What?: Id never taken Babu to a role-play centre before, having been put off by Kidzania’s extortionate prices and reports of there not being a massive amount for toddlers to do, and by the long car journeys required to get to places like Little Street and Tiny Town. Obviously space comes at a premium in Walthamstow, so Role2Play is predictably quite a bit smaller than its warehouse-based Home Counties contemporaries – more role-play cafe than centre as such, with its adjoining seating area where you can grab a coffee and a bag of fruity puffs post-play.
The role-play area has been simply but cleverly put together, and comprises nine businesses/amenities: a garage, a mini-mart, a school, a theatre, a vet, a doctor’s surgery, a cafe, a fire station and a post office, as well as an allotment and a construction site. There are IKEA ‘hacks’ aplenty with the store’s classic Duktig play kitchen repurposed as a cafe counter and Billy bookcases becoming supermarket aisles; as well as thrifty details such as reused packaging in the Minimart in place of play food. There’s a slight sparseness about it all, but that only encourages kids to really utilise their imaginations and fully immerse themselves in play.
Unlike with a play cafe, play is limited to 90 minutes (though you’re welcome to linger in the cafe area for as long as you like) and you’re required to book onto one of four daily sessions to ensure that the play area never gets too full (although I have to say our midweek, early-afternoon session was just teetering on the edge of crowded). The downside of that of course is potentially having to drag your toddler away before they’re ready to leave, but then again 90 minutes can be a long time – particularly when your little one is posing as the owner of Sailor’s Diner but refusing business to everyone who dares to attempt entry – and on the plus side everyone has to leave at the same time, which definitely made having to go home before she really wanted to more acceptable to Babu.
Where and When?: Role2Play is located at 75 Fulbourne Road in Walthamstow and is a 23-minute walk from Walthamstow Central Overground/tube station. Sessions run from 9.30am, 11.30am, 1.30pm and 3.30pm Mondays-Saturdays and last 90 minutes.
Best Bits: Role-play centres that don’t cost a zillion pounds per session are hard to come by inside the M25, but this one, though small, does the job well and at a really reasonable price.
Worst Bits: There wasn’t much to eat in the cafe when we visited and I could have really done with a slab of cake after the hour-long trek to Walthamstow plus 90 minutes of tantrum aversion.
Facilities: Baby changing, buggy parking, step-free access, on-site cafe selling toddler snacks.
Cost: £7 for over-1s, £3 for siblings. Adults and under-1s go free.
Would We Do it Again?: Yes, absolutely.
Dr. Babu the vet cleans up the cafe no one is allowed to eat at, Role2Play, Walthamstow.