On Friday afternoons, Jennifer Evers usually can be found sitting in her favorite cafe, plugging away on her laptop.
With trendy seating, funky pendant lighting and a full espresso bar, the swanky suburban coffee shop allows the Naperville mom to easily indulge in some adult time away from her children. But the indoor playground, play town and toys indicate this is not your typical java joint.
Tot spots & hot spotsCafé N Play1767 W. Ogden Ave., Suite 155, Naperville
$8.50 per child, $5 for crawling infants and toddlers.
Grounds for Hope2701 Maple Ave., Lisle
$5 per family up to four children.
Kids Club Party and Fun1827 W. Golf Road, Schaumburg
$10 per child, $5 for infants under 1. Infants under 1 free with sibling.
TreeHouse Indoor Playground985 S. Rand Road, Lake Zurich
$10.50 per child ages 1-15.
Evers, a blogger and social media consultant, is a regular at Café N Play in Naperville, where parents and caregivers can enjoy free Wi-Fi, a variety of beverages and some socialization while the little ones play safely nearby. A mom of three girls, Evers visits the cafe with her 5-year-old daughter Katie, who loves the dress-up clothes.
"I get a couple of hours of work done and she plays," Evers said. "It's glorious."
As busy schedules and telecommuting force adults to stay connected -- even during playtime -- more moms and dads are looking for spots where the juice boxes are as abundant as the wireless Internet.
"The ability to do something like come to Café N Play with your computer feels like a great option for our moms who work from home," said Cathy Subber, owner of Café N Play. "That's something that's great for their kids rather than spending every single day in the home. What I've heard from moms is they were able to get a lot more work done than usual."
A mom of two boys, Subber also is the founding sponsor and owner of NapervilleMomsNetwork.com, an online support and social forum for area moms.
Subber became inspired to open Café N Play after reading numerous discussions on the forum among parents of small children looking for places to meet and socialize in Naperville. Subber's cafe caters to kids up to around age 7 and also offers dance classes, a story time and other activities.
"When your kids are young, it's pretty isolating," said Subber, a chiropractor and owner of Advanced Health of Naperville. "If you have a couple of kids running in different directions, it's a lot easier to just stay home. Then you're not getting that social interaction that you need."
Boasting an extensive food and beverage menu, Wi-Fi and a colorful, treehouse-style play tower, Grounds for Hope Café in Lisle also provides space for parents to relax, read, work or socialize while their children play. Opened in October 2010 by Trinity Lutheran Church in Lisle, the cafe offers outdoor summer day camps for children ages 4 to 7 and promotes causes such as building fresh water wells through Living Water International.
Grounds for Hope business manager Melanie Lohmeyer said she often sees parents catching up on email or paying bills while keeping an eye on their children.
"They want to feel part of that grown-up society," Lohmeyer said. "It gives parents a chance to socialize. The kids love it. They love playing with other people's toys."
With comfy couches and free coffee and tea, Kids Club in Schaumburg features a play tower, ball pit and several playrooms, including a kiddie disco complete with black lights. Parents can bring their own peanut-free lunches and snacks.
Café N Play also allows parents to bring in peanut-free outside food.
Like Grounds for Hope, TreeHouse Indoor Playground in Lake Zurich has a full kitchen in its 7,700-square-foot facility. Owner Michele Balaka, who opened the first TreeHouse location in 2006 in Chelsea, Mich., said the era of fast-food restaurant play lands that became popular in the 1970s has been fading in recent years. She wanted to not only fill that gap, but also offer something completely different. Sophisticated play cafes that include areas for both kids and adults have been popular in Europe for more than 20 years, Balaka said.
"The Chicago area is just catching up (to this trend)," said Balaka, whose facility offers a baby area and equipment for children up to age 14. "With the advent of the coffee shop and Wi-Fi, it's just natural to be able to put something in for the kids."
In addition to providing the chance to take a breather while the kids let out some energy, another draw for parents over traditional fast-food restaurants is the atmosphere.
"This is one of the best kept secrets in the Western suburbs," said Rhonda Ing of Plainfield, who frequents Grounds For Hope with her 3-year-old son, Eric, after preschool classes at nearby DuPage Montessori School. "If it's too hot to play outside, or raining, we come here."