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Monday, 4 July 2016

Six parents you will meet at soft play

Six parents you will meet at soft play

Like any parent who happens to be hanging on to the loose threads of their sanity, I loathe soft play with every fibre of my being. 


It's sticky, it's sweaty, it's noisy. The tea (or coffee if that's your bag) is crap and when you finally manage to remove your tantrumming child(dren) from the establishment they will almost certainly bring away with them an unpleasant illness

And yet, despite this deep and enduring dislike, somehow it keeps us coming back like moths to a brightly coloured, faintly smelly flame.

Over the past few weeks I have had a brief respite from 'the padded hell hole' as the toddler has been in the early stages of potty training. When she was little and still an only, I met up with a friend at a local soft play. I say soft play; it was a actually a pub with a small ball pool and a squishy slide tacked on to the side, the only good kind of soft play really.

Upon arriving were were told by a slightly angry barmaid that it was closed because a kid had taken a dump in the ball pool. The kicker was that no one had alerted the staff to the situation until much later on; the parents had snuck out with their turd-covered toddler without so much as a whisper. Giving them the benefit of the doubt for a second (which the barmaid did not, and for good reason I imagine. She probably still isn't over it years later) perhaps they were just too ashamed to say anything. Still, decidedly UNCOOL. Shit happens, I guess, but I very much did NOT want my kid to be that kid; ergo, no soft play for us.

The idea of potty training in June was that we could spend the majority of the day outside and have fewer floors to clean.


However, as I could have predicted from having lived through 30-odd British summers, this has not proven to be the case. Finding things to do with two toddlers when the weather is inclement is tricky. We've been to every garden centre, we've jumped in enough muddy puddles to bore Peppa. Being outside in the rain is just pants; the big one is not a fan of getting wet and becomes very angry when people do not have hoods up; she's not beyond telling a stranger off. The little one looks forlorn strapped into his buggy, the raindrops pattering on the ill-fitting raincovers; he does not want to sit, he wants to run and climb. And the rain does absolutely nothing for my hair.

And thus, with the June weather remaining dismal and dreary, with a heavy heart it was back to soft play for us.

On reflection, it might have been that little bit too soon.

Toddler riding a pony...
Upon entering the 'arena' (I couldn't think of the right word, but this conjures up images of children as gladiators, which isn't actually far from the truth, so I kept it) I immediately became:


1) Continually Nervous Parent.


I couldn't take my eyes off my child for more than a second in case she decided to relieve herself in an inconvenient place and asked her about every five seconds whether she needed a wee. It was exhausting and nerve-wracking. The little one was more or less left to fend for himself which worked out well as he learned to take himself up and down the slide.

It was my first time at soft play as Continually Nervous Parent. In case you were wondering, I have categorised the other parents you will find at soft play:


2) The First Timer


Looks: Bemused, unsure of what's going on.

Likely to be: In the baby section with their small child who is not yet able to walk, worrying about whether they are going to catch something awful from putting the ball pit balls in their mouth (they are) and foolishly thinking about how much fun it will be when they're older and can use the Big Slides.

This was me once. A long time ago. They were simpler times.
Smaller toddler eating a ball from the ball pit. Yum.
Mmm, germy

3) The Very Very Very Tired Two-Under-Two Parent.


Looks: Like a zombie. Has a tired, vacant stare. Often with a newborn strapped to them. Looks very much like they are in the seventh circle of hell, which they probably are.

Likely to be: Knocking back awful coffee like a student (OK, anyone) drinking alcohol at a wedding with an open bar. Reluctantly following their toddler around and wishing they'd stayed at home and put CBeebies on.

This was me. 
The words I dread hearing -
"Come get me, mummy!"

4) The Can't Possibly Look After Them Both/All Parent


Looks: On the verge of giving up. With more than one mobile child, soft play (or just life in general) becomes a bit of a challenge.

Likely to be: Chasing after one child and listening out for the familiar shriek of the other who has got themselves stuck somewhere.

This is me now.

5) The Fun Parent


Looks: Like a mad person.

Likely to be: In the middle of things, joining in by throwing themselves down the slide headfirst. These parents are also known as dads. Oooh, sexist. And yet very true in our household.

This will never, ever be me.
Small toddler builds something with big bricks

6) The Winner


Looks: Fairly normal, as human beings go. Perhaps one might even say 'un-parenty' (they probably wouldn't though, as it isn't a word).

Likely to be: Sitting at a table with a magazine or iPhone and a crap tea/coffee. They might even be chatting to a friend about something other than what they found in a nappy earlier. They will barely glance towards their children who could be committing any number of soft play sins. 

Let's be honest. This is who I want to be. I can only assume that the promise of one day becoming this parent is what brings us back, time after time.

Liked this?

 Soft play...It's sticky, it's sweaty, it's noisy. The tea (or coffee if that's your bag) is crap and when you finally manage to remove your tantrumming child(dren) from the establishment they will almost certainly bring away with them an unpleasant illness. These are the six parents you'll meet.
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53 comments:

  1. Brilliant. Utterly love this. I read number 5 thinking "dads" before I saw that you'd put that too. I regrettably think I'm a mix of all groups, in the worst possible way, with the exception of the fun time Frankies and the socialite gang. You know you can get annual membership to these pits? WHO?! #triballove

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    1. I have just purchased zoo membership including entry to the soft play of doom and germs. Me I suppose. Me.

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  2. My sister is the winner. I don't know how she does it, but she just sits happily sipping coffee nattering away at me while I was HER child with my heart in my throat! I'm the one teetering on the edge of the ball pit, ready to swoop in when Mini is inevitably smacked in the face by flailing feet!

    Lucy xx #triballove

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    1. Now I'm wondering whether I could get my sister involved...

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  3. Oh my word - I always wanted to be The Winner too - how does she do that? With 3 under 4 I had no chance. Soft play was my idea of hell - why do children like it so much? We now have the teen equivalent with Jump Giants - huge indoor pits of trampolines - not dangerous at all! x

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    1. With three under 4 I'd probably be in a padded place but not a soft play one. You hero.

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  4. I hope I'll be The Fun Parent when we get to the stage of soft play, but I got a feeling I'll be the Continually Nervous Parent. #TribalLove

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    1. Do they have soft play I'm Denmark? Is it just as gross?

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  5. Haha i think im the one knocking back the coffee and i only have 1 baby. Dwar god... bring me more coffee!!
    #triballove

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    1. You'll have to inject it straight into your veins with no 2 maybe...

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  6. I think I'm categorically under 'the first timer' even though we've been a few times. Luckily, only having one she's fairly easy to run after and she's only been in the toddler area. I'm still discovering whether it's safe to leave my bag while running after the loon though. I also still love soft play... I know I will live to regret those words. #triballove

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  7. The second I read Number 5 I was thinking "that's Jack!" then I continued reading.. haha! Love it xx

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    1. Haha it's sexist...but a little but true.

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  8. Great post and I agree with all of your categories with the exception of the final one. There are no winners at soft play. There can never be winners, only losers in varying degrees.
    Nat.x

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  9. My husband totally does number 5! I've had a few months of being no. 6 as Ben is now nearly 4 and can do most things, but now that baby no. 2 can get involved, I'm back to being no. 1!

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  10. F'ing softplay. I took the Popple a few times when she was still learning to walk and was definitely the first time parent - hovering over her, wondering about all the germs (that place was FILTHY) and wishing she could play on the big-kid stuff. Now she can, but I'm not sure I really want to go back - that place is foot and mouth disease waiting to happen. #chucklemums

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  11. I always thought I'd be number 5 and was really looking forward to it. But she's not grasped crawling yet and I've been to enough playgroups now to know it will be stressful, noisy and smell faintly of wee. #Chucklemums

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  12. Tell us which one you were last time, come on be honnest. A kid pooed in it?! How disgusting!! YOu are not selling it to me, especially when the babes are putting the balls in thier mouth. Poor barmaid, did she have to clen it up herslef? #chucklemums
    #chucklemums

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  13. back from #Chucklemums - reading through the comments - hilarious - why do mums even put themselves through it?!

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  14. Love this and love people watching! As a mum to an 8 year old is fit in the latter winner category as just let her get on with it!! #chucklemums

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  15. Love this and love people watching! As a mum to an 8 year old is fit in the latter winner category as just let her get on with it!! #chucklemums

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  16. I am sometimes #1, always #4 and wish, just for once I could be #6!! #chucklemums

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  17. I used to be a 6 (runs and hides) but I probably am more a five now I have the baby. I don't watch the kids at soft play (they are 5 and 4) so usually lark around in the baby ball pool surrounded by 3 or 4 other babies staring at me wondering what in the name of God I'm doing.

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  18. I can't be a Dad. I don't have the dangly bit - well not much anyway. But relate to No. 5 after deciding the ball pool looked quite fun. Now i think of all the poo in there fand eel sick. Once I went to a friend's dog training class with tunnels and ladders and mini assault course. As i was running up the second ramp the red faced instructress yelled at me what the hell did i think i was doing and to get the F*** off her equipment. She was right of course and this mad bitch went home with tale between her legs. Oh i forgot i don't have a tale as im not a Dad. xJo

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  19. Was that Manic Monsters in the photos? Ah, brings back (shit) memories. The sad thing is that when MM opened, I got excited because it had a 'proper' coffee machine and sold homemade cake. Oh how shallow I was. I'm a long way past soft play (still have the scars though), but a couple of years back partner and I took our niece and nephew on a piss wet day. We were the ones with the Sunday papers, all smug until a fracas in the grand prix trike circuit and we had to leave very quickly. A great post Alison x #chucklemums

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  20. Soft play is an assault on all our parental senses! I'm not sure there's any soft play 'winners' per se tee hee ?? But I'm more no 6 now that i've got tweenagers, that said I'm maybe able to enjoy a shart cup of something hot and even chat to a friend but on the whole I'm always slightly unsettled that one or both of my 2 are getting tw*tted by the hard kid. There is also always the obligatory teenager carpet/slide burn, we never left soft play without one these days! I was one of the ones whose toddler wee-ed (during potty training) in the toddler compound but I'm proud to say I did 'fess' up for our misdemeanours! #chucklemums

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  21. Ha ha ha. This is entirely accurate. We went to soft play once and Mother and Father were definitely first timers - Mother was going crazy with the hand gel, wondering why we hadn't stayed at home. You're right about the pub slash play area too - the only one worth visiting #chucklemums

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  22. Brilliant! I saw a man at a soft play once reading a novel. A NOVEL. I was green with envy. It will never happen to me. Love this post! #chucklemums

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  23. Haha love this. I'm hovering between numbers 2,3 and 4. I was working full time until coming back on mat leave so I'm new to the whole soft play thing, PLUS I have two to manage - 20 months and now 9 weeks. Eek! You won't find me drinking coffee though - I'm too busy running with newborn strapped to me (quite rightly observed!) to stop 20 month old hurtling off the 20ft high slide that's reserved for 3-4 year olds. #chucklemums

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  24. Lol this sums up soft play perfectly! I think I actually might come under the 'mad person' category with the dads! I was not always this person but attempting not to be just came to the conclusion that 'what the hell might as well'! I'm telling you it's better than any gym workout! #chucklemums

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  25. Oh I've been all of these. Except number 5 and 6 obviously. But number 6 is the absolute soft play dream. Taking a book to soft play? That is what I aspire to! Thanks for hosting #chucklemums

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  26. YES! I'm a winner (for the first time ever). Dammit I've paid a fiver so I can drink this weak tea in peace and piss about on Facebook - stop trying to have quality time with me child. Also I quite enjoy how freaked out other parents get when the Child inevitably flings herself off something and me and her just exchange looks and shrug like 'ah well shit's gonna happen'. This may mean I'm also a negligent mother but that wasn't an option so I'm sticking with winner. #chucklemums

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  27. YES! I'm a winner (for the first time ever). Dammit I've paid a fiver so I can drink this weak tea in peace and piss about on Facebook - stop trying to have quality time with me child. Also I quite enjoy how freaked out other parents get when the Child inevitably flings herself off something and me and her just exchange looks and shrug like 'ah well shit's gonna happen'. This may mean I'm also a negligent mother but that wasn't an option so I'm sticking with winner. #chucklemums

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  28. I want to be the winner! I am usually too busy trying to wrestle Nancy from jumping in the swimming pool (soft play at leisure centre) or some such chaos!

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  29. I want to be the winner! I am usually too busy trying to wrestle Nancy from jumping in the swimming pool (soft play at leisure centre) or some such chaos!

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  30. I long to be 'The Winner' but I will eternally be the 'Continually Nervous Parent'! Hahahaha The 'Fun Parent' is never not dads, it's not sexist if it's true! x

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  31. Very accurate and very funny. We are definitely number 3 with our two under two nutters - so tired only half aware of what's going on or even where we are most of the time. Great feature!
    Potty Adventures
    #coolmumclub

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  32. Gosh, I don't know which one I am - do you have one for the parent trying to hide because her kid has just done a poo in the ball pool? That's me :-/ #coolmumclub

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  33. Ohh how I wish I was The Winner. I've only been a few times as E has only just started to walk but the times we did go I was The First Timer. Nervously looking only as 3 year olds attempted to jump on my child in the ball pit *sigh* Brilliant post - spot on! #coolmumclub

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  34. I'm the one who sits at the table and stares at my phone! Soft play is a chance for me to have a break haha. My two are 3 and 5 so old enough to be left to it x #coolmumclub

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  35. If I asked my friends and family to put me in one of these categories they would probably say I was in the winner, I am constantly being told I'm too played back to be a mum of three #coolmumclub

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  36. I've definitely been the "very very tired almost two-under-two parent" in the past - looking like a zombie whilst following child around soft play. These days, I have to admit, I stick to soft play areas where I know I can get away with sitting and watching from afar whilst having a coffee with a friend (and yes no doubt my children are committing soft play sins, which I'm usually alerted to by the sound of crying at some point). Please don't hate me now *ducks and hides* #coolmumclub

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  37. haha - firstly at the 'soft play that was actually a pub with a ball pit' and omg I hated soft play.. those places are just annoying, smelly, riddled with illness and their biggest failing is they don't (can't) serve wine! f**k that... am so glad my days of soft play are long gone (although I was the parent that was reading phone/magazine could hear my kids calling me and ignoring them anyway) ;) fab funny post! congrats on your nomination, I have already nominated BUT I have more than one email address.. Im on it! hehe #coolmumclub

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  38. Love this post. I actually went to soft play today with my baby and my new found mum friends. I'm guessing I'm probably the first timer still although my goal is to be one of those mums that sits and reads while letting their child run around. #coolmumclub

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  40. So I'd like to class myself as one of the "fun parents". However 3 year-old Big Munch would pop me in the "first-timer' category. First time in ages we went to a proper soft play last week. It was one where adults could actually go inside and fit in the tunnels and down the slides etc. There's me following Big Munch around, encouraging her to be confident about trying out new things. Then we end up experiencing our first soft play injury - ME not the 3 year-old!!!! Proper hardcore elbow burn as I went down one of the slides. Obviously need to work on my technique...wish me luck.#coolmumclub

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  41. That's hilarious! I detest soft play with an absolute passion I only go when there is a toddler party that Lily is invited to and even then daddy comes with us! x

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  42. Couldn't have written this better myself. Amen sister! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌ

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  43. Haha - been many of these! Am currently number 1 in my own house due to potty training! Definitely 3 & 4. On number 2 - she did catch something. It was impetigo. Not from chewing balls actually, it was when she was 1 & it was a graze from a slide. Still remember the antibiotics hell! #chucklemums

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