12 things that would make soft play a million times better for parents
Soft play is one of those marmite things about modern parenting, isn’t it? It is something that, lets face it, kids love and most adults HATE.
(Or, more specifically, it’s something that kids hate when they have to leave and adults love when it makes their children sleep soundly that evening).
Soft play is the ultimate sensory overload, it’s a juggernaut of an activity that turns even the mildest kids sweaty and feral and will, predictably, all end in tears. Probably yours.
I’m sure some parents do love it, but I’m also sure these are the parents who don’t get dragged around soft play by their children. These are the parents who get to sit it out in the cafe area, drinking tea and chatting. (As a dragged-around parent, I hate you. Just kidding. Kind of).
They don’t have to go in it and up it and down the slide backwards and through the toxic god-knows-what’s-in-there ball pit, followed by squeezing your boobs, and the rest of your body, through the horizontal roller things known to me as the ‘Mum Manglers.’
Are you a dragged around parent too? Solidarity! We went to a party recently and at food time, while I downed a cup of weak squash like it was my tenth tequila chaser of the evening, with my bedraggled hair on end, I whispered ‘I’m exhausted!’ And a fellow parent of small children, who looked at me with not a hair out of place, said casually ‘Oh, I don’t go in.’ *Cries*
Soft play is fun, it’s sleep-inducing exercise and yes, kids love it. Because it’s fun. We’ve been to some brilliant ones and it’s been great (usually when I have back-up. Or when they’ve been empty of anyone but us).
However, it’s also the worst. When your children are small there are always giant kids thundering around and bashing into everyone like a bull in a china shop, invading the baby area, throwing balls in all directions and hogging the top of the slide while you clasp your precious tiny toddler to your mangled boobs.
And when your children are bigger and you do get to sit it out, sipping overpriced coffee at a sticky table, there’s always the worry they will get stuck at the top of the slide, ten stories up, or knocked over by a horde of giant children, or lost somewhere in the labyrinth of sweaty soft mats while you dash around trying to find them, screaming inwardly with soft play-induced anxiety.
So yes, stressful. Sticky. And then there’s the shocking state of their socks, afterwards. And if you have more than one child and everyone goes in different directions it’s fraught with nerve-jangling potential stresses.
But with a couple of tweaks, it could be much better, I reckon. It could be GREAT.
Here are 26 things that could make soft play a MILLION times better for parents.
Self-sanitising play equipment: The GERMS. You wouldn’t have to worry about your children – or you – coming down with all the contagious things two days later. Or have to deal with the toxic soft play socks, at arm’s length, later that evening.
A Prosecco bar: Admittedly, this would be great anywhere, but a – plastic – glass and a half will soothe your ragged soft play soul and might make it a lot more fun. ‘Woo, look at me in the bendy mirror!’ style.
GPRS tracking for your kids: For those precious moments when you do get to sit it out, you don’t need to worry that they’re lost in the chaos – you could pinpoint exactly which point on the precarious rope bridge they’re dangling off. Easy. This would be really handy for the stresses of when you have more than one child and everyone runs, at speed, in different directions.
More height: So you don’t constantly feel squished when you run around it. I’m not even that tall but regularly bash my head, get a neck ache and dread the claustrophobia of those closed twisty slides.
A slide that takes you to an escape room: However, a slide that zooms you away to just get away from it all for a little bit? Yes please (ideal escape room contents – beauty treatments, box sets, more prosecco, snacks).
Whale sounds over the tannoy: Or at least some soothing, crowd-control muzac, not the hi-energy tracks you last heard at a club night in the 90s harmonised with the noise all the children crying and all the parents shouting simultaneously, that echoes round the building and into the deep dark depths of your soul.
A bendable phone: One that doesn’t awkwardly jab you in your pocket at every twist and turn or fall out whenever you go down the slide. You need to take it in for that top-level-sanity-saving-scroll through Instagram, OK?
An adults-only ball pit: The dream! We went in one of these recently in The Color Factory in NY. So much fun. Zero hygiene worries. Sorry, kids.
Tasteful, eye-soothing design: A scandi-style design that looks nice with colours that don’t send kids crazy would be lovely (this does exist at Insta-friendly The Idol). And preferably, a design without the terrible lighting, so you can take photos. PS – follow me on Instagram.
A loyalty card: Not for the kids, but for YOU. Once you get five stars you get to sit the next one out. While an energetic soft play person takes your children around instead of you.
No other kids: Yep. And no other parents.
A free head massage on the way out: To relieve your stressed, tension headache (I ALWAYS get one of those). Or even just a hug would be nice. Hold me.
Are these portraits of parents forever trapped in soft play? Quite possibly…More posts…the seven rules of the sleep-deprivation society for new parents and 21 things that really irritate me about parenting