I find myself spending a disproportionately large amount of time at soft play these days, especially as the chilly autumn weather has replaced the glorious sunshine we saw over summer. It isn’t my choice, my son is a massive fan, he asks to go most days and usually twice a week we oblige. I console myself that he is getting exercise.
What I have noticed, regardless of which soft play centre we frequent, the types of parents we come across is broadly similar. Let me introduce you to the soft play parents.
The big kids
These parents are getting stuck in, it isn’t clear who is having more fun, them or their children. You’ll find them whizzing down the slides and in the ball pit.
The risk assessors
These parents will be mentally or verbally conducting a full risk assessment of the equipment as they go around. ‘That ball pit looks a bit full, a child could get lost in there’, ‘Johnny, no going on the trampoline until you’re 12, it could damage your hips‘…
The kick-back and relax parents
These parents tend to have older children, they are the parents I envy the most. They are sitting enjoying a coffee and reading whilst their children go and play, they may have to look up from their books/ newspapers/ phones momentarily if their little darling needs a drink but they basically get 45 minutes of uninterrupted chill out time. This is the parent type we all aspire to, one day.
These parents tend to be taller and have younger children who are really fast. They diligently follow their little prince or princess around the soft play, to make sure they are safe and having fun. As their child is so much more nimble and soft play is designed for their little physique, the contortionist parent has to bend every which way to keep up with them. Every soft play has that area, clearly unwelcoming to parents, yet the contortionist will take it on, and other parents will look on in admiration and horror as their ears are touching their ankles.
The tag along
Similar to the contortionist, this parent will stick with their little one like glue, following them into the ball pit, pushing them in the Little Tikes Cozy Coupe. Mentally this parent has checked out and their mind is somewhere else but they continue to fight the good fight, pushing little Polly-Ann on the indoor swing. This parent may become the contortionist if their little sweetie pie adventures onto the indoor nets.
Lastly, the referee. This parent keeps watch on their children from a short distance away but intervenes when foul play occurs. Fighting over the rope swing, pushing another child down the slide, rude words. This parent doesn’t mind stepping in to restore the peace. They are happy to read the riot act, whomever the child.
Now, any parent within a soft play session (between 45 minutes and a hour depending how generous you are) can change roles depending on the situation. Although once your children are old enough, you graduate to the kick-back and relax parent and you never look back!