Being a kid requires some time to play, even if that means socially distant playtime this year.
Liddle Bites Play Cafe in Long Beach is among the local children's activity spaces that have pivoted their business plans to offer private playdates, rather than the traditionally popular open play sessions.
Owner Ingrid Ceniceros says she noticed "many families were already developing their own 'pods or home groups'" for safer play during the pandemic. In turn, she was inspired to offer private playdates that allow for parents to arrange fun times for a small group of friends or family, away from others. Since introducing the sessions, Ceniceros says the response has been positive and that "private play has become a regular part of [the] weekly schedule" for many families.
"We will definitely continue the private play sessions once things return to normal," she says. "It is wonderful to see that good things can come out of uncertain times."
The following Long Island venues are currently offering private playdate sessions:
Social Play Haus
For private play, a group of up to six children can have 90 minutes together ($150, any additional kids are $25 each) to eat at reserved tables, with food options such as mac-and-cheese bites, chicken nuggets, nut butter and jelly sandwiches, hot dogs and cheese quesadillas. The group will then have access to the play space which has obstacles to climb, toys and things to build, among other fun stuff to try. The experience is ideal for children ages six months to seven years.
MORE INFO 200 Express St., Plainview; 516-200-6444, socialplayhaus.com
Liddle Bites Play Cafe
Popular play space attractions include a rocket ship-inspired nook and a "dollhouse" large enough for kids to explore (up to age eight). Guests can also munch on prepackaged snacks and drinks in the venue’s cafe. For private sessions, a group of up to four children can have the entire play space to themselves for 90 minutes ($40 for host family), three hours ($75) or six hours ($150), with $12 for each additional child. Guests are welcome to bring their own snacks or order in from an area restaurant.
MORE INFO 132 E. Park Ave., Long Beach; 516-442-3131, liddlebites.com
Little Gym Smithtown
Little Gym in Smithtown is offering private classes for no more than four children at a time. "We decided to host the private classes for those that were not comfortable socializing yet but still looking safely burn energy and have some fun," says program director Matt Kovacik, "As winter as comes along, interest has begun to increase."
Each session is 30 minutes in duration for $79; time can be extended by 15 minutes for $20. Classes are intended for kids ages four months through 12 years. Activities will be related to the participants’ ages. Children younger than three years of age must be accompanied by an adult.
MORE INFO 70 E. Main St., Smithtown; 631-360-7777, thelittlegym.com/smithtownny
Once Upon A Sundae
Children can play in a toy space that includes a child-sized ice cream parlor, then make crafts and whip up their own sundaes. This venue has always offered private play events in its playroom, but owner Raffaela Locke says that these days, "We are seeing a steady flow of interest in these private sessions. When the weather was warm, there were more options, but now that the weather is getting colder, indoor spaces are limited and there aren’t many options, but families don’t want to be stuck inside all winter."
Each session is an hour in length and must be reserved in advance for a child ($8) and then siblings or other kids ($6 each); playroom doors can be shut upon request. Children can also leave the playroom to paint ceramic crafts at public tables, where they’ll be seated at a distance from others. Ice cream is also available — and free of peanuts, nuts, sesame, gluten and egg — and can be dairy-free upon request. Crafts and ice cream are additional purchases. "Our private play sessions are a way for parents to feel wholly comfortable in giving their child those normal moments back," continues Locke, "while knowing we are taking the utmost precautions in terms of cleanliness and COVID safety."
MORE INFO 20 S. Village Ave., Rockville Centre; 516-208-6737, onceuponasundae.com