How to Softplay

Softplay trips can be the best of times and the worst of times. The mere mention of the word brings overcrowded spaces, screaming kids and your child potentially doing a damage to the mind’s eye. It can though, when you follow my tips below, be a fun, rewarding, bonding experience.

How to Softplay

Wear a belt and socks.

Whenever we go to the softplay I always seem to go in sweatpants, purely for freedom of movement. Unfortunately this also means if I have a phone, wallet or keys in my pocket they are highly likely to pull down my pants and show off my arsecrack to the viewing world.

Jeans can be a better option but remember the belt. When beltless, simply manoeuvring through the miniture obstacles results in flashing my butt to unsuspecting children and parents, no one wants to see that. They also don’t want to see your Sasquatch looking feet with bruised toenails creeping about. There’s no greater horror for my wife than forgetting to wear socks (with unpainted toenails!) on softplay day.

Know your limits.

As a parent, I’m a worrier so for the first two years of Ayla’s life I was following her everywhere and hovering over her ready to save her from the rigours of the softplay. This included following her up the stairs of the under-5’s section of our local softplay and getting wedged in some climbing aparatus and the rope fencing. My foot underneath me went into cramp and another parent had to shout instructions for me to get down so her confused child could get past the overgrown-lodged oaf who’d taken things too far.

Note to self – it is highly unlikely your child will –

A) Break a bone.

B) Fall from a great height.

C) Incur a life threatening injury.

– whilst at the softplay. So chill the fudge out!

Be wary.

As above, at the same time you do need to be wary at the softplay. For instance, you wouldn’t expect to see a ‘Children must be over 7-years-old to ride the death slide‘ sign in the vicinity where your 3-year-old has managed to out run you. This happened in one of our local softplays and reduced me to a frantic mess, Ayla was found safe and well in the ball pit I wish I could say the same for myself. Little tip to soft play owners: How about you keep the word death out of softplay attractions?

Bigger kids at softplay.

The softplays round our way have mini football courts which naturally I force Ayla into, practicing our ‘kick-kick.’ On one occasion ‘bigger boys’ were in and were monopolising the flyaway balls in the court not letting Ayla use any. I heard one say, “she’s just a girl” and another tell her, “you’re only a baby.” I was furious. It was a rare occurance of quick thinking from myself in which I enthusiastically ran to the other half of the pitch loudly telling Ayla to use the one free ball which was “miles better than them crappy balls they’re using anyway.” Not even giving Ayla a kick, I proceeded to thunder the ball off the wall hoping to deter the the bemused 7-year-olds from being unkind to my girl again. I don’t know if it worked but it made me feel better.

Tailgating your child as a giant bodyguard.

Take advantage of accompanying your child for as long as possible. It’s good bonding time and is a good opportunity to act like a big kid and pretend your on It’s A Knockout. The negative side of this is having to try and navigate the crowd when your child is too quick for you. If it all gets too much you can always go for a snooze at the bottom of the ballpool. That being said, look out for other kids using you as a giant target, scoring points by stotting balls off your head.

I’ve now learnt the hard way to let my child fight her own battles. You don’t really need to get involved in the toddler squabbles. In fact, I’ve come to realise that my three-year-old is much better in these situations than myself. She gets her point across in a calm, rational manner. She’s very forgiving and never holds a grudge. She resolves conflict like a UN ambassador making a peace deal. Maybe we could all learn a thing or two from observing our kids at the Softplay.

Letting go.

There will come a day when your once reliant baby no longer needs or wants your presence whilst at the softplay. I’m not going to lie, it’s like a dagger to the heart when they shoo you away and bound off with a newly found friend but try to take the positives. Your little one is growing up, building in confidence and finding out who they are.

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