I’ve been pretty good at avoiding soft play. Particularly – and especially – during school holidays.
But the other week, I capitulated. And Dante’s circles of hell have nothing on these padded-cell like death traps as far as I’m concerned.
I understand to the uninitiated, this probably seems unreasonable. What could be better for parents than indoor wonder worlds of mazes, slides and ball pits? So, consider this my attempt to enlighten you. Here’s exactly why I hate soft play centres…
1 Other people’s kids: You’d think no parent would want to be the one with feral kids. You’d think wrong on this. I don’t know what happens, but when kids get inside these centres they turn faster than a Mogwai in rain.
They’re wild. They will smash, push, stamp their way to a slide.
Obviously the parents of the crazed child pulling another along by her hair are nowhere to be seen.
And don’t even get me started on the toddler only areas. They are not enforced. There will be at least two children in there who look almost old enough to shave. They will laugh in the face of any suggestion that they are maybe “a little bit big to be in here?”
2 The noise: You know the wall of sound that hits you if you ever have to stop your car and get out on a motorway? Imagine that. But instead it’s a chorus of screams/cries/shrieks/shouts/laughter reverberating off concrete/part-padded walls. Then imagine that assaulting your ears for two hours solid. They should hand out pain killers to parents upon exit.
3 The post traumatic soft play stress: If your child should manage a session without being flattened by other kids, then they will be whipped up into such a state of excitement they won’t want to leave. Extraction will result in tears. And snot. Because of course, they’ll have picked up a cold in the ball pit…
(There is one exception to this I’ve discovered in Essex. Kids Klub, on the Manor Trading Estate, in Benfleet, is a small soft play for just under-fives. This one is actually okay! I even managed to drink a hot chocolate at this one!!)