I have always been amused by the predicament of folks visiting cafes with small kids. Unless the child is tiny enough to be strapped to a stroller with a pacifier inside its mouth – basically tied and gagged – parents have a problem. Okay, not so much a problem, but a challenge, a herculean task, of engaging a pint sized energy ball with the attention span of a hummingbird such that it is sedentary, at least for a little while so they can sip at their drinks and let their sleep deprived minds wander.
Now, if there are pigeons in the vicinity of the cafe, which is quite common in Singapore, that is good news, not for everybody though. These urban birds are the least flighty and the most purposeful creatures I have come across on this island. They have adapted surprisingly well with the country’s economic boom and change in lifestyle. Instead of gouging out worms from the soil (which is so last century!) they swoop down on molten chocolate cakes or puff pastries lying in front of unsuspecting patrons and parade in between tables, hawk-eyed, puff-chested and taut-bodied, without a tinge of remorse.
And it is this sight of pigeons marching on the tarmac, that holds an universal appeal to kids across the world. They would tear away from protective arms, squeal in ecstacy and scuttle after the birds, who are surprisingly unflustered, till they are about to be stepped on, which is when they spread their wings and fly few meters away only to be chased again. This hobnobbing can continue for hours, giving enough time and space for the guardians to ‘keep calm and enjoy their drink’.
However, if thou cannot spoteth pigeons, do not despair. I have also watched anguished parents slowly relinquish their grip on electronic tablets or smartphones and surrendering them to tiny hands that urgently tap away at them for hours on end. So there is that. Another trade-off for solitude and a cup of coffee.
Some make their kids carry homework or sketchbooks to cafes. But that doesn’t quite cut it. While you sit back, relax and are about to zone out with the steaming cuppa, the last thing you need is to be badgered for help in Math or to be asked what crayon to use to paint the hut. This is also when the spouse flashes the ‘I told you so’ look.
With a thriving cafe culture in the country, new cafes sprouting like mushrooms, and Time Out featuring yet another list of ‘best cafes on the island’, I was surprised some entrepreneurial 20-something-Melbourne returned-grad student hadn’t thought of catering to this niche already. With a book cafe (“a book themed cafe that offers a relaxed ambience and casual dining”) and even a cat cafe (‘we strive to give you the perfect combination of cats, coffee, tea and pastries‘) around, it seemed such an oversight. Untill one day I stepped inside ‘Eat Play Love’ on 28 Aliwal Street.
From the taxi’s window, this calm cerulean blue space, fitted with wooden hand painted furniture and vintage signages, barrage of colourful crafts, toys and knick knacks looked especially eye catching. Once inside, prepare to be drowned in the cacophony of gleeful kids huddled at a crafts table – playing, painting, sketching, sticking, cutting, wrapping and what not, all by themselves. Their guardians have the peaceful look of a Zen monk. Life’s sorted.
However, if you’re there minus the bambino, well, a slightly uncomfortable feeling akin to showing up for class without books, may tug at your sleeve. Obviously, you cannot share or borrow these metaphorical books! But thankfully the cafe has enough room for you to slink away from the hubbub, grab a table by the window, sip a latte or aromatic tea infusion, read a book, paint and chit chat with your spouse.