Soft play: survival of the fittest

Phoenix is now 20 months. When do you stop counting in months? It kind of hurts my head a bit. I think over the last month when people have asked me hi age, I’ve given a response anywhere in between 18 – 24 months. The responses to this have varied, mean they’ve thought ‘wow he’s advanced’ or ‘um, you might want to get him checked out’ depending on which end of the scale I’ve plumped for. Anyway I digress….

Phoenix is 20 months. It is by far my favourite age (although I always say that – is there a time when it starts getting worse? The tweens? The teen years? I will NEVER be prepared for this!) It’s my favourite age because there’s so much going on. Literally from 18 months everything started zooming. Talking, doing new moves. new eating skills, remembering stuff, it’s wild times! He’s a fully formed little person now who can answer questions, make decisions (usually badly), and who is blossoming into a very cute and mischievous little man. Despite it being my favourite stage it is also one of the most challenging. He’s full on demanding and the tantrums are now in full swing (do not be deceived by the phase ‘terrible twos’ it’s starts way earlier than that). This is why I spend ALOT of my time time taking him to places where he can be entertained. This is why I spend ALOT of my time at soft play.

If I could only pick one word to describe what Phoenix is like it would be this….climber. He will scale anything given a chance. So soft play is ideal for him,  but not the age appropriate bits of course, he scoffs at those like I’ve insulted his climb-ability. He likes to go in with the ‘bigger boys’ and reach dizzy new heights.

On the parenting agenda of ‘things to learn’, soft play is not at the forefront of advice dished out. And yet every parent will experience the same situations, situations which the first time you encounter them will make you think ‘hmmmmm, right, so what do I do here then?’. So I thought I would capture some of these in this blog with my hot top tips on how to deal with them***

***The writer of this blog is officially useless at managing the scenarios below. Advice should be taken with caution

1. Your bottom is too big

There will come many a time when your child gets ‘stuck’. You’ll be sipping on your green tea hoping to burn a few extra calories while you allow your energetic dog, ahem, toddler to burn some energy, when you’ll hear, ‘stuck! stuck! mummy help! mummy help!‘ …..OK you’ll think, I can be there, he needs me, I WILL rescue him! I’ll be the hero of the softplay and be rewarded in kisses and cuddles……oh, what the hell – I’ll never fit through that!  I mean seriously do they create the gaps just small enough for a mum to get through, and yet not quite large enough for us to retain any grace or clothing above our waistlines? My advice is this: girls you will always fit. I promise you. I’ve squeezed into some pretty tight spots. You will get in. Keep the faith. Go forth and rescue your child! And if you don’t? Hmmmm maybe a few more green teas on your way out.

2. There’s a biter on the loose

I hear that biting is a phase, but really? Really? This is one thing I feel confident I could nip in the bud, I will not have a vampire toddler running around! (Famous last words, SO shouldn’t have typed that). But you’ve got to watch out for them, it’s serious, there are actual biting children running around those soft plays. And they will bite. Do not be fooled, they will bite. My advice is this: bite them back.Ok, ok, maybe not. There’s not much you can do really, but listen to the rumours on the outskirts of the soft play, usually mums are quick to spot a biter so you can keep an eye out and hopefully prevent yours from being bit. The mum of the biter is usually mortified so prevention is best for all. Pack your garlic and steak just in case.

3. Your child hit mine 

This is the worst one for me. When a child hits your own, your protective engine kicks in and you think ‘oi! get off!’ The first time this happened I was convinced the perpetrator child was a serial child bully and should be sent to some kind of brio shaped prison for the afternoon.   But of course he wasn’t (he still was a bit, ahem), ALL children hit eachother. It’s quite annoying. We all want them to make friends and hold hands and be cute but they just push each other in the face and steal toys with menace shattering our little cute party we’re trying to create. Can you tell off someone else’s child? What are the rules there? And when your own does it, god it’s so embarrassing. Phoenix was playing joyfully once on some softplay steps when he decided he would just push the boy in the face to see what happened. Quick as a flash the mum swooped in (small arse, no problems for her, tusk) and took him away from phoenix with me crying deep inside ‘he’s not a child bully, don’t send him to brio prison! He’s a lovely child!’ My advice is this: it happens, get over it. Try not to get emotional about it. Sometimes, and you’ll know when, there are times when you have to intervene. If a child is a serial offender/biter/frighteningly vicious then go straight to the source and root out the parent. When it’s just a one off just do the classic ‘now, now, gentle boys, play nicely’ – yawn, no wonder they all bash each other with us all repeating that over and over.

4. It stinks of feet in here 

Although you may think your child’s feet are munchable, adorable and devine, chuck them into a soft play with lots of hot sweaty kids and trust me the stench of all those adorable feet is not one that brings angels to mind. My advice: lap it up ladies, you’re in the game for a long time to come. Sorry, most useless piece of advice ever?

5. Competitive mum 

They get everywhere, but they really like soft plays. All that opportunity to compare and evaluate, they love it! They’ll check out the kids performance, quiz you on his age and work out where yours sits in comparison to theirs. Massive, massive yawn. What’s the big deal?! My advice: use this one ‘read the sign lady, he’s 20 months (i think) and he’s in the 3 – 5 pit, eat that’ Then spit, in her face. (maybe don’t say lady and eat that. And perhaps don’t spit either, it’s gross enough in there anyway).

Well I hope that was helpful for the next time you head into the ball pit of doom. Any other burning soft play issues to add? Whack them in the comments below! BoOOM!

And here’s a video of Phoenix in full soft play action, the theme tune of Gladiators (of course), note his hard core resistance to tears despite taking it on the bridge (bless), he’s so advanced! And did I mention his feet smell glorious 😉 enjoy x


2 thoughts on “Soft play: survival of the fittest

  1. Natalie billings says:

    Great! Don’t forget the many mums who drink cappuccinos, read Heat magazine and ignore their little hell raisers altogether! We might be missing a trick here…..

  2. Will says:

    I don’t know which soft play you go to Natalie, but at ours in West Yorkshire plenty drink special brew and read the Daily Star. Early mornings are best I find, before the birthday parties start to arrive. My 20-month-old absolutely loves them though and I love watching him have a good time. We went upmarket today to a nicer one with additional petting animals and stuff. It was £6.95 for both of us, but still worth every penny.

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