OK so it’s a bit of an ambitious title, but it’s a work in progress! Over the last few months I have discovered that it is important to meet with old friends in very different locations to those we used to. Having lived in various locations across the country and having friends spread far and wide, I have often met friends ‘half way’. We used to meet for spa days and meals, now with so many of us having kids in tow, the usual location is a park or during these winter months, a soft play. So now that I have met people in a range of locations I thought I would share my experiences with you.
Starting close to home, friends and I have the choice of 3 local soft-play centres. My favourite is the Osterly garden centre. It has a small, very clean, soft play at one end of its excellent cafe, so you can sip an Earl Grey and munch a yummy cake whilst little monsters run riot. It also does excellent kids meals and all day picnics, and because it’s a garden centre, not a dedicated soft-play, the entry is free. The next choice we have nearby is Snakes and Ladders in Brentford. This is a paying soft play, but it is much bigger and suits both older and younger children with a specific 2-5’s section and ride-ons. There is no upper age limit, but a height limit of 4’ 8’’. It is a bit frayed at the edges and the food is uninspiring, but hot and reasonably priced. Munchkin, Bearcub and their little friends with birthday’s around the same time had a joint 2nd birthday there this year and it was a good venue for this. The third option is Heathrow Gym, which is I am told is very good, but haven’t visited yet… TBC!
Around the rest of the country
Rugrats and Halfpints in Banbury: We went here to meet with friends from Birmingham. It was about an hour from West London and about an hour from Birmingham, so perfect distance. It was also really close to a lovely park so in the afternoon the kids had an outdoor run around too. It is large and clean and had a very good cafe. It cost £7.50 for a child including a hot meal and drink and adults were free, but there are loads of other options and deals and if you’re local there’s a membership scheme. The kids played happily for hours and it had excellent baby sensory sections and ride-on toys. It had both large and small soft-play sections and was not averse to grownups going in with the kids to show them the ropes first time round (as long as you take your shoes off). It is aimed at children from birth to 8 and I think it definitely has something for all.
Creepy Crawlies in York: We were staying in York with friends (you may have read the post about the York Railway Museum a few weeks ago) and needed something to keep munchkin entertained. They had taken so other friends with a 9 and 6 year old a few weeks previously, and themselves had a month old, so again this is suited to a wide age range. The most noticeable thing about this one was it’s size. It’s HUGE! It is in a factory unit and has a massive soft play area, with toddlers’ and bigger kids’ sections. The Adveture centre (as it call itself) it caters for up to 16yrs old and the outdoor section has things suitable for adults too. There is a sand pit, adventure playground and animals. They also have highwires and an eco skate rink. Oh and a kids hairdressers – this really is an everything under one roof kind of place. The cafe was really nice too – if you need another reason to visit this one!
Cheeky Monkeys in Cheshunt: This was another half way house meeting point and provided a place about an hour from us in West London and a friend in Ipswich. It was good value and really friendly. When we first arrived I was a little confused as the building looks like an old scout hut or village hall, but inside it is small, but clean and well looked after. There is a sliding scale of prices from £5.50 to £2 dependant on age for 90minutes, though when we arrived, we were told the time limit is only enforced if it is really busy and they also had a £1 off deal. There is a small under 3’s section with a wendy house and some baby gym equipment as well as the usual small soft-play things. There is then a larger play-frame suitable for older kids. There is a cafe with food and drink. It has a children’s hot menu with the usual sausage beans and chips, style meals and then there are sandwich options, jacket potatoes and paninis. All at very good prices.
These reviews are all unsponsored.
So there is my work so far – are there any near you that you would recommend? Either write about them in a comment below, or send us your brief reviews to email@example.com with the title SOFT PLAY and we’ll pop them up on the blog. The only requirement is that you state if you work for the centre or have been incentivised to write the review.