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.