Ah, shopping with kids. There’s nothing like trying to concentrate on, say, comparing ingredient labels of cough syrups, or trying on uncomfortable hiking boots, while a toddler has a tantrum in the aisle. That’s why it’s good to know about stores that cater to families by providing a coloring table or play area to let your tot take a break. Here are our favorites.

Trader Joe’s: Stonestown location
You’ve got a wiggly toddler in the shopping cart and the check-out line is ten deep. Normally it’s panic mode, but not at the Stonestown Trader Joe’s, where parents can let little ones build and play while you do the queue. We also give thanks for the stickers, the mini grocery carts, and the hidden stuffed alligator (if your child finds it, they can bring it to the front for a free goodie). Oh Trader Joe’s, why can’t all grocery stores love kids as much as you do?

trader joes play areaphoto credit: Emma S.

265 Winston Dr.
San Francisco, Ca
Hours: Mon.-Sun., 8 a.m.–10 p.m.
Phone: 415-665-1835
Online: traderjoes.com

Sloat Garden Center: Sloat Blvd. location
Nurseries are pretty decent places to bring kids in the first place, but even the most patient child has their limits, especially when you just can’t decide whether to go for kale or chard this year. Luckily, Sloat Garden Center near Ocean Beach has an adorable kids’ picnic table with a never-ending supply of paper and crayons. With one eye on the little Picasso, you can compare organic seed packets to your heart’s content.

sloat-garden-center-play-areaphoto credit: Emma S.

2700 Sloat Blvd.
San Francisco, Ca
Spring hours: Mon.–Sun., 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Phone: 415-566-4415
Online: sloatgardens.com

Sports Basement: Presidio location
We’re already all goggly-eyed over this Sports Basement, with its awesomely scenic location, laid-back vibe, and spacious layout. One more reason to love it? The fully-stocked play area in the front. While you can’t leave a child here unattended, you can stop on the way in or out, or parents can take turns supervising. With everything from a play kitchen to ride-on toys, your only problem will be getting them to leave.

sports basement play areaphoto credit: Emma S.

60 Old Mason Street
San Francisco, Ca
Phone: 415-437-0100
Hours: Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–9 p.m., Sat.–Sun., 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
Online: sportsbasement.com/stores/presidio

Westfield Mall at San Francisco Centre
Whether you’re shopping it up at the ritzy Westfield Mall or just strolling down Market Street, schedule in a stop at the Family Lounge for a diaper change or play break. It’s almost too swanky to be real: They’ve got a soft play mat for toddlers, a miniature table and chairs, TVs with kid shows playing, and even private nursing stations. Did we just teleport to Sweden? (Only downside: You’ll find yourself wishing you could stop in for a breather even when you’re sans kids.) Located on the Concourse Level near the Food Emporium.

westfield mall play area

photo credit: Emma S.

865 Market Street
San Francisco, Ca
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m., Sun., 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Phone: 415-495-5656
Online: westfield.com/sanfrancisco/services/service-list

Kids love leisurely picking out clothes for themselves, right? Wrong. Gymboree (the clothing store, not the gym) gets it, and although we’re not condoning using TV as a babysitter all the time, we just can’t complain about their decision to show cartoons on TV in the back of all their stores. Let your kids plop down in front of the screen while you pick out the cutest sweater vest or party dress for that upcoming visit with Grandma.


photo credit: Carina via Yahoo

Stonestown location
3251 20th Ave.
San Francisco, Ca
Hours: Mon.– Sat., 10 a.m.–9 p.m., Sun., 12 p.m.–6 p.m.
Phone: 415-564-4859

Laurel Village location
3407 California St.
San Francisco, Ca
Hours: Mon.–Sat., 9:30 a.m.–7 p.m., Sun, 11 a.m.–6 p.m.
Phone: 415-668-1387

Emeryville location
5677 Bay Street
Emeryville, Ca
Hours: Mon.–Wed., 10 a.m.–8 p.m., Thurs.–Sat., 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun., 11 a.m.–6 p.m.
Phone: 510-985-1402

Burlingame location
1311 Burlingame Ave
Burlingame, Ca
Hours: Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–8 p.m., Sat, 10 a.m.–7 p.m., Sun, 1 p.m.–6 p.m.
Phone: 650-685-0909
Online: Gymboree.com

Did we miss any stores that have a play area? Give us your recommendations in the comment section below!

— Emma Bland Smith