Since my boy has started moving about more I have become a regular at the soft play centres in my area. I was nervous in the beginning, the idea of loads of big kids running riot, no matter how padded was never going to be massively safe for my little kid. Thankfully, most of the time, they are a great place for Baby R to have a crawl about, interact with others and generally tire himself out so he has a nice long nap while I have a hot cup of tea and maybe some lunch (most do jacket potatoes or salads meaning I can stay on my Slimming World plan).
Our first visit to soft play was to Happy Days in Wakefield. A fairly new establishment which has a huge area for over 2’s(?) and a padded area in the middle named as ‘Baby Zone’. The first thing I learnt about soft play from this visit was “Toddlers love babies.” There were me and mini me with our friends in the designated baby zone and, I’m not joking, we were like magnets to the Toddlers. They came over and stared at our babies, tried to hug our babies and took their toys (at which point one of my mummy friends ended up in an altercation with a two year old who was clutching onto her son’s Sophie the giraffe!). Another little lady was not amused that we were sat in “her” area and kept coming up to us shouting “Please go away!”. My response? “NO”. Her mother was no where in sight and this is when I vowed not to be one of those mothers that lets their child lose in a soft play centre before settling down to chat with her mate, completely ignoring her child. Finally, one of Baby R’s friends was squashed by a bigger child. There he was, laid on his back, chilling and wondering where the next pufflet was coming from and suddenly BOOM, a child, who was crawling along the ‘wall’ of the soft play, ended up on top of him. Now since then, Baby Pufflet (as he will be forever known in this blog) has been sleeping a lot better than pre squash so I’m wondering if there is a toddler someone who is suddenly not sleeping and their mother is wondering why. Well, if you’d been watching your child you’d know!!!!
Next we decided to try Cheeky Monkeys in Wakefield. A more long standing soft play area which, lets be honest here, doesn’t look too appealing from the outside. “Crack den” was one of the names used by a friend of mine and I’d have to agree. Saying that, this play centre has two areas, one that has the standard soft play and then the other has a little village layout with a road and buildings and a smaller ball pool for younger children. Oh and it has a little football/goalie area which is lovely. What I like most about this soft play is the large padded area which is great for our babies who are too little to climb on things and use the bigger stuff but do want to have a play and a crawl about. Once again, the toddlers came to stare, hug and steal which I have decided is a running theme of soft play. Now no matter which play centre you go to, there are always some things you have to watch out for. For example, the ball pools. Germ ridden chasm where there is a good chance you will come out with wet socks. If you do, hope it’s a fruit shoot and not…well you know. There is no way those balls get cleaned regularly so no doubt child will enter cold free and come out streaming with snot.
After visiting Happy Days and Cheeky Monkeys I wondered whether any soft play centre really caters for the under 1’s and then I was introduced to Jelly Beans in Denby Dale and LeapFrogs in Skelmanthorpe. The latter being my absolute favourite. Jelly Beans is small but has a lot of walkers and a jumperoo with a designated baby area with a mini ball pool and toys that are age appropriate. However, then i went to LeapFrogs and I haven’t looked back. A large area for under fours with another area within that for the under 2’s. Completely padded, it’s a huge space with a couple of play houses, a little slide, ball pool and little toys. The best bit? Disco lights! The coffee is good, the food is good and the area is safe, clean and big enough for them to have a good crawl about. Even the other children that have been in on all of my three visits have been nice and aware of the little babies when moving around which is really appreciated. So far there has been no squashing, no hugging, no stealing of toys. In fact, the toddlers have left our babies alone. My boy has learnt to go down the slide by himself and loves the kitchen where he can open and close doors to his hearts content. it may be half an hour away from home but totally worth it.