Recently we’ve been making use of Santiago’s fabulous play cafes.

In case you’re new to the concept: you pay an entrance fee per child so they can play in a safe zone full of toys for an unlimited time. If you’re lucky you’ll get a moment of peace to yourself to enjoy a coffee, catch up on emails or chat with adults. Genius!

Here’s a round up of my those we love:

Cafe Gluck

This was the first play cafe I discovered here in Chile and it’s my go to when I’m stuck for ideas to entertain my monsters.

Pros: While the layout of the cafe means you can’t see into every space at the same time, there are cameras so you can keep track from the cafe area. It’s always clean and tidy and staff are helpful. The indoor play area is large enough for cooler months too. Its main selling point is its garden with a sandpit, scooter area and play houses – absolutely lovely in summer.

Cons: While they are cameras, if you’re playing outside with one kid, or in one room, you won’t be able to keep track of any siblings in other parts of the cafe. Food options in the cafe are limited; it’s basically snacks and there is very little in the way of allergen free food.

Las Hualtatas 5632, Vitacura. Monday – Saturday, 10am to 7pm. +56 2 2248 1199. www.gluckjuegosycafe.cl

MoMo Coffee and Play

This smaller cafe is my hubby’s all time fave. In fact I bet he’d come here even without kids.

Pros: There’s a very friendly big black dog whom my kids adore (he’s called Momo). The cafe is handily sandwiched between two small play areas meaning you can keep an eye on your little ones at all times. The food is very good (the tagliatelle is fresh and the salads are not half bad at all).  It’s cheap too (just $3,000 per child).  Most importantly staff are extremely kind – it’s run by a lovely couple (and their two preschoolers!) and feels more like a home than a cafe.

Cons: It’s small, so not the best for older kids who like to climb, jump around and explore. While personally we love its homely feel, some mums told me they found it a little cramped. It can also get a little chilly in winter. Oh and it’s not great for dog allergy sufferers either I guess.

For more, click here. Sta Magdalena Sofía 491, Las Condes, Opening times have changed recently. Call beforehand to double check it’s open. 09 8657 9642

Babarrun

This is a favourite among many of my expat mums. The cafe recently moved to a new locale, but the ethos has stayed much the same, with a lot of wooden toys and recycled materials.

Pros: The perfect layout means you can sip coffee, watching your little ones in the play area in front, or in the garden to the right. The locale is very new, and always clean. Best of all, there’s a lovely outdoor play area, with a sunken trampoline, tree house and slides. Although we haven’t tried them ourselves, the morning play groups seem very well organised too.

Cons: Parking is a bitch.

For more, click here.

Peekaboo

My kids love this place for role play, and I always come away smiling (and exhausted).

Pros: There’s so much role play on offer – a vets, a market, a hair spa, a theatre stage… It almost feels educational. There is a cute little baby area too. There’s a lot to do indoors making it a good option in colder months.

Cons: If your kids are like mine you’ll be following them around everywhere and will no doubt be exhausted by the end of it all. The rooms are separate from one another so you may be torn from one room to the next. The baby area is separated from the cafe and is not blocked off from other older, more boisterous kids.

For more, click here.

Rukayen

One of the larger play cafes in town, it’s great for older kids or if you’ve only got one child to look after.

Pros: Its size means that older kids won’t get bored for a long, long time. An explore room with microscopes, creative toys and stories is great for a little downtime and there’s a huge ball pool for letting off steam. A separate room for babies and toddlers means they won’t get trampled on by older kids.

Cons: The rooms are spread out so if you’re looking after a toddler in one room, you won’t be able to keep a track of their older sibling elsewhere. When we were there, internet wasn’t working.

HareKori

This has lots of small rooms indoors and a large covered outdoors.

Pros: Parking is easy. It’s a decent size with slides, trampolines, toy cars and a ball pond meaning that even on a busy weekend it’s still doable. The selection of dress up costumes is ‘amazing’ (according to my four year old).

Cons: There is very little seating area for adults and while cameras are provided, you’ll no doubt end up running from room to room. Food and hot drinks are not allowed in the outdoor section, and with just two small tables in the cafe area, we didn’t even attempt to eat here. Also, there’s a wooden slide in the outdoor area which is more of a vertical drop and every kid under five I saw use it without their parents ended up injured.

Padre Hurtado Central 682, Las Condes, Tel. (2) 2895 0147 www.harekori.cl

Need to know: 

Most play cafes don’t allow shoes indoors. While overshoes are provided for adults for and socks are usually available for sale, it’s best to bring a pair of socks for the kids.

Play cafes aren’t nurseries. While staff are helpful as they can be, they probably won’t be first aid trained.

Call beforehand in case they’re closed for a birthday party (especially true on weekends) or if opening times have changed.

With the exception of MoMos which is a little cheaper, most play cafes charge around $6,000 CLP per child over two years old.

My boy Rafa has severe allergies and we wouldn’t trust the food at any of the play cafes for him. Cross contamination, trace elements, not understanding that lactose free and dairy free are not the same… if your child has an allergy I’d recommend bringing your own food. We’ve never has a problem when we’ve explained the situation.

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