Improving Soft Play

I have a love/hate relationship with soft play.

I love it because, in my head, I get to sit and have a coffee whilst the baby sits on the floor banging a rattle contentedly for half an hour and the toddler amuses himself on the slides and in the ball pool.

I hate it because THIS NEVER HAPPENS.

What happens is I remove my shoes immediately upon entering the establishment because I know it is only a matter of time (usually approximately one whole minute) until I am instructed to join the toddler in the soft play area. This would not be so bad if they didn’t have those horizontal rollers which are probably most enjoyable to roll through when you are five. But when you are over thirty and still carrying some baby weight (I hate you jeggings, for lulling me into a false sense of security), they are uncomfortable at best (i.e you make it through them) and embarrassing at worst (i.e you get stuck).

There are so many things I dislike about soft play. I keep going because I am ever hopeful that each visit will be the one where I can sit blissfully with my book whilst the toddler runs off through the rollers and over the foam wedges for an hour or two (I actually once saw a woman reading a book at soft play. I aspire to that. And also, lucky cow). But until that day comes I will just have to put up with it (if it ever comes – my kids seem to love burying me in the ball pit – it was fun the first time but it’s one of those many parenthood mistakes I’ve made – NEVER do anything you are not willing to repeat a million times. Because kids love repetition – especially when the situation puts you in false peril and makes them laugh. And when an eight year old dive bombs on you because you are so well hidden).

However, on a visit to soft play this week, I realised that, with a few tweaks, it could be drastically improved:

1. Alcohol. Soft play areas should serve wine. The soft play would not change but my level of ‘giving a rat’s ass’ about kids climbing up the slide would. Which leads me nicely to…….

2. The Slides. My eldest is so pre-occupied by the slides that, if there wasn’t one, I wouldn’t waste part of the mortgage on a visit to soft play. However, whenever we are going to a soft play area, he constantly asks: “will there be a slide there?” and it takes all my self control to not reply “yes darling but there will also be at least one little sod CLIMBING UP it whilst his mum drowns in cappuccino three yards away completely oblivious to the fact that her precious child is committing one of the ultimate soft play no-nos.” Soft play slides always have a sign saying ‘don’t climb up the slide’. These are clearly ineffective as EVERY TIME I go to soft play there are numerous perpetrators of this rule. Someone needs to invent some sort of slide similar to those weird walkways in airports where you can go through but not back. Once you reach the end, you are unable to return back the way you came. This, for me, would make soft play a thousand times better. If not a bit ‘Big Brother’.

3. The Staff. Soft play is full of parents desperate for a break. I am lucky in that my husband works from home so I often have a wing man when going to soft play which helpfully means we can take turns ‘enjoying’ the indoor obstacle course maze prison that is a soft play area. However, I have been to soft play on my own with two children. I love my husband to the ends of the Earth, but if the guy on the door looked like Jon Snow (from Game of Thrones, not Channel 4 News), it would make my visit a little more enjoyable. Similarly, I’m sure if the girl serving coffee resembled Kirsty Gallacher, my husband would be high on caffeine by the time we left.

4. Removing other people’s children. I don’t mean children who are playing nicely or children of friends who I might frequent a soft play area with. I mean the children lobbing plastic balls at my three year old as he enters the playground. I do not pay good money for my child to run a gauntlet just to haul himself up some huge foam steps. I am also referring to the child who must have been at least four in the baby area the other day who was, and there is no better word than this, terrorising the babies in the ball pit. As a teacher, a parent and a human, I am not good with children who do not demonstrate kindness, care and compassion for others. I am not ashamed to admit that I tell them off. I would just complain to their parents but they’re often nowhere to be seen, probably drowning in cappuccinos at a nearby table.

5. Make it cheaper. We have a few soft play areas near us, of varying qualities. One is great and really good value. One is good value but quite a drive and you’re only allowed an hour so we spend more time in the car there and back than we do actually at the soft play. And there is a very good one which costs an arm and a leg. Plus we have to buy ourselves coffee and crisps to make the whole experience more bearable.

If only they sold wine…….

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  1. My kids are teens now, but I remember the days when I wished for ANY time they were playing and I could read! I enrolled them in sports and activities…and they turned out to be super healthy and active kids. Hang in there!

  2. You went wrong as soon as you let your child know you were "willing" to get in and play. I NEVER went in unless it was a last resort rescue mission. I always found with my two that we had problems if they had to queue for a part of it, like a zip wire. Other kids always pushed in and my polite darlings always let them because they were too scared to say no.
    Alcohol sounds like the way to go!

  3. I have a real love hate with soft play,during the the summer it's all we can do. I normally manage a sneaky coffee under the guise I need to feed the baby. However that results in the toddler hovering…….thanks for linking with #effitfriday

  4. Wine please YES!!!! I love soft play and yes am used to being dragged in too. However the last one I went to had the best slide ever and it was huge and I went on 3 times. This made it worth it. I tell bratty kids off too! Thanks for sharing with #bestandworst lovely and see you soon x

  5. Trying again! Silly internet!! I think this is a totally brilliant and accurate post! I always imagine soft play to be incredibly different to how it always ends up. You have hit more nails on the head with this post then one of the miniature yobs-in-training manages in the ball pit. 😉 The slide thing drives me crackers, my mantra seems to be 'down the slide, not up the slide' in gradually increasing exasperation. Now my two are a little older, 3 & almost 5, it is getting a teeny bit easier, I manage to get in about two mouthfuls of coffee while it is hot before the cry of 'mummmeee' necessitates me crawling in through one of the two foot high entrances! #bestandworst

  6. Oh God yes! In fact wine should be issued free of charge as you enter, along with a lunch box for the kids. Possibly in a fruit shoot type plastic bottle, you know, just for safety. Brilliant xx

  7. I know right! Especially at winter time I am so thirsty for mulled wine. Ethan always wanting for me to go inside with him. I am so too big for that – but I still go just for a little fun for myself. But then he wants me to always to stay with him. Oh lord! The repetition rule has been broken! I love and hate soft play too. lol! Thank you for linking up with me again. Have a lovely Halloween. xx #FabFridayPost

  8. Just popping back again through #bigpinklink. I still laughed just as much reading this second time around. Having frequented several since I last read this may I please add… "Just make the sodding human car wash roller thing's further apart to give us Mums a chance for the love of God!" Love it! 😉 Dawn x

  9. Yes! I knew I was going to love this!! I've always been a massive campaigner for the wine in soft play idea-this needs to become a reality. I also can't let my children venture into the arena from hell by themselves, because a) they've never played by themselves without me, ever, and always scream for me to be on hand at all times, and b) my youngest has the unfortunate tendency to be one of those terrorisers you spoke of… Now, I'm hugely confused and upset by this, as my eldest is the gentlest, kindest, most laid back child ever. But the youngest will bite, kick, scratch, and most often, he targets babies, which makes it even more horrifying! So clearly, I will not be one of the mums who gets caffeined out of her skull, and ignores her rampaging child, and I actually want to prevent him injuring others, so I have to stick to him like glue, meaning I get stuck in those revolving foam things again, and again, and again…!! And I hate kids climbing up the slide too, in fact, it's got to be up there with my top 5 things I hate most about children!!
    Thanks for sharing with #bigpinklink!

  10. You know they are really missing a trick there…a nice beer at the soft play would go down a treat! I never go in with mine, luckily he is a bit bigger and rarely wants me to…I *may* have been that woman reading a book!! #chucklemums

  11. There's a pub near us with soft play. Sadly you have to drive there and the last time we went some kid had taken a sh!t in the ball pool so no soft play for us.

    Completely agree. Cannot wait for the day I enjoy soft play.

    Thanks for linking to #chucklemums!

  12. Better looking doormen, decent coffee, well qualified nannies/play staff and the whole experience could be quite different. I recently blogged about soft play too, there is so much mileage in it!! #chucklemums

  13. My daughter's favourite trick is to make me go all the way to the top with her then totally abandon me (usually following some older boy – I know teenage years are going to be fun). I then have to get down with know toddler in tow so it looks like I'm just lapping up the soft play on my own. Oh and yes wine. There should always be wine!

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