Surviving Soft Play

With indoor soft play, survival is all about mental preparation. You need to be prepared for the shit that is about to get real.

With indoor soft play, survival is all about mental preparation. You need to be prepared for the shit that is about to get real.

Psych yourself up like you are going into battle. You are going into battle. And remember that whatever happens, it can't be as bad as another afternoon in the bloody living room.*

Upon entering the building, your senses will be overloaded. The sights, the sounds, the smells. Kids will be charging around like monkeys on speed. You will initially feel like you are drowning in a sea of screaming Hello Kitty leggings and snotty noses, but after half an hour your eyes and ears will become quite accustomed to this annoying orchestra.

The whinging and the screams of 'joy' merge into a steady background hum, interjected only with panicked shouts of, "do you need a wee?" and your own, "IF YOU CAN'T PLAY NICELY WE'LL GO HOME!" (this threat is never upheld because you have still not asked your friend about the text from that bloke at work, or drunk your now tepid coffee, so despite your children hating each other they will enjoy this play date if it kills you).

Your socks will be wet. Mostly this will be Robinsons fruit shoot residue and/or Aptamil Hungry Baby spillage, but you should know that at other times your socks will be soggy because you have stepped in piss. Or vomit. I was first on the scene at a Category One Soft Play emergency once, when a newly 'potty-trained' toddler shat on the slide. This could happen. Be strong.

Trips to soft play centres will remind you why you largely dislike other people's children (and sometimes, if we're being honest, your own). Nothing is more infuriating than the 'bigger boys and girls' who insist on hurtling through the baby area. It says Under 5s, you prick.

Understand that the owners of soft play hell labyrinths need to make money. It is a business, not a safe haven for parents who've lost the will to live in their living rooms. You will therefore be encouraged to buy overpriced paninis and jugs of weak squash. And boiling hot tea, which you will try not to spill on the feral children running between the Play Zone and Tumble Tots areas.

'Children must be supervised at all times' state the Rules of Play. Unfortunately, some parents can't read. Or they have misinterpreted 'supervision' to mean letting another child's parent manage the situation, whilst they sit on a plastic chair generally not giving a fuck. It is not your job to keep lifting little Sammy over the squashy steps, or telling Bigger Boy Billy to stop elbowing everyone in the head. Do these people think you come here in the hope of taking charge of all the kids? You must glare at them and ask loudly, "Where are your parents?" Everyone has to suffer. That's the rules. That said, I received one of my favourite ever comments from a mum of two slightly older children who noted she had done her fair share of soft-play running around when hers were little so had earned the right to kick back with a hot chocolate and Heat magazine. "I've served my time," she said. This gives me hope for the future.

Don't wear low rise jeans. You will end up crawling through the Mega Maze to collect your crying child with half your knickers on show.

It goes without saying that your children won't want to leave this noisy hell hole. There may be tears and/or protest planking in the ball pool. ALWAYS make sure you have backup unhealthy snack bribes to entice them back to the car.

And wine in the fridge, obviously.

[*Though if you go in half term when it's raining, or with a hangover, it's much worse than an afternoon in the bloody living room. It's total carnage. Just stick Megamind on].