Parc Play has long been one of my favourite play centres to take my children.
It’s nothing like your typical play venue. There’s no ball pits or multi-coloured bright plastic climbing structures. Instead, it’s a part outdoor, part covered-indoor-but-with-an-outdoor-feel venue which encourages fresh air play all year round.
For older children, there’s a timber castle with turrets to climb and wobbly bridges to cross, a huge sand pit with a wooden pirate ship and buckets you can fill with sand and hoist up on pulleys; a huge double slide, and a zip wire swing, among other activities.
There’s a dedicated toddler area, with artificial grass and a small hill to climb, a tunnel and slide, and various smaller climbing structures, as well as baby swings in the main play area.
Parc is the kind of place that encourages natural play whatever the weather – and from where kids are unlikely to go home clean. And that’s one of the things I love about it.
It’s not the easiest place to navigate with more than one child. I must admit when my third child was first born, and I was mum to a four year old, a two and a half year old who wanted to go on the big kids’ equipment but still needed help, and a breastfeeding baby, I found myself avoiding the place. It’s much easier now my children are 7, 5 and almost 3, which is good because we seem to go to a fair few birthdays there, and I love that it can entertain all three of my children. Plus now I just have my toddler at home with me during term time it’s a great place to take him to burn off some energy – even more so now they have started their toddler events again after last year’s success.
Taking place on term time Fridays throughout spring, there’s a full programme of events until the end of May, with everything from Meet the Owls and Animal Zone to Frozen Dreams Singalong and Magic Stu.
I headed along this morning with Toddler Boy I, my nearly three year old, who insisted on dressing up as Batman. Today’s theme was circus skills, with Swansea entertainer Jimmy Juggle demonstrating juggling, the diablo and so on, as well as encouraging the children to give it a go. He even gave us a performance of fire juggling… definitely not one for the kids to try!
Some of the children were perhaps too young to get the most out of the circus skills. It took Toddler a while to warm up to the idea, but he soon loved watching Jimmy juggling and tried to have a go with the diablo. I even got a lesson in how to juggle, with Jimmy showing me some simple techniques. I wasn’t very good but apparently all it takes is half an hour of repeated practice to learn. He says he’s had whole classes of school kids learn to juggle in this time, so there’s hope for me yet.
New to Parc this season is a mud kitchen area from the fabulous Mud Kitchens Cardiff. If you’ve been reading Cardiff Mummy for a while you’ll know how much we love this company. We were lucky to review one of their mud kitchens last autumn and it’s still a firm favourite with all three of my children. It’s the perfect addition to Parc, with both companies sharing a similar ethos. Parc’s kitchen is dual height for tots and toddlers and there’s plenty of room or several kids to play at once. Toddler couldn’t quite believe how big the one at Parc was, and had fun sieving sand and mixing the wood chippings in the bowls to make Mummy’s lunch.
Which brings me to another great thing about Parc – you can take your own food with you, which means you can stay all day without having to spend a fortune on food. That said, hot and cold snacks are still available to buy, including sandwiches, pizzas and hot dogs, at reasonable prices.
At this time of year, it does get cold at Parc. Perhaps not so much for the kids who are off running around everywhere, but for us adults my advice is to wrap up warm and grab a seat next to one of the heaters.
I’d also recommend taking a spare change of clothes if you know your child is likely to use the sand pit and the mud kitchen, because they’re unlikely to come home clean.
If you’re not one for the dirty, then just keep in mind the old saying: the dirt will wash away but the memories won’t.
Parc All Weather Play, Unit 5, Curran Embankment, Grangetown, Cardiff CF10 5DX.
Parc is open daily from February half term until October half term from 10am-6pm, and at weekends and school holidays the rest of the year.
Admissions prices (as of March 2017): adults are free, under 2s £2.50 or free with an older paying sibling; ages 2-3 £4.50, ages 4-12 £6.
We paid for our entry at Parc and they did not know we would be reviewing them.