Tiny Terrorz. Scallywags. Happy Hooligans. The names hardly fill you with confidence. I don’t believe in heaven and hell, but I’m pretty sure if there is a hell, it looks very much like a soft play centre on a Saturday.
We visit these places once in a while. It’s usually a few months in between visits as we need time to recover, both mentally and physically. We usually go when it has rained for days on end, stupidly thinking it will be a good chance for the kids to expel some energy. The problem is that every other parent seems to have the same wonderful idea. If you’ve never experienced the pleasure of soft play, here is what you can expect in your average visit:
You walk through the door and hand over an extortionate amount of money to a surly and hungover looking teenager who grunts something incomprehensible (I *think* they tell you to sign your name, but never quite made it out). The gate closes behind you and you find yourself in hell.
These places are either so hot that you feel like you are about to pass out, or so cold that hypothermia becomes a reality. Our local one is usually freezing unless it’s a heatwave. Then they turn the heating up full blast. To compete with the noise of shrieking kids, there is usually speakers blaring out some cheesy pop music.
In order to avoid frostbite, you pay the best part of two or three quid for a cup of lukewarm liquid that is advertised as a latte. The kids have the choice of fruit shoots or fizzy pop. Sugar hyped kids at a soft play centre? Perfect!
The kids disappear off into the play areas. You’ll have approximately three minutes to enjoy your cup of mud coffee before you recognise the shouting of your own kids above the noise of a million others. “Muuuuuuuuuum!”. You look up to the very top tier of the equipment where they’re wedged with their foot in netting or something.
You scramble up the tiny gaps and through tunnels designed for small children, not slightly overweight nearly 30 year olds, dodging toddlers on the way. You get to the top to find your little sweetheart has unstuck himself and is at the bottom. Two choices are ahead. You can either climb back down and risk getting your arse stuck in a tunnel, or go down the slide into the germ ball pit and risk looking like a prat. Slide wins every time.
This brings me to the most horrific part of soft play – the ball pit. I’m not germophobic in the slightest, but the thought of the various bodily fluids lurking amongst the balls makes me cringe. Recently potty trained toddlers, children not wearing socks (verucca anyone?) and countless kids with a river of snot from their nose all mixed with thousands of plastic balls? Lovely!
Have you got any horror stories?