As a parent to a four-year-old, we spend a lot of time at Soft Play. It’s a necessary evil. The Irish weather doesn’t allow for playground hijinks as much as we need, and the alternative is absolutely wrecking my house (and my head). So, off to Soft Play we go. He loves it, he’s a daredevil mad to be climbing higher and higher. Me? My love is somewhat less obvious. For me, soft play raises more questions than it answers. Here are just some of them.
This one seems to be a universal bugbear. I’ve not found one yet (and we’ve tried many) that serve decent coffee. Drinkable coffee is rare. Good coffee simply doesn’t exist in the doors of these places. The majority of places we have been to opt for coffee from a machine (often burnt and nasty) or instant coffee.
I do understand that it’s a cost-saving measure, I do. But your prime customers are parents. Sleep deprived, stressed out, needing a decent coffee while their kids leave them alone for five minutes. They’re also paying for said coffee – it’s not like a charity thing that you’re handing it out for free. So really, owners of Soft Play areas – make the investment for that on sale Nespresso machine, or an Aeropress. You can even charge a little extra for the coffee, we won’t mind, as long as it is filled with tasty goodness. Is that so much to ask?
Tea from a Machine
Alongside the plethora of god-awful coffee, tea is GENERALLY the safe option of hot beverages. Generally, until you discover that the Soft Play area your child is currently stuck into only sells tea that’s made in a machine.
It’s TEA. Stick a teabag in, boil the kettle, you can even leave the rest to me. Don’t tarnish the good name of tea by using CAPSULES. (It is DEFINITELY not Barry’s).
Kids Meals in Soft Play Areas
Soft Play areas are often filled with kids birthday parties and days out. As a result, they mostly have a catering service attached to feed the kids. However, given that children are their sole focus, the lack of attention paid to the menu is disheartening. How many versions of “meat-thing and chips” can you serve without any other option? I know kids aren’t looking for a five-course meal with wine options, and yes some can be fussy eaters. However, a bit of variety, a bit of something that isn’t sausages and chicken goujons and chips, maybe a vegetable? That would definitely be more appealing – and parents could feel a lot less guilty about these things too. The folks at No 9 Barronstrand St have the right idea, if only they had a big soft play area!
The Steep Slides
If your slide is so steep you need someone supervising how children go down it, is it REALLY the brightest idea to have in a children’s soft play area? I mean, really? We’re not looking for thrill a minute adventure park stuff here. Parents just want somewhere they can sit and let their kids run wild without fear of winding up in A&E because their kid came down a sheer drop head first. Who even designs these slides for small kids?
The Joys Of “Children Must Be Kept Supervised At All Times” While In Stupidly Difficult To See Them Climbing Frames
I’d love to be able to have the X-Ray vision required to see through the million and one obstacles within the frame. Unfortunately, I’m lacking that particular characteristic. It’s funny to think about, having the ability to actually supervise at all times. Of course, I sit there, looking over every few minutes, but it’s impossible. I’ve contemplated strapping a Go-Pro to his head, that I’m able to follow on my phone. For now, I’ve just got to assume that he’s not fighting with other kids, after falling down some steps or after peeing in the corner. Right?
Soft Play Opening Hours
Why, on Sunday mornings and Bank Holidays, are these places not open early? I don’t know about you, but I’m fairly sure we would be there, with bells on. Toddlers and preschoolers don’t understand the meaning of the word lie in. We need something, anything, to burn off the energy, and outdoors doesn’t always work. In particular, in Ireland, where it rains quite a lot, we need somewhere to bring them to burn off the energy before they burn down our house. Yes, it costs more to pay employees. However, I guarantee you, you’d make that back and more by opening early to the frustrated masses of parents! (Of course, the point about good coffee would also work well here).
The Germ Factor (And WHY is EVERYTHING sticky at Soft Play?)
Look, four years in, I’ve gotten past the fact that small children are disgusting creatures that seem to ooze jam from every pore and leave a sticky mess behind them. I’ve been to my fair share of soft play areas and recoiled at the thought of the germ-infested ball pits from kids who likely have the plague sneezing on them. But even if you’re there at the crack of soft-play-dawn (normally around 10 am, a few hours after my house has started to be wrecked by the actual crack-of-dawn waker), the stickiness is still there!
It’s not just one place, it seems to be all of them! Is it an impermeable sticky that cleaning simply can’t get around, or have these places just given up? Either way, it takes a lot of deep breathing and praying that the child doesn’t come home with some lovely cold or flu that he’s kind enough to pass to the rest of us.
Those are just some of the random thoughts that pop into my head while I’m sat in the (hell that is) soft play area – got anything to add? I’d love to hear them – leave a comment below, or over on Facebook!
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