Here in Essex, we are fortunate enough to have a myriad of play centres right on our doorstep. Many of them, however, are geared towards older children. Babies and toddlers are consigned to a small play space in a tucked away corner, surrounded by toys and equipment for school-aged children. One notable exception is The Nurture Barn is a well-known drop in wooden toy play centre for under 5s, located in just outside the village of Great Bardfield in Central Essex.

The Nurture Barn at The Blue Egg

Just 25 mins from Stansted, Chelmsford and Saffron Walden, 15 minutes from Braintree and Dunmow, The Nurture Barn was designed to be a beautiful cafe with a baby and toddler-friendly focus. It’s founder, Melanie Sims wanted to create a safe place to meet friends for good coffee and healthy food, with lots of natural light and an outdoor space for children to play once the weather turns warm.

Here is a video so you can see the downstairs layout and garden:


The upstairs of the venue contains a whole floor of role play wooden toys, a kitchen, lounge, dining room, garage, dens, fancy dress, train table, climbing frame, and a HUGE dollhouse.

There is the private room that is hired out for under 5’s parties, as well as pay-as-you-go classes for £5. These include musical sensory (Tuesdays), well-known book musical sessions (Thursdays) or baby and toddler discos (Fridays). These sessions are very popular with grandparents, as well as parents, so a great option if Gran and Grandad want somewhere they can visit with a little one without feeling out of place.

The Nurture Barn

As The Nurture Barn is also a cafe, they do ask that you don’t bring along your own food. All allergies are catered for, though, and there’s a healthy range of food options that many soft play centres don’t provide. Think homemade purées, little lunchboxes, quiches, pastas, soups, salads, sandwiches and wraps and, of course, some compulsory CAKE!

The venue also has a no shoe policy so that the floors don’t end up covered in mud, stones and other stuff you don’t want your baby crawling through.

Opening times and costs

The Nurture Barn is open 6 days a week (closed on Sundays) from 9.15am until 3.00pm on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.  It closes at 5.00pm on Wednesday and Saturday.

Cost is just an admission based on their age for all-day play. Adults are free, 0-6 months cost £1, 6 months-2 years cost £3.50 and 2-5 years cost £5.

For more information visit