A few years ago, a friend of mine was in the process of buying a new house and as she listed some of it’s assets, high up the list was the soft play area for children located just 5 minutes away. Pre-baby, soft play was a world that I’d never really ventured into and not too surprisingly, wasn’t a big interest of mine! It wasn’t a widely available activity when I was growing up, although I do vaguely remember the ball pool at Blackpool Pleasure Beach… I was an extra tall 9 year old that exceeded the height limit, so much to my dismay I wasn’t allowed to enter. I stood on the edge watching my little sister, ‘our Nic’ have all of the fun. Yes, soft play holds some tough memories for me, although I think I’ve fully recovered from this hard lesson in life now. Anyway, moving on…
With little Fred in tow, I can now see the benefit of having a good soft play area nearby and am even becoming quite well versed on what’s hot and what’s not in the world of soft play fun! Having attended a couple of the big commercial offerings, I can report back that their scale can be a little overwhelming. They often seem to be in purpose built warehouses, which doesn’t help the acoustics when you’ve got 200 kids screaming noisily with excitement. Perhaps these larger spaces will come into their own when Fred’s a bit bigger and I can leave him to play whilst I escape to the cafe, but for the moment I just want something a bit, err ……calmer?… more chilled?
A tip off from a friend pointed me in the direction of the National Army Museum Kids Zone which I have since visited with Fred. It’s suitable for children from 0-8 years and has lots of different zones: climbing frames, a dedicated soft-play space for babies, arts and crafts, dressing-up costumes, books, interactive toys and panels. Plus, it is a far, far more calming space than some of the other soft play spaces, so is great for younger ones.
I’m sure that this is largely attributed to the ticketing system which they run, where you book your preferred time-slot online before you arrive – very handy. This keeps the number of children to a manageable level, which is important because it isn’t a huge space. The staff are absolutely lovely, and between each session, they run a 10 minute break for a quick tidy up which means that whatever time of day you go, it’s tidy, clean and generally feels well nurtured and looked after.
To top it all, the entry price is just £2.50, which is an absolute bargain for central London and should appeal to all thrifty Baby Jumblers! I can highly recommend it for a lovely outing for you and your baby.
To read a bit more about soft play for babies, and to find some other ideas for activities, here are some links that I found useful:
Benefits of soft play areas
UNICEF’s Early Child Development Kit (loads of good ideas and activities)
How to Stimulate a Child’s Mind, Michael Meyerhoff