It’s crazy, it’s colourful, it’s full of screaming smallies, there are clothes, shoes and food strewn everywhere and you’re lucky to find a seat.
Welcome to soft Play.
The kids are wild, and the parents are wondering around with a stunned ‘it’s Sunday morning at soft play’ look on their faces. If you don’t have kids and you’re not sure how that looks, check out IKEA, Purley way, Croydon on a Saturday afternoon – it’s a look that is somewhere between ‘rabbit in the headlights’ and utter despair.
My kids have taken off their shoes and they are getting stuck in, I’ve managed to jam myself in the front row of still-warm seating. I am watching and writing simultaneously, like a good multi-tasking Mamma while the husband runs on Exmouth beach in his newly purchased fluorescent Lycra running gear (I’m quite pleased not to be seen with him).
As some of you will be aware, Soft Play is a necessary evil of early parenting. In the very early years (1-3) it involves lots of hovering, worrying that your child might do themselves an injury and trying not to tell other kids off / judge other people’s parenting skills. But fear not parents of very small people, it does become slightly more enjoyable when your kids are larger (mine are 3 and 6) and you can take your eye off the ball a little and let them play without having to step in / helicopter parent. They are of an age where; 1) they know how to behave (hopefully) and 2) they can’t escape.
I spot my daughter in her turquoise (totally impractical) Merida dress that she refused to take off. She is attempting to traverse a wobbly crazy-coloured bridge. I watch her deftly clambering over, glad that she removed her Bonnie Langford-style wig before descending on the apparatus.
Dude helps Merida along and they head down to the bottom level to play space invaders with the balls in the ball pool, dude is slinging them at Merida & Merida is slinging them back in equal measure – all is well.
As far as soft play goes, Ocean in Exmouth is one of the best that I have been to, it’s vast and open so it’s easy to find your smallies. There is a lot to climb with a multi-level frame and several slides. There are also a few different areas for different ages (which stops the big ones from squashing the small ones).
The coffee and food offering is OK, with healthy options that don’t break the bank & the staff are very good. Plus there is a lovely broad balcony with a beautiful sea view (if your kids are big enough for you to be able to look away for a minute or two).
It would be handy to have more seating – but you can’t win ’em all.