One for the babies & preschoolers - Little Acorns Play Café, Cricket St Thomas near Crewkerne/Chard
Updated: Jun 7, 2020
This little gem has only just opened its doors to the public and is South Somerset’s newest play café – the best concept invention as far as I’m concerned since sliced bread. What’s not to like about a café that provides boundless entertainment for your toddlers and pre-schoolers, while you enjoy a coffee and maybe even a slice of amazing rainbow cake?! (*Made with natural colours, said the sign on the bar!)
Well, I didn’t have the cake as I’m a newly reformed clean-eating kind of momma (sort of...) but I did have a massive cup of coffee and half of a toasted teacake and I can tell you that this place is well worth a visit if you have under fives in tow.
Answering the need for somewhere child-friendly to visit between Axminster, Chard, Crewkerne and Yeovil, Little Acorns Play Café is based in the large, airy permanent marquee in the grounds of Cricket St Thomas Golf Club, just off the A30. As the marquee is used for weddings most weekends, the play café opens only on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday* and on the other days, the play equipment is packed away into a storage container on-site.
**Edit - August 2019 - Little Acorns have extended their opening hours and are now open Sunday - Thursday.**
I was curious to find out what play equipment would be available given that it gets packed away so frequently – I was imagining some soft shapes for tots and maybe a box of toys but happily my preconceptions were off-the-mark and I was pleasantly surprised on arrival one Tuesday morning in June.
The heated marquee was spotlessly clean and had several play areas zoned to suit different age groups, with a ‘contained’ padded shapes area for crawlers, a baby zone with playmats and activity arches, and a cute home corner area with beanbags, books, a colouring table and even a (totally not actually combustible) camp fire!
In the middle there’s a two-floored woodland-themed play structure with rollers to squeeze through, a netting bridge to negotiate, and a slide which kept my daughter entertained for ages; and finally there’s a separate fun tunnel area with a soft climbing structure. I also noticed that a lot of the padded equipment has added sensory tags and bits for kids to discover and enjoy.
All in all, I was not expecting such a robust range of play equipment given that it’s only in situ 3 days a week, and it’s clearly been well thought through to appeal to babies, tots and pre-schoolers. They allow up to age 5 years but I think it's best suited to up to age 4, and while my 5 (nearly 6) year old would find some of it a bit junior it's great to have the option to take her along while she's still small enough not to steam-roller the younger ones.
Seating-wise, there’s plenty of tables, chairs and high-chairs spread out across the large space inside the marquee, and there’s further seating the form of picnic tables outside in the enclosed garden overlooking the golf course. (Enclosed – hoorah! Anyone with an adventurous toddler will rejoice at a fully fenced off garden – no escaping into the wake of the fast and the furious golf buggies! More on that later.)
Lots to choose from in the way of great-looking cakes, biscuits, and thoughtful toddler snacks (think giant cookies, Pom Bears and Ella’s kitchen pouches), and a simple lunch menu. I didn’t spot any brunchy-type things so I think the cooking facilities are limited though they did toast me a mean teacake. I didn’t see any fruit available but who am I kidding, as if I’d have got Livvie to eat a banana in the face of all of the treats..! As it happened, she had a classic Livvie breakdown because I had the audacity to eat half of the said teacake but she did get over it eventually, though she got jam all over my jumper in the process.
I spent about £11 which I thought was reasonable, that included the play fee for Livvie, a good sized coffee, two toasted teacakes with jam and a packet of those little Muddy Bear biscuits that are always a tiny bit pricey in cafes at £1.50 for 2. But jokes aside, the snack menu is well priced with most things under £2.50, as you can see from the image above.
Under 3s play is £2 per child and age 3-5 is £4. I was given a Little Acorns loyalty card at the till so after a few plays, I will earn myself (well, Livvie) a free play – always a welcome bonus, especially if you have more than one child.
The facility has plenty of parking close by (but seriously, do just watch out for the golf carts as Chard's answer to Lewis Hamilton did drive past me quite enthusiastically as I headed towards the marquee path!). Toilets are in the club-house building next door. *Edit*- I noticed on a subsequent visit that there aren’t any baby change facilities in the toilets closest to the marquee. Baby change facilities are available in the female toilets in the main Clubhouse which is only a short distance further.
I visited with my Mum and my 2-year-old niece Jessica – she had a whale of a time and was still playing strong after we left after two hours of play (my niece, that is, not my Mum.) Mum and I both noticed that even though it was quite busy at one point with around 20 adults and children in there with us, it was quite a quiet, muted spot to sit and chat (a novelty for soft play) because the marquee walls and ceilings are draped, reducing the echoes of our little darlings – and that’s a win in my books!
Overall, a great concept making use of the large marquee space that must’ve stood empty during the week prior to the Little Acorns entrepreneurs moving in – wishing the team good luck and we’ll definitely be returning soon to this lovely cafe. The proprietor said that they’ll be running special themed events as the year goes on (she mentioned a fairy-light-lit Halloween disco which sounded cool) so follow them on Facebook to keep up to date with upcoming dates.