PARENTS

The Newborn Diaries: Soft Play

28/06/2011 17:05 | Updated 22 May 2015
The Newborn Diaries: Soft PlayBaby D takes a tumble into a sea of colourful balls

The truth about me is that I'll never be the parent with the perfectly childproofed home, or the one with an organised routine, just like I was never (and still fail to be) the girl with the gorgeously coiffed hair or flawless homemaking skills.

That's not to say that I don't try. Baby D has a balanced diet and hardly any sugar, despite Mummy's struggles to cope with eating from any of the food groups other than the bad one at the top of the food pyramid.

But some things – like the childproofing – are a bit more challenging. Perfect childproofing would involve chucking out all of our furniture and belongings (including the dog and all of his paraphernalia, probably) and that just can't happen, for a variety of reasons.

Instead of despairing (what my old, pre-baby self would do), I am solution-seeking (the responsible, mum-in-action way of dealing with adversity, or so I like to think). How do I let my baby explore her world and crawl and stand up to her heart's content, without hurting herself?

Two beautiful, parental life-saving words: Soft play.

Soft play is one of the best things that's happened to me as a parent. Available in leisure centres everywhere (baby D's done soft play all over London and even on a weekend away in Wiltshire), for under £4, a world of bright red, yellow and blue mats, bouncy castles and multicoloured plastic balls has been revealed to us.

And we're coming back to it. Again and again and again.

D absolutely loves it. She can crawl, try out her look-no-hands balancing act, interact with other babes and throw balls around. Afterwards, she's exhausted - fulfilling her dream of crawling to the ends of the earth and flinging herself on giant stuffed triangles and circles is a tough day's work for a 10-month-old.

Mummy loves it, too. Not only does baby D have a restful sleep after a productive play, but it has other benefits as well. Sometimes, when I feel I'm in need of a workout, I try to crawl through the labyrinthine soft play areas with D, chasing after her on hands and knees to get my heart rate up (crawling is really quite intense, as it turns out).

When I feel like lazing, I lounge in the sea of plastic balls, luxuriating in the peace of having a happily playing child next to me... until another child whooshes down the slide and whacks me in the head.

I don't feel a thing. In this soft, blissful, technicolour world, all is safe and pleasant.

Who knew padded, closed-off cells would become the stuff of parental fantasy?

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