Looking to keep your kids occupied during winter break? Central Ohio's growing roster of play cafes offers sweet relief.

Looking to keep your kids occupied during winter break? Central Ohio's growing roster of play cafes offers sweet relief.

Don't believe those holiday commercialsthat show kids quietly, contentedly playing with their new toys. Parents know, for the sake of everyone's sanity, the little ones will need some energy-burning activities over winter break regardless of the temps outside.

When it comes to indoor play spaces, there are the usual suspects: community centers, the little kidspace at COSI, the Wonder Room at the Columbus Museum of Art and "Lord of the Flies"-like play areas at shopping malls. But there's another option for parents who don't mind paying to play. A play cafe provides three ingredients essential to a successful playdate: coffee, Wi-Fi and climbing structures.

A few years ago, Columbus had just a couple of play cafe options, but these kid-friendly spaces are now popping up all over town. Some are bare-bones, with a play structure or two, drinks and pre-packaged snacks. Others focus on menus. Little Green House in Grandview partners with Bellwether Kitchen to provide full meals, while Treehive Cafe + Play in Powell offers a variety of breakfast and lunch sandwiches, soup, espresso drinks and even German chocolate cake.

You're responsible for your own kids at a play cafe, but some places also provide extra sets of eyes. At Piccadilly Modern Play & Creative Cafe in Bexley, "play coaches" monitor the space, keep it clean and may engage in activities with your kids.

If you find a favorite and don't want to pay each time you go, certain cafes-Piccadilly, Treehouse Play Cafe in Grove City, Little Skipper's Play Cafe in Hilliard-offer monthly and quarterly memberships. Adults usually are admitted free, and kids range from $3 to $10; some places charge for a block of time while others offer unlimited play. Inquire beforehand about age restrictions; some cafes aren't intended for kids older than 7 or 8, though most allow older siblings to hang with mom or dad for free. Most play cafes also require kids to take off their shoes, so bring socks.


Find a play cafe near you.

Firefly Play Cafe, 4822 N. High St., Clintonville,fireflyplaycafe.com

Little Green House, 808 Grandview Ave., Grandview, littlegreenhouseplaycafe.com

Little Skipper's Play Cafe, 3615 Fishinger Blvd., Hilliard, littleskippersplaycafe.com

Peapod Play Cafe, 4874 Thompson Road, Northeast Side,peapodplaycafe.com

Picadilly Modern Play & Creative Cafe, 2501 E. Main St., Bexley,piccadillydally.com

Treehive Cafe + Play, 337 W. Olentangy St., Powell,treehivecafe.com

Treehouse Play Cafe, 3455 Grove City Road, Grove City,playtreehousecafe.com

The Well, 203 S. Broad St., Lancaster,amoderngatheringplace.com

ZenKidz Play Cafe, 43 E. Home St., Westerville,zenkidzplaycafe.com