Shorewood - When Adrienne Shea became a new mother, she found it difficult to reach out to other parents with young kids.
She tried approaching other parents at parks, coffee shops and restaurants, but it wasn't until her daughter reached preschool that she found other new parents that could relate to topics like her child's eating habits and sleep schedule.
"It’s a very specific time in your life and not everybody can relate to it," the Whitefish Bay mother of two said. "It's nice to have a support system during those times."
Even once she found a social circle, their group often struggled to find age-appropriate activities in close proximity. After talking with other parents in the North Shore area, Shea decided it was time to expand the possibilities of play and socialization outside of each other's houses and into a dedicated space of their own.
Shea decided to open a play cafe, a relatively new concept that brings children younger than 6 years old together to play and socialize while their parents read the paper, eat a scone or drink a free coffee. The North Shore suburbs have been without a play area since Generations at Play closed in Bayside.
After 10 months of planning, Shea is almost ready to open Little Sprouts Play Cafe in the former Computer Gallery space at 4606 N. Wilson Drive. She doesn't plan to open for another couple weeks, but as word of mouth spreads, she has already booked several toddler birthday parties.
"People are very excited," she said. "We’ve had great community support so far, and we’re not even open."
Little Sprouts Play Cafe will expose children to all of the attributes of a small town, pared down to a size more manageable for little tikes. There's a playhouse, firehouse and a market area. They can test their imagination by playing dress-up, reading books, creating art or pushing their sense of wonder to the limit with trains and cars. Infants who can't yet walk will have their own gated community with plastic blocks and other toys.
Through her networking, Shea has partnered with local parent professionals, who will be teaching yoga, art and music during weekly classes. The scheduled activities are designed to expose children to social interactions, creativity and following instructions. Basic art supplies will also be available outside of the scheduled art classes.
Daily admission for children is $8.50, but that rate is discounted for families that sign up for monthly and yearly memberships. Parents do not have to pay for their own admission. Drip coffee from Stone Creek Coffee is complimentary. Bakery items, packaged snacks, milk and juices are available for sale. A local caterer will provide lunch items.
Little Sprouts will also be hosting parent education classes, which will be taught be a certified counselor. Topics include positive parenting, sleep training and potty training.
More information is available at www.littlesproutsplaycafe.com.