two instructors are on hand to guide and support our kids through a variety of crafts, creations and art-focused experiences. The shelves are bursting with every art material, craft notion and design supply that any art teacher could ever hope for. Even with the ratio of about 10 to 1, no kid ever seems to be lacking in the right support that they need and the space is always free of chaos – it is just a bunch of kids, wearing smocks, sitting around and creating art. You can spend all day or just a morning. You could just drop in when the fancy strikes or you could sign up for some of the awesome courses they offer. You could have a pot of tea or eat a little lunch. Plus, it is on Roncy, so if you are bored, you just pop back out onto one of Toronto’s most amazing streets and wander around until something else grabs your heart. Love it.
Sure, you pay 7 dollars and yes it is probably one of the most privileged activities we involve Aodhan in, but honestly, it is a lovely space to sit, drink tea and watch my kid create works of art next to other kids.
Do you have a favourite baby/kid cafe in Toronto? or do you have one to share from your own city?
What are your thoughts on these spaces?