• With Kids in the Westcountry

A hidden gem for the under fives (Weekdays only) – Tick Tocks Play Café, Axminster

Updated: Jun 7, 2020

#rainydayactivity #playcafe #childfriendlycafe #axminster #thingstodowiththekids

This is one of those places that you’d probably never find if you didn’t hear about it from a fellow Mum (or Dad, Granny, Grandad, etc), because of its unassuming location on a trading estate on the outskirts of Axminster (10 minutes from Lyme Regis, 20 minutes from Bridport & Honiton, and 30mins from Crewkerne). But for those looking for a safe place to take babies, rolling/crawling tots, and pre-schoolers up to the age of four(ish) during the week, this is one of those real hidden gems that you’ll be glad to discover, especially on a rainy day, or a day where you really can’t face the thought of tagging your two year old around a more extensive soft play.

The beauty of Tick Tocks Play Café is that it’s small. And by that, I mean it’s small enough to make it easy for parents to keep an eye on their kids while they play, from the comfort of the chairs and tables right next to the padded play zone. (Yes, padded – an essential for our adventurous climbers who seem hell-bent on flying down the slide head first!) It’s a purpose-built facility aimed at babies, toddlers and up to age 5, though I think it’s best suited to the under fours.

The main play structure has enough features to keep the toddlers & pre-schoolers entertained, with some soft obstacles to negotiate, an enticingly orange slide (safe for little ones), and a hidey hole den underneath. It stands within a conveniently enclosed area which has edges to contain smaller tots, and these little ‘walls’ have little Velcro patches for busy hands to peel back and discover the sensory activities underneath. A baby play mat with activity arch is available, and there’s a big flexi-bucket full of colourful toys to explore, although Livvie spent the best part of half an hour of our visit today playing with the bucket itself – she made a great human snail.

To the side of the padded area is a well-stocked play kitchen (from which Livvie served me a dodgy-looking ‘mushroom cake..’), and an activity table which today had an array of jungle animals to play with – I think the toys get changed around regularly as when I’ve been before there were trains and vehicles instead. Great idea to keep the activities fresh for the many repeat customers.

There’s also a selection of books and an activity cube. Sounds like they’ve thought of it all? Well yes, as it happens, the owners run the nursery/preschool next door, and have done for many years, and with backgrounds in professional childcare these two know exactly what the kids (and parents) need in a play café. There’s everything you need here in the way of child-friendly facilities, from highchairs, to steps in the loo for the sink, children’s toilet seats, and even a gate to barricade off the door to the car park – they’ve got you covered.

While we’re talking about practical stuff, there’s a couple of prime parking spaces to the front of the building which you can usually nab if you get there early, otherwise there’s a little car park behind the next-door preschool which is only a few paces from the front door.

What I particularly like about this place is its welcoming and un-cliquey vibe, helped by the compact nature of seating area. It can be intimidating for parents/carers to come to a play café on their own, but I’ve come here many a time to kill an hour on a dreary day and I’ve often found myself just striking up a good conversation with another parent or the ladies behind the counter. Talking to owner and baker-of-lush-banana-muffins Lynn today, she commented on how she’s witnessed some really nice relationships being formed by people who come in regularly, and how she’s pleased its become a welcoming environment for parents with brand new babies who can find it scary at first getting out of the house.

Today, I managed to stave Livvie off the sugar for a whole HALF AN HOUR before I caved in to her incessant requests for a caaaakkke, and bought her a chocolate and sprinkle-covered flapjack, on the proviso that shared it with her little mate Francis, and she chased that down with a little cup of milk. As I’ve said, the owners have thought of it all here, and you can opt to have the kids’ drinks in a spill-proof beaker or a cup depending on the child’s level of civilisation!

I had a coffee (really nice, it must be said) which comes with that all important free brown biscuit thingy – what are they called? Oh yes, a Lotus Biscoff (thanks Google) – I do love a free biscuit with my coffee, I also find them useful to bribe my kids as an incentive to leave when it’s time to go home, if I manage not to eat it myself.

I got a bit peckish around mid-morning on today’s visit but in an effort to stop filling my face with cake, I asked Lynn what she could do in the way of a savoury snack, as I didn’t fancy anything off the lunch menu at half past 10. She whipped me up a mighty scrambled eggs on toast (one of her suggestions) and I thought it was great that you could have something ‘bespoke’ if you fancied something in particular that wasn’t on the menu. Within reason!

For a small café, they’ve got a great selection of kiddie snacks (pouches, fruit yoyo type things, crisps, fruit, biscuits), a whole range of home-baked cakes, and some great-looking grown-up fruity smoothies (including a green one called THE REVIVER which I thought was apt for an often-knackered customer base). For lunch there’s paninis, jacket potatoes and sandwiches, all at prices under £6.95. There’s a children’s lunch menu with sandwiches, beans on toast and pasta type dishes for an amazing £2.50, and a range of milkshakes, juices and presses on the drinks front.

There’s a small charge for the kids’ play on arrival, £2.50 for ages 1-5 and just a pound for the under 1’s. They offer a loyalty card scheme so when you reach your sixth play, it’s free, which is always a welcome bonus! Don’t forget, this place isn’t open at the weekends, it’s open from 9-4pm Monday to Friday only.

So, can I encourage you all to pay a visit to Axminster’s finest trading estate, to enjoy this great little play café? It’s the perfect place to go with the little ones on your own, or to meet friends, when you need a safe and entertaining (and padded) environment in which to set your child free while you recharge. For more info, you can follow them on Facebook.