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Linda Thomas

Toddlers indulge in a coffee shop drink

Listen to Toddlers indulge in a coffee shop treat, the Babyccino

"We'll have a non-fat latte and a vanilla babyccino, please."

An Italian coffee prepared with espresso and steamed-milk foam is a cappuccino, and a Frappuccino is an iced coffee from Starbucks. But I didn't know what a mom friend of mine was ordering when she asked for a babyccino.

It's a little, foamy drink for Seattle coffee-shop-loving toddlers.

"Every day I see moms come in here with a new baby or a toddler," says Becky Pelletier, owner of Twirl Cafe on Queen Anne Avenue. "A coffee break is a treat for the moms. Often their kids want to have their own unique drink in a coffee cup for grownups."

BabycinoThe special kids' drink is being called a babyccino.

On Pelletier's menu it's a baby steamer.

"It's steamed milk and then we can add vanilla or a little bit of hazelnut or whatever flavor the mom might want," she says.

"We cut the straw in half so it fits in the little 8 ounce cup and they can sip on the straw and hold it and of course we make it not really hot so that the kids can enjoy it. It's pretty popular."

Pretty simple too.

Parents have been warming up milk for ages; the only difference is this is done with the help of an espresso machine.

The trend originated in Australia 10 years ago, then worked its way to England and started showing up in New York cafes earlier this year.

Some shops add a bit of decaffeinated coffee to the babyccino so it could be "just like mommy's drink."

"It's natural for kids to want to imitate their parents," says Ellen, the mother of a 3-year-old girl.

"I wouldn't let Josie have caffeine, but I don't see anything wrong with letting her pretend she's sharing a coffee with me. Steamed milk, or cold milk, it's all the same. It's healthy."

YumTwirl charges $1.50 for an 8 ounce babyccino, and Pelletier doesn't think parents who buy them are being over-indulgent.

"I think that there's a time and place for it," she says.

"When I get a chance to go on a date with my daughter, I'll take her for ice cream or something like that and I think that's fine. It's definitely necessary to have one-on-one time with your kids and make it special for them."

Pelletier is nearing the second anniversary of Twirl Cafe, which she started when her little girl was 18-months-old because there weren't a lot of family friendly coffee shops in Seattle.

Most adults would admit to being annoyed when they hear a crying baby or fussing child in a restaurant. But think about what that's like for a parent of that toddler-gone-wild.

"It's frustrating and it's really embarrassing. You get yourself out of the house and you've got a lot to think about as you pack the kids, the diaper bag, all their stuff," she says.

Any parent has found himself or herself in the middle of a restaurant with a screaming child, trying every trick you know to calm them down while you're trying to quickly eat, ask for the check and escape the glares.

"All of a sudden going out becomes very negative," she says.

She quit her job and immersed herself in creating a place where moms and dads could eat a healthy meal out without worrying about disproving stares, or just get out of the house to socialize with other new parents.

The business is a cafe and coffee shop, a community center offering classes, small retail space, and play area for pre-schoolers.

A trend she's seeing - more significant than babyccinos - is a growing number of men coming in with children. The downturn in the economy has meant that more dads may be unemployed and taking on the stay home caregiver role.

Photos of Becky Pelletier, preparing a Babyccino at Twirl, and story by LINDA THOMAS

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About Linda
Linda is the morning news anchor and features reporter for KIRO Radio. This is her local news blog, with an emphasis on social media, technology, Northwest companies, education, parenting, and anything else that grabs her attention.

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