The Soft Play Centre Where Dads Are BANNED

08/08/2012 16:00 | Updated 22 May 2015
The kiddies' play centre where dads are BANNEDCaters

Sometimes a story comes along that's so wrong it's right. That story this week is the news that a children's play centre has BANNED fathers from attending with their children.

The group, called 'Kids Go Wild', is the first in the country to introduce a 'women only' policy.

Oh, if only more play centres would follow suit!

For the past two years, I have spent more time than I care to be reminded of in the hell that is a Soft Play Centre.

If you've never been to one of these places, then you have not experienced the joy/horrors of Other Parents' Kids Hell, where the decibel levels could put the Olympic Stadium during a Team GB medal-winning triumph into the wooden spoon position.

No SANE human being – fathers or mothers - would volunteer to go into these places. In an ideal world, they would be like the best kids' parties where a Drop-and-Go policy is the order of the day.

So I was gobsmacked to read about the fathers who COMPLAINED about being banned from Kids Go Wild.

Oh, if only more soft-play places were as, er, enlightened as the noble bosses of the centre in the predominantly Asian area of Sparkhill, Birmingham.

Bosses have defended the man ban because they say Muslim mothers welcome it for cultural reasons.

A poster outside the centre reads: 'Ladies and children only. No boys over nine allowed.'

But the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have now been prompted to investigate the ban by disgruntled dads.

One father, who was handed a flyer, said: "It's completely disgusting. It's sexist. To turn me away because I'm a man is against the Equality Act."

Ruksana Ayub, a mother, said: "I understand why women would want a place like this where there are no men.

"They won't feel they have to cover up so they might feel more able to relax and to socialise.

"But I think I'm quite modern in my outlook, so I also find it quite shocking in this day and age that men aren't allowed in.

"It's just a shame for kids who don't have a mum."

Which in terms of society, equality, social progression etc etc blah blah blah is no doubt fair enough.

The soft play centre where dads are BANNEDAlamy

But as a house dad who was press-ganged into spending three hours at our local soft play centre by my youngest son and his pal yesterday, I'd like to campaign for the ban to be extended nationwide.

Not only are these centres ridiculously expensive (where I live, in London, it's £8 per child, PLUS £1 for a reluctant adult, and on top of that £1.60 for some boiling water and a teabag and then whatever extortionately priced snacks and drinks your charges pester you for), they are places no self-respecting dad should be seen dead in – and I've been seen in them in a state of near-coma many a time.

A soft play centre is where women meet to gossip and out-do each other with boasts about how amazing their little Amelia or Abdul is.

It's a place where au pairs share Facebook and Twitter messages with other au pairs.

It is most definitely no place for a dad. Dads should be out in the park, in the woods, kicking a ball or encouraging their children to climb trees. Dads should be at home teaching their offspring to play Playstation or Wii.

But dads do go to soft play centres – either voluntarily or under sufferance. And there are two types of father I've observed in these places.

The first is the Desperate To Prove I'm A Great Dad Dad, who is so OTT with exuberance for their tots that they could be Americans (in fact, they might be).

These dads yell: 'GO, JOHNNY, GO, WOO-HOO, YO THE MAN, JOHNNY, WOW, THE WAY YOU SLID DOWN THAT SLIDE, JOHNNY, WAS JUST AWESOME'. They then insist on climbing into the soft-play area to join their offspring on said slide.

It's so pitiful even the texting nannies look up from their phones to shake their heads in despair.

Not all dads are like this, of course. The other kind is the Indifferent Dad, who takes a book or newspaper or laptop to do something more stimulating than watching young children at play while their kids tear around and, hopefully, burn off some energy so that they can spend the rest of the afternoon in front of the telly while they have a nap.

Of course, such fathers shouldn't be banned (though they might want to consider imposing exclusion orders on themselves) because they have zero interest in anyone or anything around them – barely their children, but most certainly not the women at the play centre.

'Cultural reasons' are an altogether different kettle of fish.

The manager of the Kids Go Wild centre, who refused to give her name said: "It's a predominantly Asian community around here and we're catering for that. It's a cultural thing.

"It's not that men are an issue, ladies are more comfortable around women. "We've had ladies coming in and they've not questioned it (the ban). They've been asking for it for a long time."

But she has little sympathy from the local dads.

Tariq Mahmood, a father of three, added: "In the Muslim community men and women being separate is normal at religious events and social functions.

"But a play centre isn't a religious or function thing. It's somewhere for children to play. "A ban on men gives off the wrong impression about men.

"Fathers should be able to play a part in looking after their children if and whenever they can."

Quite right – if we REALLY have to!


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