Thursday, 19 February 2009

Go Bananas!

Today I had my first experience of a soft-play centre. Some of you may wonder how I have managed to go two and a half years without experiencing one yet and some of you may be wondering why anyone in their right mind would go to on in the middle of half term.

For some reason I had been put off the places by comments about hygiene. Which is quite strange, because I’m not really hugely bothered about hygiene at home. Not in a disinfecting everything and sterilising all children’s eating implements until they are two sense. Not in a washing the floors more than about once a month. But the idea that children might be sick or something like that in the ball pit, put me off. 

Why I was there in the middle of half term was to meet an old school friend and her children. We hadn’t seen each other in over ten years and our children are all fairly energetic, so she suggested Go Bananas, because her children always want to go there when visiting their grandparents.

Oh. My. God. We walked in and there was a wall of noise. I looked around the tables stuffed with coats and shoes and piled high with cartons of juice and coffee cups, searching for my friend and hoping that I would still recognise her. Another very kind mum gestured to me and said we could have her table as she was just leaving. I plonked R down on a seat, whipped my phone and manically texted ‘Where are you?!’, just as she walked through the door. Phew!

Her children waved a cursorily hello and then ran off to play. R and I had no idea what to do, but fortunately my friend was able to point  us in the right direction. R went and dived into the toddler area and was running around going up and down the slides. At first, I was standing up every five seconds to check she was alright. She was fine, holding her own. I chatted away a bit and then stood up again.

Looked. And looked. Not in the toddler area. So off I went into the rest of this huge room of slides and tunnels and holes and nets… Searching among all these children, for a purple cardigan. There she was. Climbing up through a hole from the second floor to the third. She’d made friends with an older boy and was having a great time. I made sure she knew where I was and went back to my friend, popping back to check every ten minutes or so.

We were there for about an hour and a half. She came back for a bit and had some juice and then went back and played some more, this time making friends with an older girl. She had no inhibitions about going up to people and chatting to them. No worries about climbing round this huge obstacle course and waiting her turn, but not letting anyone push in front of her. Why can’t I be like that?

It’s a pretty amazing place, though I think that, if we go again, it will definitely be during school term.


  1. I quite agree with you about the hygiene aspect. It's one thing wallowing around in your own dirt for a while. Builds the immune system. But having my kids wallowing around in the dirt of thousands of other kids who may come from homes just as 'hygienic' as ours? Gives me pause for thought.

    Saying that, who am I kidding? I discovered these playcentres 2 years ago and they are sometimes the only thing that keeps me remotely sane. I used to sneer at the parents who sat behind a newspaper for 2 hours, with their eyes never straying from the print. Now that parent is me. And it is bliss. Hurray for the invention of inflatable thingys and all the muck that goes with them. It's all good for the immune system...

  2. I must say those places give me the FEAR. But I don't think it's hygeine, maybe, and it seems odd with all my love for Mummy bloggers and Nct girlies, but maybe it's the parents...

    Note to self - must not let own insecurities blight child's life...

  3. Yes to go there in half term very brave! sounds like your daughter had a fab time tho. i think i must be completely neurotic because i dutifully follow betty around everywhere in those places, despite her trying to shake me off, and can't take my eyes off her for a second

  4. Nicola: Ah, good for the immune system! I use that all the time for the state of my house; didn't think to use it for other things. Thank you. I can now go revel in the inflatable goodness guilt-free. Maybe they have wireless and I can blog from there, even.

    Surprised: I have a feeling you may get to the point where they suddenly become very appealing! It's very difficult to not pass on your own insecurities to your children, though. I didn't take R swimming for 18 months, because I was too scared of the water. Really wish I'd gone earlier. Though I do manage to pretend that spiders are lovely, amazing creatures instead of the incredibly scary teeny creep, tickly horrible, evil things that they really are.

    Elsie: I think I would have been the same if I hadn't been there with a friend I hadn't seen for ages. I was so caught up in catching up, that I managed to let it go. But R wasn't interested in me, at all!

  5. I take my daughter to one about once a month or so and now that she's nearly three and doesn't need me to follow her around inside The Monstrosity (as I call it) anymore, I use it as a newspaper-reading and coffee-quaffing opportunity, definitely. What else are those places good for if not being quasi-babysitters? I hadn't even thought about the hygiene of the place as hygiene is pretty low down on my list of priorities. I'm pretty laissez-faire about germs.

  6. NS: Monstrosity sounds about right! I'm very laissez-faire about germs too, so really don't know why I was so worried about that. But I may well be a convert, now.

  7. Glad you had a good time in the end. We go to soft-play places every couple of weeks, although I rarely take the children by myself as I struggle to look in three directions all at the same time. The Toddler was hit in the face (hard enough to draw blood) by a slightly bigger boy once, because I was watching the girls, and I felt terrible.

  8. I love these places, as the kids work off so much energy, but yes, it's best not to think about the hygiene aspect too carefully.

  9. MTJAM: I can't imagine I'd go on my own if I were you, either! Maybe when the girls are a bit older, you'll be able to, though.

    Iota: It is amazing how much energy is worked off, yes. R is constantly climbing all over the living room - doing somersaults on sofas and building obstacle courses using overturned toyboxes and chairs. If I'd realised I could take her somewhere much safer to expend that energy, I probably would have done so ages a long time ago.

  10. Term time is a much better time to go. We have a massive one near where we live and holiday visits there are horrendous!

    I had one bad experience though, when dd was about 3 she made me go with her on the 'big kids' climbing area, as it as term time and virtually empty. It has lots of climbing tubes and I found some creepy man sitting there on his own! Cue me getting the staff and them kicking him out..horrid!

  11. Liz: Oh, blimey! Yuck. You would have thought they wouldn't let adults in on their own? Though, I suppose you would have parents arriving separately.

    Will definitely go in term time next time.

  12. Term time is good for these places, and some are a lot better than others. I've found the smaller independent ones to be better 'maintained' in my experiences. You should also find much better term time deals, like a coffee, juice and toast included in the price.

  13. I love these places but the hygiene thing occasionally makes me shudder a little. It's great letting them run off and knowing they are enclosed, safe and that there is coffee on tap. Bliss (for a couple of hours anyway.)

  14. SPD: We are actually thinking about going one afternoon this week, so R can let off some steam, as she is diving all over the place at the moment. Term-time deals sound good, as well. They are not cheap, that's for sure!

    Jo: The safety aspect has a definite appeal. It's better than the park because, even though R can run around and manage most of it herself, I still have to stay very close by in case of accidents.