Child’s Play: Three Tips for Designing a Fantastic Kids’ Space in the Café

Eric Rosell, co-owner of Kansas City, Mo.’s PH Coffee, discusses how he and his co-owners—and fellow dads—went about designing a kid-friendly space in their new shop.


Photos by Bad Collective LLC

This month, PH Coffee opened its doors in Kansas City, Mo.’s Pendleton Heights neighborhood with the self-proclaimed goal of serving and connecting people. One way the shop is doing this is by having a designated space specifically for children, providing parents a welcoming place to visit with their kids in tow, and to connect with one another.

PH Coffee recently opened in Kansas City, Mo.

This kid-friendly atmosphere came about by PH Coffee’s four friends and business partners—Eric Rosell, Addison Bliss, Alex Merrell, and Jarred Donalson—seeing the need for such a space. “We are all dads who listened to our wives when they told us they wanted a coffee shop that had an amazing kids’ space, so we made one,” says Eric.

Eric explains that the desire to create this space came in part from not finding welcoming environments for kids in previous visits to different shops. “Most coffee shops don’t have the ‘kid-friendly’ vibe—in fact they have the opposite. After my wife and I took our 2-year-old daughter to a local coffeehouse, this became very apparent. The eyeroll after I ordered a small hot chocolate should have been a hint, but I didn’t think much of it. Only after my kid started laughing did I notice most of the coffee shops patrons looking at us with those annoyed looks in their eyes,” he says.

The menu at PH Coffee includes hot chocolate, Italian sodas, and other items that might pique the interest of little ones.

Sure, not every shop will want to cater to kids. But including such a space can be an effective way to draw a broader audience—especially if the children’s area is separate from the rest of the space, allowing those who want a kid-free experience to still find an appeal there. We talked to Eric about some of the lessons PH Coffee learned about creating a welcoming environment for children in the café.

1. Allow parents to be part of the experience. In creating a kids’ space in their café, the PH Coffee team wanted children to be able to have fun while also staying safe, so they created a space where parents could also be present. “They could either sit with their kids and draw a picture on the chalk wall, or walk a few steps away to the comfy couch that faces the kids space and enjoy their cappuccino, meet up with friends, or have an important business meeting,” Eric says. “We built the space where kids could only escape in one direction. We put in kid-sized tables and chairs, and an area where kids could sit on comfy pillows and read or create an amazing food dish or drink in our kitchen and barista area for kids.”

The kids space at PH Coffee has only one exit, ensuring parents their children will be secure in their play area.

2. Don’t make the kids’ area the focus of the shop. When patrons enter PH Coffee they’ll notice many things, including an inviting menu and a sprawling bar with baristas ready to work on their drink. What they won’t notice is the kids’ area, which is located in a tucked-away part of the shop that Eric describes as PH Coffee’s “hidden gem.” “At first you don’t see it,” Eric says. “When you walk in you’re greeted by one of our amazing baristas and you see the back bar with a black-painted wall with PH written in teal. After you pick up your order, you walk around a pillar and then you see it. This is when you hear [customers] say, ‘Wow.’” Having the kids’ area blend in with the space allows other business to continue as usual in the shop.

3. Fuel the kids and get them thinking. While PH Coffee has the typical coffee-centric menu items one would expect from a café, it also has many options that will appeal to kids. “We designed the space and the menu to be warm and inviting,” Eric says. “Our menu has non-coffee drinks and kid-friendly items like Italian sodas and milkshakes.” Once children have their menu item of choice and are enjoying the kids’ area, they’re in a space designed to get them moving and using their brains—and not staring at a screen. “The one thing our kids’ area lacks is a TV, and that is by design,” Eric says. “We wanted kids to use their hands and imaginations—a place where kids could be kids.”

With the shop now open, Eric and his co-owners feel that they’ve created an inviting space designed for service and connections—and one that’s welcoming to families. “Most coffee shops target the cool, hip, young professionals with no kids,” Eric says. “But what happens to the hipsters that grow up and have kids? We wanted to be that bridge. Create a coffee shop that actually encourages you to bring your child.” And he offers one final lesson: “If we could do it over again, we would have made the kids’ space even larger!”

About Chris Ryan 263 Articles
Chris Ryan (he/him) is Barista Magazine's online copy editor and a freelance writer and editor with a background in the specialty coffee industry. He has been content director of Sustainable Harvest and the editor of Fresh Cup Magazine.