Nestled next to Spotlight in the free-to-park-at Lidcombe Centre is a kids cafe with a twist – ChouChou Bebe. Ideal for under 5’s who are mobile (calling all toddlers), the cafe has a variety of beautifully presented play spaces and provides parents with practical facilities, such as a baby change and seating area.
Entry and need-to-knows
First thing to note is that ChouChou Bebe is a pram and shoe free zone, adults too! Little ones will need socks to join in on the fun. There is a stroller parking zone at the entry way which was compact and struggled to fit our prams. If you can leave yours in the car, do. A great detail in this area is the free lockers where you can stash valuables, shoes etc.
Adults are charged an entry fee which can be redeemed for a free coffee or hot beverage. Who wasn’t buying a coffee in the first place, right? Children under 12 months are free of charge. For older children (age limit of 5 years old), you can pay for one hour, two hours or day pass. Discounts apply for families with more than one child.
Food and drink
There are some cute desserts on display or you can opt for cafe staples such as banana bread for around $5. I ordered scones which tasted as though they were wholemeal, a nice touch for a dessert place. Plus they served real whipped cream not the tinned fluff. A small buzzer is provided with each order so no waiting at the counter. Side note: This is not a lunch venue. The menu options are decidedly suited to morning/afternoon teas.
On entry through the child-proof gate, the kids are free to explore. Through a variety of delightful, child sized rooms on two levels you can find; a mini supermarket, picnic area, race track, music room, block area, several ball pits and more. My toddler was particularly engaged by the “Hinoki Zone”, which was filled with small wooden cubes. A fantastic use of natural materials for play. Some parents have voiced concerns over the wooden cubes as dangerous. However, just like bark chips or rocks in a playground, if your child is still mouthing objects then you can opt to steer them clear. My friend Google tells me that Hinoki is “a tall slow-growing tree native to Japan that has bright green leaves and yields a valuable timber”. Very cool!
But wait! Here’s the kicker. While seated in the cafe you have front row seats to the crowning glory of this place – a huge TV with cameras rolling in each play area not directly within eye shot of the tables. That’s right! You can see your toddler move from room to room while you drink your coffee or cuddle your baby (or in my case, babies). It’s a game changer!
Amenities include a beautiful baby change area and mini hand-washing sink. A physiotherapy room is available for appointments. Unfortunately you will need to leave the cafe to use the toilet (the centre toilets are not exceptionally close by). A function room with a glass window was available for hire and staff were very friendly and helpful.
Bumps to be aware of
The cafe is a pram free zone, it charges entry fees and can get very busy and noisy during peak periods (such as weekends as well as weekdays when it is raining). Children over the age of 5 are not allowed entry. This may seem stern but provides a safer environment for the little ones.
All in all we had a lovely morning with friends after the initial struggle to co-ordinate babies minus their prams. All 3 toddlers from our group were happy as clams the entire time and left in a lovely relaxed mood. The beautifully set out themed spaces are in line with the approach a teacher might use to engage a child in imaginative and exploratory open-ended play. Aim to visit on a weekday, if possible, to avoid the noise and seating issues that come with crowds. Also, have your kids’ socks on and ready to play before you pay to maximise the time spent inside.
Where is ChouChou Bebe
ChouChou Bebe is on Level 1 of Lidcombe Shopping Centre, next to Spotlight. The shopping centre is along Parramatta Road, opposite Costco and Bunnings.