The World Would Be a Better Place Without...Soft Play

So I have started a new series without even finishes the other series' (seri, pleural?), thus keeping up to my serially distractible nature (oooh a pun, so early on, get me).

I know it's hardly world peace, which obviously would have a more far reaching impact than performing a mass cull on all soft play hell holes. But I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who's sat at those sticky tables, watery tea in hand with overpriced soggy sandwich in the other thinking, has my life come to this?
One eye on my phone desperate for a catch up on normal life that isn't in this primary coloured foam rimmed sensory overload, the other eye checking there isn't a toddler face off on the slide (why must one always insist on going backwards up the slide? That one normally being mine),

Now let me cast my mind back on my soft play story to illustrate the horrors of the world contained in soft play...
 Enter at your peril


Chapter 1: Baby Steps

I remember the first time I went to soft play; it was like the first time getting into a club after getting your first (genuine) over eighteen's ID; only much less booze but still containing lots of underage yobs and more than it's far share of bum cleavage (from all those mum's hoking kids out of that cushion lair in their skinnies).

There we were, a little antenatal group on maternity leave, excited to see this new multi-coloured world and stupid enough to bring a bunch of four month olds - the most completely age and development inappropriate group of younglings to bring to soft play. They gummed the unsanitary fittings and lay like discarded soggy chips at the seaside waiting targets for dive bombing toddler seagulls. We dipped them in the ball pool taking cute pictures of spherically engulfed babies to post on Facebook. Little did we know then that we had unwittingly entered them into the pit of viral despair and four children with rota virus quickly ensued, i.e. the most explosive diarrhoea known to man (this was pre rotavirus vaccination 'the old days' y'unno).

So to summarise my learning points for this first foray. They need to be mobile, hold there own in battle  and under NO circumstances should ever enter the ball pool of other  children's excrement (most likely I fear it is actually covered in tiny pieces of actual shit and vomit - how can those balls be cleaned everyday?). The last point regardless of whatever age they are. Do not be tempted, you will not come out unharmed. For an example of when my resolve slipped, read this Cornwall D&V ball pit story.
You must always think: Is this cute ball pool picture worth it? NO is the correct answer.

Chapter 2: Dog Eat Dog - Gaining Soft Play Survival Skills

So once that has been forgotten, with all the sleep deprivation just knocking off your brain cells, they get to the mobile stage.
Fantastic! Now they can actually use soft play, right?
Well, only if they can hold their own and possibly kick the other toddlers ass. Toddlers at soft play, are basically a bunch of dogs trying to assert their rank in society.
If your child so much as looks away from a glare or shows any interest in that foam rocking horse, he is horsemeat.
I used to watch my first son when he was about 11 months old, sidle up to other similarly aged children and suss them out.
I could see him thinking "Hey dude, what's up bud? You the uber dawg here or the unter-dawg?"
And with a twerk of his hips, if they were deemed underdog, he gently leaned his bum on them to edge them away from whatever was the soft play prized toy (something with balls usually).
But many a time he broke eye contact with the uber-dog, leaving himself open to the snatch and grab.
You see it's dog eat dog there in that squidgy haven. You gotta bring it or some other little tyke will. 

And  as a parent you need balls/boobs of steel with the ever present dilemma of when your kid attacks or when your kid is attacked. This will happen, both ways. Your little trodden on angel one day, will be the leader of the riot the next.
And almost 90% of parents will apologise or make their children apologise. But then there always the 10%. Oh, those 10%. We know you saw your kid stamp on my kids head....and there's not much I'm going to do about it, being non-confrontationally British, I will just bitch about it to my probably-not-listening-husband later. Hurumpf.

Chapter 3: Survival in the S**thole

As time ticks on, First born hits almost 3 years old and is a relative soft pay veteran.
Soon soft plays starting popping up everywhere - garden centres, pubs...brill, finally mummy can have a nice little spot of lunch whilst you play/jump on someone else's child while I pretend you are not mine.

See by this time I've mastered the soft play mum mentality and it's not soft at all - it's survival of the fittest.
However soft play is still my master. Because the soft plays in these places are actually S**tholes masked by good cake on offer at the a-joining café. They have a mysterious film of 'urgh' stuck to the 10 metre squared worse for wear chomped on play area. The 'urgh' is made up of what I can only guess is fruit shoot, piss and the mud from 25 toddlers that day who forget to take their shoes off after traipsing round the garden centre next door.

But that's a hit you are willing to take (or your willing your spawn to take for the team), because they have good posh ciabattas for lunch with rocket and stuff in and caffeine. Shame its still only 10.30am and they aren't serving till 12. Mother Bleepers.

So lunch is a non-starter which leaves obligatory coffee shop carrot cake or full fry up. Oh go, fry me up 3 kgs to add to my arse. Soft play wins again, the bastard.
Then to join that bastard, as your second breakfast arrives, along comes Sodslaw. Your previously completely happy to play on their own child, is trying to drag you into the cushioned lair.

A hungry mummy at soft play is an angry mummy at soft play (and possibly one who will blog about it later).

Chapter 4: A Different Ball Game - School Holidays

There's only is much to do in the school holiday with pre-schoolers. Unfortunately soft play is one of them and all the other parents got that message too. Soft play is rammed. And of course you can't turn back now, your pre-schooler has seen their soft play mecca and it must be worshipped (or face the mother of all paddies on the way home).
After you've conquered the queue, all the good tables are already taken. Coats and bags adorn the good seats whilst much smarter and wiser parents nip off to get a coffee in the safe knowledge they have staked their claim on their prime seat. And then the day comes, you bagsy that seat, but then you need a third eye, to check child, phone and bag are all safe, particularly the bag, many a time I have found a unknown little blighter reaching in for me' ricecakes. Who knew kids have a sixth sense to sniff out rice cakes and that hidden bag of chocolate buttons you were saving for yourself? Bloody soft play wins again.

Chapter 5: Lunch's up!

The type of food selections at these fine establishments range from Fatty McFatfats to chubberific to you big ol' bloater.
"Sausage and chips, two fish fingers, a side of beans," is heard shouted out.
"That's mine." I sheepishly say, moving out from beneath my turreted snack castle of fruit shoots for my shameful meal.
I should of just flaunted the rules like the cool soft play mums and just bought a picnic containing humous and kale chips - the picnic of Waitrose champions.  If you can strictly have a picnic on a carpeted area hiding your hoard behind your change bag or with at least two of your limbs stuck to the table.

Chapter 6: Poo-Bomber

Then invariably someone, i.e. your perfectly able child, gets stuck somewhere in the soft play mess. Fine, you say, I can handle this, pish, I've done the odd yoga class and I'm wearing trainers....Until you hear; "Mummy, I need a poooooooo...NOW!" and then a suspicious bulge appears in the back of your child's trousers, accompanied with a familiar scent. The scent of shame.
"Oh, Christ! He's dropped one in the monkey ropes!" You say.*
*By 'you say', I mean me, oh the shame of being the mother of the poo-bomber.
In a bid to stop the turd torpedo dropping on the unsuspecting tiddlers below (currently it's still contained by George Peppa pig pants), it's time to over come your claustrophobia and krypton factor yourself in there.
There goes your dignity again, as your bum cleavage and actual cleavage are thrust against the netting in the scramble to take down that poo terrorist before its too late.
If you're wondering how this true story actually ended - the tiddlers were saved from the brown massacre but unfortunately George Pig sacrificed himself in an act of heroism.

Chapter 6: The End

So the time has come for the story to end. It's been 60 minutes of headless chicken running for the little darlings, mummy's iPhone battery has died and Daddy is had just about enough of the 20 laps round he's done.
"Just one more go, it's time to go home now." You say, kindly.
No sign of movement.
"There's a nice surprise for you at home." You bribe, not letting on that the nice surprise is, their nap.
Still no sign of movement.
"I'm going to count to ten..." Your voice raising.
Movement now, but accompanied by a whinging song of, "No No No, just three more times..."
"Ok we will leave without you..." You threaten.
Sudden flurry of movement quickly quashed when you step near and replaced with giggles and a child running the opposite direction.
"Right THAT'S IT!" Shouty parent mode reached, and child dragged out by the ankles desperately clasping onto the soft play seams.
A tantrum a bit like this but with more sweat and less bread
You look down at this child. You were sure you started with a fairly clean presentable child but now you are faced with a sweaty headed, hyperactive, sticky pile of flalling limbs.
Sympathetic looks are given from other parents who are still biding their time, both in subliminal agreement that you are NOT coming to soft play again. At least not until the school holidays are over and it's raining.

So I ask you, what would life be without this fun filled pre-schooler crack den equivalent?

Awesome. A life without soft play would mean getting back to the grass roots for childhood. These are the benefits:
  • Without soft play they would play like in the good old days (possibly with more 'sofa jumping through glass tables miraculously not sustaining injury' sitting room events).
  • You could both rediscover wistful crafts, the quiet contemplation of colouring in, and reading books (ha ha ha ha ha ha, says the mum of boys, yep I can just see that happening).
  • A marked reduction in the spread of  soft play diseases such as soft play tum, soft play snotty nose and soft play rash (but more broken bones from the lack of soft play softness).
  • Kinder more tolerate toddlers after not having to indulge in soft play toddler wars (ha ha ha...OK that may NEVER happen).
  • Happier, slimmer parents. No soft play cake. No soft play inter-parent wars.
  •  With time you could now have free, you can all discuss economic policy and enter your child into Britain's Smartest Kid.
  • A distinct reduction in tantrums on leaving, as you never went there in the first place.
So there I present to you a solid robust case for an all round ban on soft play, at least when the sun is shining and you can go to the park instead.
Would you world be a better place without soft play? Share the soft play misery. I need the company after all soft play misery breads soft play misery and come say Hi on Facebook
Maybe we can go into business with this - a new experience of 'solo soft play'? All the benefits of soft play with none of the shit.

Modern Dad Pages


  1. Pre-schooler crack den - love it! I usually sit in soft play with my mouth agog at watching all those toddlers in their crack den haha - they become like soft play zombies #effitfriday

    1. They change once their feet touch those soft play mats into crazy zombies for shizzle, which is fine as long as you can get a cuppa tea and catch up in some phone admin (Facebook).

  2. I'm in... get the petition going. I have a dream that I can catch up on social media and have a coffee but end up playing referee in a number of situations.. I have 3 boys and there are many situations. I have succumbed to cake but have yet to have a poo terrorist incident... my youngest is potty training so may still happen,,, o god. #effitfriday

    1. you haven't lived until your kid has poo bombed the soft play or 'spilt their drink' (had a wee) in the corner. Right, I'll get on with that petition...

  3. hmmm I'm undecided if I can join. I'm very dubious about the place, EVERY time I go to my local one I ask the lad there is they actually clean the balls (he assures me every Friday night, but really?!) But it's so nice to be somewhere with the accident prone toddler that's, well, soft.

    1. yeah, they clean the balls....with the urine of the children using it. Bit like a self cleaning system really. No, I'm sure that's not true....
      I agree though, it is safe for the toddling toddlers, so maybe its no so bad (as long as they actually clean those balls!)

  4. Lol, don't forget THE GERMS that soft plays are riddled with... I love to hate them. Thankfully my kids are getting to be almost too big to enjoy them... #effitfriday

    1. You are so lucky - bring on the age of quietly playing on their own....though I'm not sure that that age ever comes! Unless it involves an iPad.

  5. 'now you are faced with a sweaty headed, hyperactive, sticky pile of flalling limbs.'

    That's the normal state of a child, isn't it? It's certainly the default setting for my two.

    This post was so funny, although I LOVE the soft play I usually go to (although sadly I haven't been in a while, as the nappies have come off my eldest and I'm petrified of a piddle incident. Crucially, it's good value, clean, HAS NO BALL PIT, and in the late afternoon/early evening is very very very quiet. There have times when I've been and I was the only one there for about half an hour until a handful of other parents turned up.

    It is bliss. #effitfriday

    1. Ha ha - yep you're right that is the default setting.

      Don't worry about pee incidents, you can just blame it on spilt fruit shoot or summit'. There are some nicer ones, its just I've been to all the crappy ones (normally attached to a pub - FYI never go to those ones EVER!)

  6. I've found that group anything, is often a nightmare of some sort lol. Love how you captured it. #effitfriday

    1. Ha - yeah pretty much. Children are certainly not made to all get along nicely. They are made to bundle and be selfish however!