Any parent who owns little ‘energizer bunnies’ (or Gremlins on acid) will have experienced the joys of soft play. Whether it be a desperate attempt to let my four year old burn off some energy on a rainy day, a birthday party or simply the longing to have 5 minutes alone with a hot cup of coffee…I have developed a love/ hate relationship with these ball pit filled places of laughter, screaming and snot. Now my son has reached the age of four, I consider myself a bit of a ‘Michael Palin’ of the soft play world. I have traveled far and wide, overcoming obstacles such as feet ripping cargo nets and skin burning static slides and have concluded that there are a number of recurring characters that frequent such perilous environments…
- The Hardcore Action Junkees – There are always those boys who are so immersed running around like wild banshee’s that by the red and dripping with sweat (my Jack adds a special edge to this look by matching his flushed skin to his ginger hair). Some extremes of this breed fancy themselves as Channing Tatum in Magic Mike and will feel no shame in stripping to their pants. This usually is followed by a mum yelling ‘Where the hell are your trousers’?!
- The Relay Race Mum – The brave mums who attempt a soft play visit with two or more children. There are no coffee breaks for these heroes who have the tireless task of managing a hungry/ tired baby, running around after a toddler with a death wish and/ or being dragged through the assault course of squishy mats and impossibly small spaces by an older, hyper child.
- The Vice Versa Dad – Just like the 80s film, these guys seem to regress to childhood at the site of a ball pit. My husband often throws his shoes off before our son Jack and excitedly hurries off to bury himself in the ball pit or get stuck in the spiral tunnel slide for the fifth time despite the large warning sign stating the obvious: ‘Children Only’!
- The Mean Girls – Bless them it’s a horrible stage us women all go through in our life…bitchiness. It starts at a very young age and some unfortunates never grow out of it. Some groups of girls like to move in a gang and seem to claim acertain area as their patch. These girls will go to endless lengths to ensure no boys, annoying younger ones or simply unfortunate innocents cross their territory. Phrases such as ‘Your are not allowed to play with us’ or ‘We are not talking to you’ are often aimed at some poor girl who has inevitably been cast out due to not obeying the ‘Queen Bee’. On one rare occasion I have even witnessed what can only be described as a turf war against two rival cliques.
Needless to say I could not have survived parenthood so far without the necessary soft play trips, but after an hour I am usually found rocking in a corner covering my ears. Please share any war stories with me, I love a good laugh/ rant.