In my early experiences of soft play with Joshua I remember it being a generally stressful and exhausting experience. I pretty much used to hate soft play.
It always seemed to be crowded, with marauding pre-schoolers tearing around the place. There were always puddles of drool or piss to plough through in your socks.
Joshua would be almost permanently missing somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle that is the netted frame of doom. You’d then spot him at the top of an 80 foot death slide ready to plummet towards certain disaster.
Some other child would always try to snatch whatever item Joshua was playing with leading to a tense stand off and the pain of trying to reason with a random child.
Worse case scenario there would be some pushing and shoving, a stray turd in the ball pit and a meltdown when trying to drag Joshua out at the end of it!
But today I went to soft play and it was generally quite pleasant.
I could potentially stretch to saying that I enjoyed it.
Yes. I. Enjoyed. Soft. Play.
Here’s why I no longer hate soft play. At least not as much as I used to:
1. It was pretty empty
Yep, a combination of a weekday visit and freezing conditions clearly put off all but the most avid of soft players. Go at 11am. Leave by 3pm. Perfect.
2. Joshua is toilet trained
Even if there’s still the potential for puddles of piss to walk through it’s reassuring that it’s not as a result of your little one.
3. The cafe is really rather nice
It hasn’t changed in the past 3 years I’m sure, but now there’s no need for high chairs / running around trying to get him to stay seated / heating up toddler meals it’s actually quite relaxing. Brie and bacon panini with a side of crisps followed by chocolate cake and a bottle of Lucozade. Don’t mind if I do…
4. Reduced fear of impending doom
Whereas in the past, discovering Joshua had managed to climb his way to the top of the slide of doom was mildly terrifying and prompted a mad rescue dash, now it’s fine. There’s nothing he’s too young for now or that is too dangerous for him. Crack on son.
5. Other parents are OK
Whereas in the past other parents were just ‘there’ in the background as you were immersed in your own tunnel vision world of panic, now you can actually look around a bit.
You can now nod knowingly at other parents. Maybe even have a brief chat. Or you can enjoy looking at other parents that are still in the panic stage and feel a bit smug.
6. Improve your own fitness
A bit of a stretch perhaps but if your child is like mine and wants you to dart about the gaff with him like a geriatric stunt man then it probably burns up a few calories and gives you a bit of a workout.
I certainly knocked up some periods of increased heart rate today as I dashed up the stairs and down the slides like a life size game of snakes and ladders.
Admittedly my good work was somewhat undone when I pulled my calf muscle playing hide and seek later in the afternoon at home, but that’s the life of a 38 year old it seems!
7. Did I mention the cake?
I did? Doesn’t hurt to mention it again does it?!
8. It’s something that is ‘out of the house’
Sometimes it’s easy on freezing cold days to not do much. You quickly find yourself creeping towards darkness and realising that you haven’t left the house. And that you’ve danced to the ‘Sticky sticky stick’ song in Hey Duggee 27 times.
At least by driving to soft play it sounds like you’ve done something. Proper parenting and all that jazz.
9. It wears out the little one
After all the running around at soft play Joshua is normally pretty chilled afterwards for the rest of the day. And by ‘pretty chilled’ I mean ever-so-slightly less relentless.
Although on the flip side he does then tend to be over tired come bedtime and be even more dramatic than usual over things like applying cream to his red lips. Swings and roundabouts…
10. It’s a good bribing tactic
Such is the excitement when the words ‘soft’ and ‘play’ are mentioned in the same sentence that the carrot of going there or the stick of not going there are pretty powerful tools.
Between the threat of Father Christmas not coming and soft play being abandoned, most of your idle threat bases are covered.
So there we have it. I no longer hate soft play and it’s actually quite enjoyable with a 3 year old.
As long as it’s virtually empty and there’s cake…
Do you love or hate soft play? Let me know!