It’s important to keep socializing even when you’ve got kids. I know when I first had my son it was a little overwhelming, but I still found it quite easy to eat out with a newborn as luckily, he tended to sleep through meals. Now he’s crawling and trying to walk, he’s a bundle of energy and not particularly keen on sitting still whilst I have a cup of coffee and a natter. I’ve been doing some research and looking for cafe’s or restaurants that also have a small play area that kids can enjoy. Cardiff does have lots of soft play options, but I’ll be compiling those another day. These are FREE areas that are safe for kids to play in whilst you grab a cup of tea or a bite to eat!
I know that I don’t want to be forking out an average of £3-5 for my son to spend 15 minutes crawling around, although a couple of the soft plays offer free or reduced entry for non-walkers, a lot don’t. When you have babies and young toddlers, soft play often isn’t worth it and you can spend that money on a tasty snack instead! A cafe or restaurant also makes an ideal place to meet up with friends or family, whereas it’s hard to invite your friends out for an instant coffee in the soft play cafe (well, unless they too have young children, in which case that might be perfect!)
The Sand Martin is a family pub / restaurant that has a children’s menu and highchairs aplenty. It has a small play area for under 5s which is free to customers as well as a couple of machines such as a riding pony game and grabber style arcade games. Great coffee and cake and located next to Leckwith retail park which has a whole host of shopping options including Asda, Marks & Spencers, Next, Mamas & Papas, Hobbycraft, Smyths, Maplins, Game, Costco and more. Although there are cafe’s in Asda and M&S, neither of them have a kids play area.
This is our regular as we shop at Lidl next door, so we grab lunch here every week. They have recently introduced a “banquet” carvery which is 4 carveries (2 regular and 2 small, but I find a small is plenty for me) and 2 cakes (really big!) with ice cream, for £20, Monday to Friday. I think this is a really great family deal – we usually take grandma so have 3 adults and 1 child and it’s loads of food. You can also get 2 burgers for £10 here (or 2 items from their 2 for £10 menu) which is better value than the McDonalds next door and far better quality!
My son enjoying the play area at The Sand Martin.
The Cedar Tree Farm has a fair sized children’s play area and serves a wide range of meals as well as hot drinks and desserts. Toddlers have a soft play section whilst older kids can play on a Wii, Playstation consoles and gameboys. They have a fabulous ice cream selection! It’s located next to Cardiff Bay Retail Park, where you can do pretty much any shopping you fancy with Asda, Lidl, Pets at Home, Boots, Home Bargains, B&M plus Ikea all within a few minutes drive. Nothing else down here has a children’s play area in the cafe. Although Ikea does have a creche, it’s not next to the cafe. Read my previous review of an evening meal at Cedar Tree Farm, but William was too young to enjoy the play area at the time.
Milk & Sugar is located in the Old Library. It has a small play area suitable for under 5s and serves lovely, independent, ethical food and drinks. The downside is that it is at the top of three flights of stairs – but thankfully there is a lift.
House of Fraser Cafe (City Centre)
House of Fraser has a lovely cafe on the top floor which is situated next to a small children’s play area. I’d say older toddlers might find this a bit boring, but it’s perfectly suitable for the 0-3 range and a welcome break after some shopping.
Deli Fuego (Cathays)
Deli Fuego is a friendly and inviting Mediterranean style restaurant with fantastic food on City Road. I was really surprised by how extensive the menu was, which you can see on their website. This would be ideal for a large family gathering, birthday or other celebration where the children are catered for too. They don’t serve alcohol, but have a very extensive mocktail menu – possibly the most extensive I’ve ever seen. I wish I’d known about it when I was pregnant! They have a small play room to the rear which is enough to keep the children entertained whilst waiting for food to arrive.
The Crepe Escape (Penarth)
Family run and family friendly, The Crepe Escape is a creperie and coffee shop in Penarth. The play area is fairly small, but enough to entertain a couple of young children whilst mum and friends have coffee and breakfast or lunch. It has an IKEA play kitchen, blackboards and books, so is more suited to toddlers than babies.
Honorable Mentions – with a small fee
We headed to Wyevale Garden Centre for Afternoon Tea, in a lovely cafe within a beautiful garden centre. There’s something for everyone here – gardening, interiors, with clothing shops and Maidenhead Aquatics as well. After a bit of shopping you can sit in the high ceilinged cafe right next to a soft play. The soft play is pay to enter, but if you sign up for the gardening club (free), then it’s only £1 which is excellent value! It is quite small so does get quite busy at peak times and school holidays.
Wacky Warehouse at The Heron Marsh, St Mellons
The Wacky Warehouse is getting a honourable mention as although it is a premium soft play (paid), adults and babies under 1 are free. If you have a little one who is just starting to crawl then this is a great option. If you have older kids, you’ll be paying £2.25 for a morning in term term, or £3.50 for 1 hour play after 3pm or during school holidays. The Heron Marsh does offer lots of good, cheap food though!
None of the venues knew I was compiling this list. It’s purely from my own experience and I’m only one mum. I would recommend checking the website before visiting to just make sure my information is still up to date as places do seem to chop and change a lot. Whilst researching for this list I found a lot of information from a year or two was out of date. Let me know if any of these are no longer offering play facilities!
I’ve also compiled a list of family friendly free days out in Cardiff, all of which I highly recommend.
I would be quite happy to add more, so add a comment if you’ve visited a cafe or restaurant in Cardiff that has a free play area for kids and I’ll get it added.