We all know where I stand on soft play, but sometimes there is just no better option.
Recently, it’s become really cold, really suddenly. I hate it and am finding it difficult to get out and about with the kids in the misery of winter.
When we need to get out of the house, there are basically three options if it is too cold and/or wet outside to contemplate the park or a leisurely two hour round trip to the shops which should be ten minutes away.
1) Toddler group, if there is one on. Pros: There’s tea, it’s cheap. Cons: Time-limited, have to play on the floor or appear bad parent, might have to sing in front of strange people. Other people’s kids. Other people.
2) Garden centre. Pros: Will have cake. Ostensibly free. Might have animals for added enjoyment factor. Cons: will probably come away with some garden furniture or more plants I won’t have time to dig in.
3) Soft play, known to the Americans apparently as ‘indoor playground’.
If you have better ideas then please, for the love of God, do fill me in, because last week I ended up going to soft play not once, but twice.
I also went to two different garden centres (which were marvellously Christmassy), the library (that doesn’t kill enough time to be worthy of a place in the list. I get the impression it’s not the highlight of the librarian’s week when we rock up. No idea why), a toddler group and a local shopping centre with the idea of doing some Christmas shopping, which was a bloody insane idea as I bought precisely nothing apart from an expensive slice of chocolate cake which neither of them ate.
Along with a scheduled trip to the hospital and two sessions in pre-school for the big one, it seems like a fair bit in retrospect, but the kids were still bored enough to try drawing on the walls again; totally my own fault for a) introducing them to bath crayons and b) leaving them within reach.
I hadn’t been to this particular soft play, our closest one as it happens, in a year or more.
Quite frankly it’s disgusting, way too busy, the toddler section is always overrun with boisterous big kids which means you feel like you have to hover which is the worst, and it’s bloody cold.
Yes, that’s right; I demand a certain standard in my padded hell holes.
Anyway, apparently they’d got heating installed and so reluctantly I thought I’d give it a go.
It was actually alright; there was practically no one else there apart from my friend and I, and the kids (two of mine and my friend’s pre-schooler) were doing a good job of being left to their own devices. I say a good job.
After we’d been there about 40 minutes, I heard a familiar whining sound.
Upon investigation, I found the small one at the top of a slide, in a puddle of phlegmy sick which he was poking.
Being the dutiful parent I am, I tidied it – and he – up with a baby wipe and assessed him as being otherwise fit to play, putting it down to overindulging in Fruit Shoot.
Please don’t judge me as a terrible parent (well not for this alone, at any rate), for that seems to be about all you can get in these places, which also have a strict NO FOOD OR DRINK unless you bought it there kind of policy.
Cleaned up, he seemed happy enough so once more I left him to it.
I grabbed myself a cup of tea from which I took a few sips before I was approached by a concerned lady asking whether my daughter was wearing a reindeer top (she was. Festive!) because she had her pulled trousers and knickers down in the ball pit and was asking for mummy.
Once again, mum swooped in. I picked her up, bare bum on show (hers, not mine), and off to the toilet we went.
There were surprisingly no accidents but we did have a word about public bottom showing ie. that it’s a bad thing.
I could hear the small one whining from somewhere outside the toilet to so I went to retrieve him and bring him in with us.
Anyway, while we were having a jolly family wee (is there any other kind?) another kid covered the entire toddler soft play area with puke.
On the upside, this did make it more unlikely that it was the small one’s sick on the slide (hurrah! Not a totally shit parent) but it does mean he was probably playing with another kid’s puke (I’ve heard that often ends well).
After that, the soft play shut to be cleaned, but I was fairly happy to be leaving at this stage.
We needed to stay out of daddy’s way for a bit longer, so we popped into the the newly opened M&S food hall where the big one was excited to see the cafe, so I treated them both to juice, cake which no one ate, and a banana, and myself to a cup of tea.
Predictably, I got four or five sips in and the big one decided she needed a poo.
But I did get a steak meal with wine for a tenner so it definitely goes down as one of our better days.