I wasn’t sure what I would be walking my kids into on our recent trip to Sweet Charlottes in Clarence. Their message is to bring kids to play and party. Their mission is much deeper.
Sweet Charlottes is a small space in a small plaza, in the town of Clarence. The founder, Molly O’Malley Pitman has two children, a boy, Donovan, who has autism and a girl, Charlotte. Molly is hoping to bring awareness to autism and bring families and the community together in a safe play area. She just celebrated her third anniversary in the space.
It is a no-frills kind of place where you don’t really have to worry about your child making a mess. That’s sort of the idea. There are four main play rooms with various stations – some for preschoolers and some for babies and toddlers. There are toys for sensory stimulation, teaching toys and toys just meant for fun. Sweet Charlottes is clean and there is plenty of parking – which is always a plus for us moms carrying a kid or two on our hip. It was nice to bring my 3-year-old and 10-month-old to a place where they both can play; separately or together.
Molly works with other working moms to network, share stories and bond. As the kids play, the moms can chat, take advantage of the free wifi, or get down on the floor and play right along. You can bring your own food and drinks. There are not very many rules at Sweet Charlottes.
They also offer child drop-offs. You can leave your child there for up to three hours and they’ll take five kids at a time. There were not any children dropped off during our visit.
Birthday party packages feature a variety of themes including Captain America, "Frozen" and Cinderella.
It is a warm and welcoming place. It was not overwhelming for my baby like some play places can be. It is a relaxed atmosphere, no loud noises. Ultimately, I left the final verdict up to my 3-year-old, Emma. Even after about an hour and a half, she did not want to leave. She worked her way through each room, playing with a variety of toys; from legos to doll houses to a play kitchen. Sure, we have most of those toys at home, but, this is a place where she can meet and play with other children. She did just that, too. A few other girls her age were there to play, too.
Sweet Charlottes is located at 10255 Main St., Clarence. It is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. most days, but closed on Wednesdays and Sundays. It is $8 for the first child, $5 for each additional child. Different promotions are offered each month. There are no bells or whistles, no electronic do-dads, or video games – none at all. There is something old-fashioned about the shop where making a mess or having a melt-down is just fine. Molly has a real passion for what she does. She clearly loves the kids. There is something very sweet about Sweet Charlottes.