As many of you will know, I’ve been a Mummy for nine years now and I’ve spent my fair share of time in a soft play centre. I’ve seen the memes, I’ve laughed at the jokes and I’ve joined in with moaning but honestly, deep down, I kinda love them.
Argh! Don’t judge me haha.
When I was little we used to go to this place called Barney Beserk and I freakin’ LOVED it.
Yes I had skin burns from the ‘drop dead slide’ (awful name for a piece of children’s apparatus) and yes I once broke my ankle on the inflatable pyramid but sh*t the bed I loved that place!
As soon as Darcy was old enough, I took her! They’d changed it all around (probably for the best since I doubt 25 year old bouncy castles aren’t that safe) but it was still the same joy and zizz.
I remember I used to be really excited all day waiting for Darcy’s Dad to come home from work (at about 4pm) so we could take her for an hour together. That was a happy memory.
Then, when things went a bit pear shaped and I found myself as a single mum, they because a place of solace. I started going to a brand new one that had just opened and it blew my mind for how good it was.
Look, I know that sounds nuts. Nobody is mind blown by soft play but I’m telling you, this one was SO good.
Everything was clean, the balls in the ball-pool didn’t have any weird black marks on them, the food from the little cafe was actually nice (salads, freshly made pizzas, jacket potatoes, WINE), tonnes and tonnes of things for the children to do. I started taking Darcy regularly and she loved it.
I’d made friends with some other Mums and we could go as a group, let our children play together and then all sit round the tables having a chat and a cup of coffee (or Diet Coke for me). It felt very ‘community’ and that was what I needed.
When Pearl came along, I took her straight away. Darcy was 6 so still loving running round and playing on the big kid area and Pearlie loved the sensory rooms and all the colourful things to look at.
As she’s grown into a toddler, she’s enjoyed all that brings with role play games, being more physical and pushing her confidence too. She now loves the go-karts, the slides, the carousel, all of it!
On top of going for cute mornings or friendly play dates, I’ve thrown birthday parties galore (all of Darcy’s Princess Parties have been here) and attended lots of the groups like sing sessions and baby massage.
This place is more than a soft play to us, it’s part of our lives.
When covid hit and everything shut down, it was a real loss.
Understandably it took a long time for the government to allow them to re-open and I was worried they would have stripped everything back or taken away the magic.
We recently visited for our first post-lockdown experience and it was WONDERFUL.
Some things had been removed (like loose toys and the little balls) but in their place was so much more. Valentina (the owner) has worked SO hard to make new play spaces, innovative ideas and things that will really delight all the children.
On top of that, they’ve installed hand washing stations (I saw four but I’d bet there are more), lots of sanitiser, disposable menus, big spaces between tables, pre-booked time slots and all adults wore masks. It felt fine.
I don’t know if I’m just a bit sentimental because this time of year when it’s all cosy really gets to me or if it’s just a big moment to do something ‘normal’ again, but I’ve been thinking about it all day. It’s been heart warming honestly.
I filmed an IGTV video which is now live and you can watch below but whilst all the thoughts are fresh in my mind, I wanted to write this blog post. I’m not sure how thrilling it will be but for my own memories, I wanted to document it.
Am I alone in secretly loving these places? Please say I’m not!