The Perils of Soft Play Centres

On a recent trip back home to St Helens, my step mum suggested we took the kids, as well as my niece and nephew, to a soft play centre nearby.

I don’t mind them too much, as long as they are not absolutely heaving, in which case no. Not so much.

This one was four times as expensive as the one in Widnes we had been to last time, which was not great as it was half the size and I really couldn’t see where the extra money was going.

Anyway, the biggest gripe I had is an old one with these places. The baby play areas.

A lot of parents basically turn up to soft play centres – but not all I must stress – and dump off their kid and never check them or make sure they’re okay. Or if they are sticking to the bit of the play centre they should be in. The baby area is NOT the right place for them to be, for example, if they are over the specified age.

My youngest daughter has been toddling since she was 11 months old and although fairly sturdy on her little feet, she is easily knocked over and unsteadied. She hasn’t got much hope of moving about safely when there are big kids bounding about, throwing themselves, each other and objects about.

The baby play section I was in said clearly on the front of it that was just for children and babies aged 0-3 years. Yet, there were kids who were far too big to be in there playing in that area.

I understand if older children wish to play with their sibling who is 3 years old or younger, but this has to be supervised by an adult (as should the kids in there considering how young they are). This isn’t about that – it is just this free-for-all mentality that goes on in there, were parents end up bodily protecting their tots from being kicked in the face or thrown and shoved out of the way by older kids who shouldn’t be there.

It had me on edge, looking around all the time, or having to move my baby away from an area she wanted to play in because unruly kids were playing on it. It wasn’t at all my babies fault, yet she was being punished for the failings of other people not making sure their kids were not messing about in the wrong area of the centre and causing bother.

Then you sort of observe the kids in the main bit whilst keeping an eye on your own kids. The amount of times my six year old came to tell me that there was a boy or girl crying for their Mum and that the kid in question couldn’t find them, I lost count of. Having to help kids find their parents who aren’t where they left them or because they weren’t keeping an eye on their kids is not okay.

It’s a soft play centre, not day care. It isn’t a childcare provider.

I once read a review somewhere about a really excellent soft play centre I used to go to, were a parent was moaning that they had to watch their own child instead of sitting there, reading the paper and having a brew and that the staff had pointed out to him that it was his kid to watch, not theirs. He made a bit of a tit of himself by complaining about it, in my opinion.

I just wonder if that attitude is endemic of other parents: I’ve paid my entry fee, therefore, I won’t be keeping an eye on them.

I’m not a helicopter parent and do not hover over my kids (well, the baby I do!), but as long as she can see me and knows exactly where I am, that should be enough.

Just being sensible in these places and considerate is all I ask of other parents, who I imagine would expect the same from me. Accidents do and will happen and heads, legs and arms will collide and that is life, but your kid must be able to find you and know which bits they can and can’t go in. I don’t think that is unreasonable to expect or ask.

My baby (and I imagine other people’s) was disadvantaged by other people’s big kids careening about the little baby and toddler area, which is not fair. What astounded me further, was in some cases, the parents were in there with the babies whilst their bigger children were in there too, causing chaos, whilst other people were trying to simply play with their babies.

I told my older daughter and niece not to come in to play because it was for babies and they had the entire massive main section to play with, which they were fine with. How was that difficult for others to also do with their own?

Maybe I’m being curmudgeonly in my old age, but I’m just fed up of having to snatch my baby out of harms way because someone else’s kids nearly hurt her. Her fun shouldn’t be interrupted just because others cannot be bothered, it just isn’t on.

It might just be me, but it is my rather fed up opinion after going to these places for 6 years now. Just watch your kids and keep them out of the baby area! Grrr.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. RebeccaV says:

    I’ve had similar experiences and very similar reactions! Not sure whether that makes us two curmudgeons or not, but you’re not alone.

  2. Thomas says:

    A sound post that makes perfect sense. Unfortunately most parents do see these places as cheap childminders and believe there responsibility for their children ends at the door!! Great post

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