Before you ignore the warning bells in your head and agree to take your child to soft play – here’s a quick reminder of what’s ahead. Do you really want to go?
1. Your child gets it into their head that they want to go to soft play. You weigh up the options. It’s pissing down with rain so the park is out. There are no drop in classes on in your neighbourhood that you can face going to. Swimming is too much like hard work on the three hours sleep you’ve had. Your toddler keeps whining “I wanna go to soft play, I wanna go to soft play, I wanna go to soft play,” and repeat. You’re not sure you can hide in the kitchen and block the noise out any longer.
2. Despite his life depending on you taking him to soft play this morning, your toddler has a meltdown from the top of the scale just before leaving the house. Why? Because you ask him to put his coat on. You consider not going to soft play, but then the whining starts up again. It’s easier to give in.
3. You arrive at soft play, take off the toddler’s coat and shoes with minimal fuss, and sit in an uncomfortable plastic chair while watching your little darling run towards some PVC cushions on a bright green mat. For a wonderful few seconds, your day looks up. You consider ordering a coffee. Then your baby starts wailing and reminds you she needs feeding. Now.
4. A high-pitched cry coming from somewhere within the purple and blue mass of plastic and netting before you definitely belongs to your child. You hastily unlatch the baby from your boob and while she starts screaming in protest, you clamber into the sweaty plastic maze that is soft play. You briefly try to drag a child out from the netting before realising he doesn’t belong to you.
5. With one hangry baby on your shoulder, you manage to extract your own toddler from underneath a giant octopus. “I fell down Mummy, I fell down Mummy,” he keeps repeating. You feel momentary guilt for not watching him properly – but then console yourself when you notice that the bump forming on his head isn’t going to give him a black eye. You send him back to the mosh pit praying he doesn’t run straight into the rather older, louder children who have just arrived.
6. You remember that your baby, who is half wailing half trying to latch onto your shoulder, is starving.
7. Your baby falls asleep post-feed and your put her in her buggy. You order coffee which the waiter burns but you don’t care. You have been waiting for this moment since 5.10am, and now for 48 glorious seconds, you sit down and try to enjoy it while blocking out the din of shrieking children.
8. Your toddler runs up to you, knocks the table leg so your coffee spills everywhere, and begs you in their cutest voice ever to “please come on the slide with me mummy”. You resist the urge to say something impolite to the gaggle of pushy kids on the rope swing and sit your toddler in your lap at the top. You feel a fleeting moment of smug satisfaction about the quality play time you are spending together. Then you go down the slide and the pain that shoots up your coccyx when you both hit the bottom stays with you for the next two weeks.
9. You decide it’s time for your exit strategy and tell your toddler they’re about to close soft play soon and so all the children need to go home. He looks at you in disbelief, kicks off the shoes you try to put on his feet, and lies down in front of you kicking the floor and screaming, “I don’t want to go home.”
10. You buy your toddler a packet of crisps from the disapproving waiter who burnt your coffee. You hand them over to your two-year-old and try to block out the voice in your head that’s reminding you that you’re trying to bribe less and offer less junk food. Your toddler wakes the baby with his final protests before gulping down the crisps and being sick on the carpet.
Do you still want to go to soft play today?
*Disclaimer – I can’t blame Milin or Jasmin for any of the events above. They may have been based on my scariest nightmares.