As soon as Beauden reached the age where he was crawling & cruising about I couldn’t wait to take him to a play centre. We tried out a few & it became clear what we both wanted to get out of these visits. A lovely clean & engaging place for B, and good coffee for me.
When I was growing up the only places I remember like this was the Whacky Warehouse, and I shudder at the thought of having to sit in one again.
Tell a lie, I did love a play centre that used to be on the Wirral. If my memory serves me right it was called the Discovery Zone & it was pretty epic. I just remember the really cool slide in there. But again, the smell of a soft play centre haunts me.
So, after asking around & doing a bit of googling I read about a few scandi inspired play places & some Montessori inspired play rooms too.
The idea behind these places is that they are role play focussed, capped in the number of visitors at one time, and they provide a clean environment for the children to explore in. And, there’s no primary coloured soft play in sight.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not against soft play. Beauden will reach an age where I am sure we’ll live out of one. But for now, we’ve certainly found the type of environment he likes to explore.
As you know we live in Liverpool, so I’m thrilled to say that each of these play centres are within an hours drive of Liverpool. They’re certainly worth the drive & alongside what we love about them, I’ve also made note of what else is nearby to check out as well.
Curiosity Corner is in the Lancashire Village of Tarleton. This is where my husbands family are from and it’s how we found this lovely place. It’s in an old church hall that has been converted into a beautiful environment for little minds to explore.
There’s a specific room for babies to play amongst floor gyms, a small ball pond, and sensory toys. The largest room comprises of a cafe and different themed areas for toddlers to explore. In the months we’ve been visiting, Beauden has moved from the baby room to the toddler spaces & loves playing in all the different sections.
From the cafe you can order great coffee, a very welcome thing for tired parents. Also there is great food to order for adults and kids. There is gift shop on site that sells some of the great toys the children can play with, plus unique gifts from independent brands.
We can’t wait to visit in the Spring and Summer months as they have a lovely outdoor space too.
There are three 1 hour 45 minute play sessions a day. Children are priced at £6.50 & it’s £1 per adult. To book & read more about Curiosity Corner visit their website and Instagram. There is a small number of parking spaces on site.
What To Do Nearby
Tarleton is a lovely village and the centre is only a 3 minute drive from Curiosity Corner. There is lots of parking in the village & this gives you access to independent shops & cafes. A 15 minute drive away is Rufford Old Hall, a lovely National Trust property to explore. Southport is only a 25 minute drive from there, but if you’re driving from Liverpool you’ll likely pass through Ormskirk which is only half an hour away. Ormskirk is full of independent shops & cafes and remember it’s market day on Thursday & Saturday.
Little Sparks is in the lovely village of Churchtown, Southport. This was recommended to us after I shared on my Instagram about heading to Curiosity Corner. A few of my followers where right when they said we’d love it there.
If you haven’t been to Churchtown before then you’ll be pleased to see it when you arrive. It’s a quaint village and Little Sparks is located in a renovated cottage in the heart of it. Inside there is one large playroom which is full of wooden toys, fancy dress costumes, themed areas & a cosy book corner.
Again there is a great cafe at Little Sparks. I say this because we went to one of the 9.30am slots & I was not feeling like a “bright spark”, until I had a lovely coffee! The menu changes throughout the day & serves up great breakfast and lunch choices for adults and littles, along with delicious homemade treats.
You can hire out Little Sparks for birthday parties, all their party packages are online & cater to different budgets. I’m already thinking of having Beauden’s 2nd birthday here. They have also just expanded to the space above & host classes & private events up there.
For all booking information, visit their website & Instagram. There are 3 sessions a day. Children are priced at £6.95 & adults are £1 extra.
What To Do Nearby
I love taking a stroll around Churchtown. Shops to check out are The Garden Room florist, Angels of Churchtown giftstore, and RS Fine Chocolate (get a takeaway Hot Chocolate ~ divine). These are my favourites. You can grab great food from the Bold Arms pub, or grab a coffee, wine or brunch from Remedy. The Botanic Gardens are only a 10 minute walk from Little Sparks, we like to visit here after a play to either see the ducks, go on the swings, or Beauden will most likely nap in the pram after playing.
The Modern Playhouse
The Modern Playhouse is in the centre of Birkenhead, Wirral. It’s right in the centre of town which makes it really accessible in a number of ways. It’s a 5 minute walk from the local bus station, less than 5 minute walk from the train station, Birkenhead Central, and there are plenty of car parks around within a few minutes walk.
The Modern Playhouse offers 3 sessions a day of 90 minutes of play. It is £7 for one child and adult, and this includes a lovely hot drink for the adults too. They have a Hotel Chocolate Velvetiser guys!
This playhouse is one large room, so while you might want to follow your little ones around as they play, you can also sit down & see every area of the room as they explore on their own or with friends. I love the toys at the Modern Playhouse. There are a lot of Love Every toys which really encourage independent play for longer periods of time. There is a messy play & arty area. And also a small section of soft & adventurous play for those who want to be more energetic.
To get the link for booking, visit their Instagram page ~ themodernplayhouse_
What Is Nearby
With The Modern Playhouse being in Birkenhead town centre you are only a short walk from lots of amenities. You’ll find popular high street stores like Next, Primark & Waterstones in town. Plus lots of coffee shops (Costa, Cafe Nero), plus a great food court inside the Pyramids Shopping Centre. You are also only a 15 minute walk from Hamilton Square which has the fabulous Liberty Bell Coffee opposite the station. Then a 5 minute walk on from there is the Woodside Ferry Terminal that has an amazing food market & great views over to Liverpool.
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The reason I love these type of play centres is because they feel like a home away from home. Each of these places make you feel so welcome. The children are free to play with toys they might recognise & discover new ones. It’s true imaginative & explorative play for them. After each session the rooms are all cleaned & reset ready for the next customers. The sessions are capped number wise so they never feel overcrowded.
I know I had visions of what toys I wanted to get Beauden, and how I wanted to decorate his play space. I love a neutral & calming space, lots of wooden toys, not much plastic or noisy ones. Yet, like any parent we become inundated with the plastic toys, the ones that sing Old McDonald on a loop. I started to think Beauden needed the bright colours & noisy toys to enjoy playing. But the Scandinavian play style has proved me wrong. Each carefully curated play space offers toys that spark the imagination of the children, are very aesthetically pleasing (obviously for the adults), and really encourage motor and other learning skills.
I’d love to know if you have visited any of these or have any other suggestions of places like this for us to visit.