Susie Verrill admits that soft play isn't the most awesome thing since sliced bread, but there's lots of ways to make the most of it...
If we’re totally honest, the majority of us have a love-hate relationship with soft play. It’s great because it gives our children a safe place to burn off energy, but it’s OH MY GOSH SO LOUD, the food’s always dryer than a flip-flop in an Egyptian sauna and the idea of relaxing flies straight out the window the second we enter the multicoloured parent-hell. It’s a bit like having a smear test; we don’t want to go, but we know we’ll feel better once we do.
So, recently I’ve been trying to think of ways in which we as mums and dads can make the experience a nicer one. Utilise what’s around us for our own gain as well as our children’s. Here’s what I’ve come up with!
1. If you’re on a bit of a health kick, why not actually get stuck in? Sure, your children might not want you clambering around with them, but make it in to a game and get down and dirty amongst the ball pit and the spongy ladders. Maybe don’t try the car-washy rollers… you. will. get. stuck. If you’ve got a toddler then you’ll need to do this anyway so just consider it your exercise for the day.
2. Bring headphones. Seriously. Bring headphones and have a podcast/audio book/relaxing music at the ready and transport yourself from sticky leisure facility to a tranquil beach or mountain retreat. (You may need to shut your eyes).
3. Take a friend. Maybe a non-parent friend? You can have a natter and catch up while you know your children aren’t getting in to too much mischief. Safety in numbers; that’s what it’s all about.
4. If you’re someone who doesn’t need quiet around them to enjoy a book; bring one with you. Or a naff magazine you can indulge in for a few minutes. I rarely get to read these days and I really miss it. This is a great opportunity to get stuck in.
5. Similarly, bring a lap top and catch up on all those emails you worry about in bed at night.
6. If you really don’t think you’re going to be frantically running after your offspring; bring along your nail file and varnish, find a chair away from all the action and get pampering. They’ll be dry by the time you head home.
7. Minimise the time spent with your child while on the phone; either for work or general nattering purposes by getting them done when you’re sat on your own. You can even ring up and pay outstanding bills, get a bit feisty with the operator and your children will never know.
8. Give yourself a break. Remember that you’ve come to soft play and that means you’re out of the house and giving your little ones an afternoon/morning they’ll consider a total treat. You can tally this up as a mini triumph. Go you!
9. When did you last just sit and do nothing? Like, literally nothing. I used to really enjoy a good stare in to space; mind void of anything, just switching off and allowing the cogs to slow down. You can do the same right here. Yes, there’ll be background noise of a bazillion children and a heady stench of fried chips, but at least you won’t have your own small child dangling off your shins.
10. Don’t underestimate the jungle gym itself. Recently, following Milo up what felt like a foam mountain, he led me to a plastic bubble type dome, hovering in mid air. We sat there for at least 15 minutes (he played with a lone ball and steering wheel) while I just waited for our peace and quiet to be disturbed. If it’s not a busy day at soft play, there are tonnes of nooks and crannies children can’t be bothered hunting out because they’re too busy running towards the big slide. Go find ‘em.