You're heard about play cafes, right? They're the latest development in parental sanity preservation: a secure, well-equipped indoor space where young children can play and parents can chill out with some quality caffeine and nibbles.

You're heard about play cafes, right? They're the latest development in parental sanity preservation: a secure, well-equipped indoor space where young children can play and parents can chill out with some quality caffeine and nibbles. As it turns out, they're also a great party-venue option, especially for that ages 1-5 set, although Firefly Play Cafe owner Jennifer Kramer says she sees extended-family parties for birthday kids up to age 8. Also popular at the start of each school year are "get to know you" parties for preschoolers, said Kramer: "The parents like to put together a 'meet and greet' for themselves and the children." WHAT: Firefly Play Cafe WHERE: 4822 N. High St., Clintonville/Beechwold WHY: Kramer said this kind of party venue seems to appeal to the parent who "wants to do it all but doesn't want to do it at her house." Firefly Play Cafe's party package basically gives you full run of the place, you provide your own food and decorations, but when it's all over, you get to go home to a house that hasn't been trashed by high-energy tots. Kramer said that most parties follow a "graze and play" structure. Kids arrive, they play, they nibble at the food, which is set up buffet style on the cafe's front counter, then they play some more. If this is a birthday party, the cake-cutting and singing occur about halfway through, then more playing ensues ("it gets the sugar jitters out," Kramer noted). She also said that most families don't have gift opening at the party, especially if the children are in the 5 and younger age group.
COST: $225 for the basic package gets you 2 hours of private play time for up to 20 children ($5 extra for each additional child). You can add another hour for $100. A $50 non-refundable deposit is required to book an event. WHEN: Parties can be scheduled on Saturdays from 1:30-3:30 p.m. and 4-6 p.m. and on Sundays from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., 1:30-3:30 p.m. and 4-6 p.m. Occasionally a weeknight can be scheduled (just talk to Kramer about what's possible). You can arrive up to 30 minutes earlier for set-up. Demand is highest from September through May.
WHAT THE VENUE PROVIDES: Private use of the entire 2,500-square-foot cafe and play space, tables and chairs, complimentary coffee for the grown-ups, a party assistant who helps with set-up and clean-up, and a discount on return admission cards ($3 instead of the usual $5 for kids in the 2+ age group: Kramer said they make convenient party favors for guests). WHAT YOU PROVIDE: Food and beverages (you can get a 20 percent discount on pizza delivered from the Clintonville Donato's), and Kramer can make recommendations for caterers and cupcake bakers who deliver; table coverings, place settings, table decorations or balloons. Confetti is not allowed and pull-spring piņatas are preferred over the smash-'em-up variety. OTHER DETAILS: Free parking and an entrance are available at the rear of the building. Turn east onto Royal Forest from High Street to access the parking lot. CONTACT: 614-230-2375, fireflyplaycafe.com