I have a real love-hate relationship with soft play. There are days when it is my saviour and I’m aware that we modern-day parents have so much to be thankful for. But it isn’t all perfect, right? Here’s 35 things I think you’ll know if you take your kids to soft play. How many can you relate to?
1. Wondering what parents did on rainy days before soft plays were invented and feeling gutted they didn’t exist when you were little because it would have been so much fun to experience it as a child.
2. When you have to pay for adult entry, as well as children’s. What’s that about?! As if you’d be going there if you didn’t have kids!
3. Realising you’re wearing sandals and no socks and having to pay a pound for an itchy nylon pair of one-size-fits all which keep slipping off your feet.
4. Meeting up with friends at soft play with the intention of catching up, only to spend the whole time running off in different directions after your various offspring and never hearing the end of a story.
5. When you have pre-schoolers and visit during term time only to discover the local schools have an inset day and the place is over-run with big kids.
6. Holiday prices versus term time prices. ‘How much?!’ you shriek to the poor girl on the till.
7. Making the mistake of going on a rainy day during the school holidays. Hell. On. Earth.
8. Trying to sneakily feed your kids snacks brought from home right next to the big sign that says ‘you may only consume food and drink purchased here’.
9. Or playing by the rules and debating which is the healthiest option out of a chocolate bar or crisps. Haven’t these people ever heard of fresh fruit or baby rice cakes?
10. Your child having a tantrum because you won’t buy them a slush puppy.
11. Extra rides that will only operate if you put a pound into them. As if you haven’t already spent a fortune on getting in and buying aforementioned expensive, unhealthy snacks.
12. Stepping in a wet patch and keeping your fingers crossed it’s water on your socks and not wee.
13. A familiar sound of ‘Mummy, I need a wee’ coming from way up high, and feeling like Jack Bauer from 24 as you leap over brightly coloured foam shapes and up rope ladders to get your little one to the loo before there’s an accident.
14. Regretting the decision not to put your shoes back on when you take your child to the toilet.
15. Making a mental note not to wear your low rise jeans next time as you realise you’ve just flashed your butt crack to all the other mums while rescuing your child.
16. Giving evils to the kids playing in the under twos bit when they are blatantly much older.
17. Maybe even telling a member of staff on them and then feeling guilty for grassing on kids.
18. Wondering whether it’s okay to tell off a child who has been terrorising your child and whose parent is too busy drinking coffee and checking Facebook to notice.
19. Trying to keep tabs on more than one young child as they run off in opposite directions.
20. If you have more than one child, feeding your baby while rescuing your toddler from somewhere up high.
21. None of the batteries working on any of the toys.
23. Being grossed out by the layers of dust behind the equipment. And sometimes the dirt on the equipment itself.
24. Trying to take an arty shot of your kid surrounded by balls in the ball pit, but them jumping around so much all you get is a multi-coloured blur.
25. When soft plays have computer games attached to the walls. ‘I didn’t pay £7 for you to play on an iPad!’ you say. ‘We might as well have stayed at home.’
26. Cursing the parents who sit there reading a magazine oblivious to, or perhaps purposefully ignoring, the fact their child is stuck/peeing their pants/terrorising the younger kids.
27. Paying a small fortune for the worst cup of tea/coffee/hot chocolate you’ve ever tasted.
28. Mentally judging the parent whose poor child has been crying at the top of the soft play… to then realise it’s your poor child and you are the bad parent.
29. The mortification when your child deliberately pushes another child out the way.
30. Realising that thing in your child’s hand is a half eaten oaty bar they’ve found in the ball pit – and wondering how long it’s been there for.
31. Your socks are now filthy. Yuck.
32. When your child is at that awkward age where they are too big for the easy-to-watch-them-in baby area but can’t quite navigate the big kid bit, meaning you spend two hours squeezing through tunnels and helping them climb up, while your friends sit and natter at the side.
33. The thrill of going down the big slide, to help your child, obviously. Wheeee!
34. No matter how long your child has been in there, they will always want to stay ‘just five more minutes’.
35. Because soft play makes them so happy! That sheer delight on their tiny little faces as the fall into a pit of balls, or whizz down the slide with you. And that’s totally worth the yucky coffee and wee-soaked socks, right?