Pre-kids, I’d never visited the wonders of soft play as an adult. I’d not had the pleasure of smelling the amalgamation of shit chips, PVC and excited toddler farts or been forced to bend my body through obstacles designed for five-year olds whilst only wearing socks.
Then I became a dad – suddenly, my office was no longer filled with desks, flipcharts and laptops, but rather other people’s squealing kids, a grim stickiness on every possible surface and a certain air of desperation. This, my friends, is soft play.
That being said, I’m going to shock you here. I actually really like soft play. It’s a great place for your kid to explore, play and let off steam, it gives them chance to interact with other kids (although that’s not always wise!), and, most importantly, it gives us parent five minutes to ourselves.
Plus, as a big kid myself, I can’t get enough of going down slides, climbing up cargo nets or lobbing an oversized cube at that prick of a seven-year old who knocked my kid out the way earlier that afternoon. Take that, Jessica.
As someone who has visited a fair few different soft plays and spent more hours there than I’d like to calculate in those establishments, I feel like I’ve learnt a fair few things. With that in mind, I thought I’d share 11 things I’ve learnt from visiting soft play:
1) As misbehaved, unruly or devilish that you believe your own child to be, they will be angelic by comparison to the other kids causing havoc at soft play.
2) Timing is crucial. Never, and I mean never, visit soft play at a weekend or during school holidays. Only go when you can guarantee it’ll be empty – for instance, Tuesday at 10.31am until 10.36am.
3) It’s not until you’re three levels up on a cargo net or walking across a sheet of plexiglass that you question whether the play equipment was designed to hold the weight of a full grown adult.
4) Any soft play that calls itself ‘Parents Paradise’ has a blatant disregard for advertising standards and is opening itself up for endless lawsuits. ‘Parents Perdition’ is far more apt as a name.
5) There’s nothing more entertaining than watching another adult get stuck between the rollers because they still think that they’re 20 years old and three stone lighter. That’s a Channel 5 show right there.
6) It’s a truly sad day when you can no longer pretend that your 1.5 year old is still under 1 so that you get into soft play for free. Not that I’d ever do that, of course…
7) It’s never your kid’s fault, it’s always the fault of that other kid. Or – more likely – that kid’s parent.
8) It’s always a good idea to incinerate any socks that you or your kid has worn at soft play in order to prevent the spread of bacteria, viruses, disease, and in some instances, death. Hell, you may as well burn all clothes to be on the safe side.
9) Nothing will prepare you for the hate that you feel when a kid blatantly too old for the baby / toddler area disregards the rules and enters said area.
10) No matter how much you are seething on the inside due to the behaviour of other kids and their parents, you’ll never say anything for fear of being beaten up afterwards in the car park. The best you’ll be able to muster is the very British tut and eye roll combo.
11) Soft play is dangerous. Always limber up before getting involved and ensure that you have readily available medical supplies for the inevitable injuries – bruises, scratches, scuffs, scrapes, friction burns and pulled muscles.
So that’s 11 things I’ve learnt from visiting soft play. Any of these sound familiar? What would you add to the list? Let me know below!