Fifty Shades of Soft Play: Is It So Wrong To Enjoy It?

I paused nervously outside the crowded entrance and attempted to steel myself for what lay behind the door.

So many had warned me that Soft Play is a hellish place.

My mind swam with horror stories of over-age children running riot, broken striplights shattering glass into urine-soaked ball pools, while oblivious parents stared zombie-like at their phones. And the cautions of weak, over-priced coffee rang in my ears.

But I was determined to experience the truth for myself.

I had persuaded a friend to join me for moral support, a fellow Soft Play virgin. And together we had made a pact to enter that dark and dangerous world once and for all.

Upon arrival we found ourselves confronted with a mass of writhing, whooping bodies, bouncing around a padded enclosure. This was surrounded by tables seating an audience of stoic observers, sipping coffee and affecting a bored attitude as they chatted or scrolled through their phones, pretending to ignore the action.

Children and cuddly dog toy in a ball pool
It’s a dog eat dog world at Soft Play (Nursery Whines)

My friend and I had intended to join these voyeurs. But new to the game and late to the party we found the only remaining table was the farthest away, and could not be seen from inside the dungeon.

When we threw our toddlers into the middle and attempted to retreat to the sidelines, they soon began looking around for us for reassurance.

The pen had a low, loose sliding bolt which all the older children were able to unlock, in order to dash to their table to down some Fruit Shoot and stuff some crisps in their mouth, leaving the gate to Hades wide open.

Simply shooing our own kids back inside was not an option. And it soon became clear that in order to persuade them they wanted to stay in the heart of the action, we would have to cross over to the other side ourselves.

After downing our (perfectly acceptable) coffee for Dutch courage we stripped off our shoes and tiptoed timidly into the cavern of ropes and mesh and rubber.

At first we hung about coyly at the ‘Under Two’s’ end. We threw a few balls around in the ball pool, giggling coquettishly and attempted to build a slide out of geometric cushions.

But my heart began to race with excitement when my daughter scrambled out of the ball pool and hurtled down a dark tunnel lined with netting, squashy batons dangling from above. What could I do but follow her lead?

Before I knew it I was crawling through the tunnel after her, not without some trepidation. A hoard of older boys dived through a hole in some mesh at the other end and whizzed towards us. Everyone seemed to bounce off each other in every direction, before landing in a heap, laughing.

My daughter was exhilarated and began dashing back and forth, unfazed by any rougher, tougher bodies that shouldered past her.

Child holding a ball in a ball pool
Can you handle the truth about Soft Play? (Nursery Whines)

I gazed with longing at the large wavy slide on the level above, clearly this play area’s ultimate thrill, and guided my daughter to the squidgy steps that led up to it.

For every other step she ascended towards the pleasure dome, she fell at least one back down, so she obviously needed me there by her side.

I followed behind her, slowly climbing towards the tantalising risks that spread out above us.

Soon I was racing on all fours in gay abandon, along a gauntlet of padded obstacles and punch bags towards a gaping hole that dropped down into a ball pool below. I felt like I had finely made it onto Gladiators after all these years.

Why was this place supposed to be so hellish? Why have so many bloggers devoted pages and pages of warnings about the torture of Soft Play? I was having so much fun. And it didn’t even smell of wee.

There surely must be others like me? Parents who actually enjoy bouncing and sliding and climbing. Am I some kind of masochist? Are parents like me the reason everyone else hates Soft Play?

I glanced furtively around me at the other inhabitants of this maze of primary colours and animal shapes.

My friend and I were not the only adults who had taken the plunge. But it gradually became clear that the other people over the age of four were childminders, paid for their time.

There are no names in Soft Play. But I exchanged some understanding smiles with a young South African nanny, who I enviously watched glide down the slide with glee.

I did not dare to be so wild on my first foray into Soft Play. But I will be going back for more.

Do you think Soft Play is heaven or hell? What is your worst Soft Play experience?

This Mum's Life
The Pramshed
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9 thoughts on “Fifty Shades of Soft Play: Is It So Wrong To Enjoy It?

  1. I love soft play… I am the mum that runs in, takes my shoes off, dumps my stuff and runs off to climb the big slide, whooping like a crazy lady. I can’t bear the parents who don’t keep an eye on their little ones and they either hurt themselves or run riot and hit. I loved this so much, thankyou for sharing xx #StayClassyMama

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  2. ha ha ha just brilliant! You need to find an adult soft play area for sure – do they even exist?! How perfectly gorgeous for your child to have a mum that loves them – well done you! #BigPinkLink

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  3. thismumslife

    Well done you for taking the plunge…! And it’s making me smile, that it looks like soft play is going to become your guilty pleasure…!! There’s some that I like-the ones that are more play cafes are ok, it’s the huge industrial ones, usually in massive cold metal buildings, that I don’t like! It’s the noise, the older kids going mental and associated threat of my children being maimed…! But there is one near us with amazing slides, that I do enjoy with the boys if we happen to visit at a quiet time…!! Plus you had acceptable coffee-where is this one?? I have to know!!
    #bigpinklink

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  4. I certainly think you are one in a million. There is nothing really wrong with soft play and I don’t mind it too much but I remember really disliking going in there with my kids when they were smaller because they always wanted to go through the tunnels and I always found that a struggle 🙂 Thank you for sharing with #StayClassyMama

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  5. I like soft play too! I loved playing with Amelia when she was first learning about the joys of soft play, and I like it even more now that she is one of the slightly older ones able to navigate herself through the gates unaided and I can now join the masses staring obliviously into her phone! #bigpinklink

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  6. wendyr1505

    Haha I loved this. I do enjoy soft play with my son but only when it is not too busy, I can’t cope with trying not to step on little children when my son drags me around the place too fast. Also, I used to hate when parents let there older kids run riot to terrorise my little one. Although I must admit there have been times I have tried to sit and have a peaceful coffee while my 3 year old plays but he always want me to come around with him – I do love the slide though so I don’t mind and it is an excellent work out. Congrats, this post was linked up to #BlogCrush as a fellow bloggers favourite xx #BlogCrush

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