Tag Archives: Soft play

Haven or Hell – 7 spaces to embrace with kids

Haven or Hell with kidsLast weekend was a family one with grandparents, in-laws and Scrip and D’s cousin staying nearby. Just 17 months apart, the girls played together so well while Baby D padded behind, only being distracted by anything that looked like a ball, a coin or a stick…

An unsettled Sunday meant we headed out for the day to the Avon Valley Country Park, which was good fun. Despite the dry forecast it started to rain, so we made a beeline for the the indoor picnic area. A stark, temporary structure, I would have previously shunned this particular spot. Now, with soggy children in tow, it was a haven.

That made me think how I now see other spaces in a totally different light, post-children. Here are a few that come to mind:

  1. The supermarket cafe – once firmly avoided, now embraced. Good source of food bribes and generally offers a pretty cheap lunchbox.
  2. Service stations – formerly a necessity to be endured, now a little light at the end of a long tunnel (particularly if you tend to inhabit the M25 or A30 as frequently as we do).
  3. Petrol stations – ditto, on a smaller scale. A chance to stretch legs and stock up on chocolate buttons.
  4. WH Smith’s magazine/comic aisle – all that colour, all those cartoon characters, all that cheap plastic. So many gleeful smiles.
  5. Soft play – the noise, the smelly socks, the chaos…and the yelps of delight from children as soon as they enter. Although I still avoid busy times where possible and I follow my husband’s soft play survival guide.
  6. Ikea – and we haven’t even tried the creche yet! Children young and old seem to enjoy playing pretend houses and that’s before they’ve even got to the play area. I challenge you to try and leave without an oversized toy in tow.
  7. Pets at Home – is it just me or is this shop a great mini zoo/wildlife park for those of us who don’t even have pets? Just don’t try and feed the rabbits…

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Guest post: soft play for dads – survival tips from the front line 

Soft play advice for dadsMy husband has shared his thoughts on soft play survival. To be fair he’s an expert as I haven’t been able to clamber around the oversized climbing frame of doom for at least the last six months (and he secretly loves going).

Given I’m imminently to go on paternity leave for child number 2, I’m already plotting where I may deploy myself when I’m not changing nappies or burping the little one. My wife and I are well aware of the effect our ‘new kid on the block’ may have on Scrip. After all, she won’t have our undivided attention anymore and she won’t, for the first time, be the biggest draw when others visit. Based on this, and to give myself some convenient excuses to escape the intensity of a post-birth household, I daresay I’ll be escaping with Scrip for the odd adventure and treat.

Once the cafes and playgrounds that are our regular haunts have been exhausted, it’s almost inevitable a trip to Soft Play will be reluctantly mooted (by me) and readily accepted (by Scrip).

The words ‘soft’ and ‘play’ do not a relaxing concept make. For any parent. But you can’t get away from the fact that it is to toddlers what rolling in s**t is to a pig. They can’t get enough of it. And Scrip is no exception. The unbridled joy and fidgety excitement as we approach is a sight to behold. I can barely get Scrip’s shoes and coat off in time before she’s launching headlong into the red, yellow, green and blue melange of apparatus.

The thing is, when you go to Soft Play with Scrip, you don’t just sit at the side, read the paper, have a coffee and generally let the madness wash over you. Oh no. At her insistence, you’re in there with her, following in every footstep, climbing over everything (including children), fitting through gaps you shouldn’t and getting stuck halfway down the slide. It’s more of a workout than a trip to the gym, but she goes back in again, and again, and again. And it doesn’t get boring or tiring for her. She doesn’t even want to stop for food or drink. The pace is relentless.

Here are some tips to surviving a trip to Soft Play:

1. Arrive there as soon as it opens
And never a minute after. If only to snare a table on which to put your coat and bag, you’ll be glad you did so. The play area is fairly empty and you get a number of clear runs on everything before the masses arrive and you wish you never turned up.

2. Vary the activity
As soft play is made up of hard core climbing and more genteel, quieter pursuits, it pays to mix it up. If only to catch a breather. It’s like being at a party where you’re being pursued by unwanted attention (I’m sure that happened to me once in my youth) and escaping to the chill out room for some respite until you’re found out. By going to play shopkeeper or doctor in a side room it keeps them entertained and they get to interact with you, too.

3. Be firm with other children
Other peoples’ children at soft play are horrendous. No, they’re not mine to tell off, but if they’re bigger than Scrip (which they invariably are) and devoid of any sense of what is going on around them (always) then I need to fight Scrip’s corner for her. It’s best to be firm with other children rather than bottle it up and huff as that makes it more stressful. Plus you can guarantee that slightly podgy six year old boy will give Scrip a wide berth when next ‘queueing’ for the slide.

4. Cap the trip at two hours
You’ll certainly have had enough by then and, though they won’t admit it, they will too. Fight the inevitable protests, get the shoes and coat back on and take them to the loo. And get them in the car sharpish. The last thing you want to do is pay for an over-priced sandwich and risk being pulled back into the melee.