As Grayson gets older, and more energetic, we’ve started to take him to “proper” soft play a lot more. By proper, I mean, big slides and ball pits, not just a few toys on the floor. The great thing about this is that it’s suitable for adults too – of course, you’re meant to be looking after your own kid(s), but let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a trip down the slide or a walk over the rope bridge?!
I’ve started taking Grayson as a Dad treat when I look after him Tuesday afternoons – our local soft play centre is pretty much empty at this time, which means we get the whole place with just a few other kids.
However, twice now, there has been a mum there who simply thinks that Soft Play is free child care. I noticed her little girl was running around enjoying herself on her own (she must have been only a few months older than Grayson) – she’d head over to other kids who had their parents with them and start to play alongside them. Last week, I was at the top of the big slide with Grayson when this girl appeared next to us. The mum then appeared at the bottom of the slide…
“Will you go down with her?” she shouted up to me. “I can’t be bothered to take my shoes off and come up there!”
I was shocked. I’m not a rude person, and if there was a legitimate reason for the carer not being able to go down the slide (age, disability etc), then I’d happily try and help out. But pure laziness? No, sorry. In this instance, I really couldn’t – Grayson is too young to go down the big slides on his own (he forgets that he can’t lean back, and would just bump his head for the whole slide), so I go down with him to remind him. I was certainly not going to leave him standing at the top on his own whilst I went down with someone else’s child.
A few minutes later, this same child jumped in the ball pit straight on top of Grayson. She didn’t hurt him, but she was clearly craving attention. I looked around to see the mother sitting with a coffee on her phone. She had no idea of where her child was, or what she was doing. I don’t blame the little girl here, she just wanted someone to play with – probably her mum.
We went to soft play again recently, a different day of the week, and again this girl was there wandering around on her own – looking for people to play with. She saw Grayson and came in to the ball pit again and started throwing balls at him. The mother was, as you’d expect, sitting on the bench on her phone. I asked the girl to stop, poor Grayson just kept saying “Sorry little girl” (he’s in a very apologetic stage, he says sorry for everything). The mum must have heard me, but she simply refused to look up from her phone and interact with her child. Me and Grayson moved away – it might seem rude or nasty but I’m not there to parent other peoples kids, and certainly not to let other peoples children thrown things at mine!
So, here’s my top 5 tips for good Softplay etiquette:
1: Your children are your responsibility.
I get that you might not be able to, or have the energy to get involved and play with your kids. But you are still, and always will be, a parent to them. So, you know, just take a few minutes to check they’re ok – and certainly don’t ask other parents to look after yours because you’re too damn lazy to do it yourself.
2: Check nappies, please!
We followed one little boy around, who was with his mum, and he’d clearly shat himself in to next week. They went off to another section to play, but when we bumped in to them again 15 mins or so later, he was still carrying the stench and weight of his poop. I know it’s not possible to change them straight away all the time, but this place has ample changing facilities, and literally no one else there, so not even a queue. Just, stop being lazy.
3: Mind your language…
Our son is a sponge at the moment, as are most kids his age. Hearing you shouting “MASON, GET THE F**K OFF THERE” or “YOU WON’T BELIEVE IT, BUT CHARMAINE HAS DONE A MASSIVE SH*T” across the ball pit, is just not cool (*totally random names here, by the way!)
4: Turn your phone off
Just try it, for 20 minutes. Pop it in your pocket. Go on.
5: Immerse yourself
It’s not just a bridge, it’s a bridge over crocodiles and sharks. It’s playing “it” around the hanging ropes and nets. It’s burying yourself or your kid in the ball pit and trying to hide from each other. It’s about playing with your kid and having fun – it’s not free childcare whilst the other parents look out for your child.
Immerse yourself in to the world that your kid is trying to enjoy – you never know, you might enjoy it just as much (I do)