Family Day Out Review: Doodle Caboodle Cafe & Play, Tring
Doodle Caboodle Cafe & Play, Tring
Value For Money9.0/10
Variety Of Activities7.0/10
Things We Like
- Alternative to soft play or a cafe
- Able to watch kids from seating area
- Good range of family-friendly food
- £5 play and hot drink is good value
Things We Dislike
- Small venue so can feel crowded
- No allocated parking on weekdays
What’s It All About?
Doodle Caboodle isn’t your normal soft play, nor your typical cafe. Instead, it takes aspects from both to provide a relaxed, welcoming and family-friendly venue for parents and their pre-schoolers. With two small soft play areas and serving barista-style coffee and homemade food, Doodle Caboodle is a happy compromise for families.
What Do We Think?
Having opened in 2017, Doodle Caboodle quickly became a regular haunt of ours – somewhere to visit when we had no plans and needed to escape the house for an hour or so. Cleverly designed to appeal to both young kids (fun play space) and their parents (good food and coffee), it’s a much more relaxing environment than a big soft play but is more family-friendly than a normal cafe or restaurant.
Located in a small business park near the centre of Tring, the cafe features two separate, garden-themed play areas for kids up to around six-years old. One is for babies and toddlers (under 1m) and the other is for older kids (over 1m). In reality though, children happily move between the two areas – it’s never that busy and each area provides a different kind of appeal. As it’s a place for pre-schoolers and young kids, everyone tends to be around a similar age so it’s not as segregated as other soft plays.
The baby and toddler area – which is secured by a gate – features a ball pool, soft foam shapes and a blower where you can balance balls in the air. There’s also a couple of shaped holes in the wall where you push the equivalent foam shape, a bit like a jigsaw.
The older kids area is slightly bigger footprint-wise and is set over two-tiers. Kids are able to climb up steps before coming down one of two slides. There’s also a few different punchbags, a ladybird to stand on, foam interconnecting blocks and a ‘hidden’ area underneath the top level featuring a sensory infinity hole.
The soft play area isn’t huge, but it’s more than adequate. If you wanted a large indoor play area to entertain the kids for a full afternoon, then you’d go somewhere else. Instead, Doodle Caboodle is more about grabbing a coffee or a bite to eat and letting the kids have a play as you do so. There’s never been more than 10 kids there at any one time when we’ve visited and the play cafe handles that volume perfectly.
As well as the soft play, Doodle Caboodle has a good quality cafe serving barista-style coffee, homemade cakes and hot and cold meals which is all reasonably priced. They do a hot drink and play ‘deal’ for £5 which is pretty decent value and something I usually do if going on my own with one of the kids.
In terms of food, we’ve eaten here a number of times and it’s always been good – much better than your typical cheap, greasy soft play food. There’s an emphasis on quality and providing healthy options – for instance, the kid’s picnic selection includes sandwiches, fruit, vegetables sticks, a yoghurt and a small biscuit, which is a lot better than typical ones with crisps and chocolate.
In terms of facilities, they have high chairs, two toilets (although one has been out of order for our last two visits), a kid’s step and baby changing facilities in one of the toilets. There’s also around 10 tables with chairs and one comfy sofa if you’re lucky enough to grab it. There’s no allocated parking, but there are a few visitor spaces in the business park and free parking on nearby streets. There’s also a bit of room outside where you can leave pushchairs if needs be.
Doodle Caboodle also offer ‘stress-free’ birthday parties – something we have experienced first-hand, both as party hosts and as party guests. We decided to have our daughter’s birthday party at the cafe and couldn’t have wished for anything better. As the name suggest, the emphasis is on making everything easy for the parent. We literally did the bare minimum – chose a date, sent invites, bought a cake and number balloon, then turned up on the day.
This means that for £240, we had two hours exclusive use of the venue for up to 20 under 5’s, a dedicated host, a party buffet, unlimited squash, music, filled party bags and Doodle Caboodle invites and thank you notes. We didn’t have to think about organising food, crockery or entertainment, neither did we have to set up the venue or clean up afterwards.
The kids played in the soft play for around 45 minutes, they then ate for half an hour, before being able to play for the remaining 45 minutes. It really was stress-free and allowed us to focus on enjoying her birthday and talking to friends, family and other guests rather than be preoccupied with the logistics. We’d definitely do it again for upcoming birthdays.
Doodle Caboodle has definitely discovered a niche – a nice, welcoming atmosphere where parents can have a good quality coffee and a chat with friends as the kids happily play. There may not be the same amount of space or variety compared to big soft plays, but as a parent, somewhere like Doodle Caboodle is much more pleasant than ‘soft play hell’.
What Does It Look Like?
What Do I Need To Know?
Address: Unit 21, The Silk Mill Business Park, Brook Street, Tring, Herts, HP23 5EF.
Opening Times: Mon-Wed 9am-3pm, Thur-Fri 9am-5.30pm, Sat 10am-2pm although weekend opening times vary depending on private hire.
Price: Free for baby in arms, £1.20 for baby crawling, £3.50 for over 1. Play and hot drink deal for £5.
Toilets: Yes. Unisex toilet and disabled toilet with baby changing facilities.
Cafe / Restaurant: Yes. Serving drinks, snacks and food. Around 10 tables in total.
Parking: Yes. Limited free onsite parking during the week – no allocated spaces, but a few visitor spaces marked with ‘P’. Many more free onsite parking spaces at the weekend. Unrestricted parking spaces available on the nearby streets, e.g. Brook Street, Brookfield Close.
Public Transport: Tring Train Station 1.9 miles away.
Duration: 1 to 2 hours.
Age Range: Babies and Toddlers (0-3), Young Children (4-8).
Have you visited before? What do you and the kids think? Let us know in the comments!
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