I have a 23 month old son and he is just wonderful. I am also 8 months pregnant and I have been suffering with SPD so it has really limited what I can do over the past few months. I must say that soft play centres have saved me.
I live near Matlock in Derbyshire, UK. It is a rural area and you pretty much have to drive anywhere… even to the local shop if you have forgotten to pick up bread. This isn’t a problem for us and my son is accustomed to getting strapped in the car with Monkey.
My husband is a fantastic father. He really brings out the joy in my son and visa versa. He misses our son terribly when at work (as do I) and likes to make the most of our weekends together as a family. When I was able to walk more we would go for strolls along canal tow paths or hikes in the countryside to get out in the fresh air and enjoy some time together. There are some really lovely parks and grounds near us where you can look at wildlife, have a picnic, have a gentle stroll and there is usually a cafe or play park as well. I can’t wait to recover so I can go to these places again.
Getting back to soft play: it has really saved us. Even though you pay a charge to get in, softplay allows my son to get some interesting activity done whilst I don’t over exert myself. Here is a review of the soft plays that I have visited in my area should you ever be around and their website links.
This was my first experience of a soft play. There are some comfortable sofa type seats near the soft play area for you to watch your little ones as you sup a coffee as well as ample seating for having a bite to eat. The menu has a good selection of food for a cafe set up and you can usually expect service of between 15-30 minutes for food orders depending on how busy they are. They have a great baby area aimed at 0-2 year olds. It has a ball pit, baby seating, a variety of toys, a small slide and a few bits of sensory equipment. Top tip: I was unsure what to get my son in the means of toys and I was worried I’d buy the shelf at Toys R Us, so I came to chucklebutties and watched what my son enjoyed playing with. There’s nothing quite like his honest review.
Another great thing about Chucklebutties is, it is next to the Belper Water Gardens so when you are done you can have a stroll along the river Derwent and enjoy the gardens and park. Chucklebutties even offer a summer picnic package in the summer: you purchase a children’s lunch box from them and then take the lunch box to eat as a picnic in the gardens, you can then return and play in the soft play with the price of admission included in the lunch box price. This means that at busy periods they aren’t turning people away because of lack of seating when people want to eat. Its a great idea and something I’ll be doing this summer if they run the promotion again.
Crazy crocs is on a small industrial estate in Ilkeston but don’t let that put you off as they have a good baby area and separate climbing soft play area for older children. My little one has started to explore the larger climbing area now and he loves it. The baby area has soft seating for little ones, a kitchen, playhouse and various toys. There isn’t a slide here and toddling youngsters may be able to climb out if they are avid explorers (not that you would just abandon your child in here). The larger climbing frame has 3 big slides, cargo nets and various compartments where our children can explore and play creatively.
The menu is fair and prices are good. I have always found the staff to be very friendly and helpful.
I have only visited this soft play once and there was a party on at the time which was catering for over 20 children (plus their parents)! so it was quite busy. Also, my son was tired and you never get the best child review under those circumstances. what I really liked about this play barn was that it had various different area for little ones to explore. It has a sand/beach bit area where your children can explore using toys as if on a beach. There is a baby corner for little ones that need quieter play and softer sensory/dexterity toys. There is also a soft play climbing area including a slide for older children.
The menu looked pretty good for a soft play cafe but we only stayed for a coffee as my son was so tired.
4. Escape – Giltbrook Industrial Estate (technically this is in Nottinghamshire)
This is one of the larger soft plays in the area. It can get incredibly busy at weekends making it hard to find a table. You also only get 2 hours at busy periods, getting charged if you go over. This is fine, but we often want to eat when we go to these places and there is usually a minimum of 30 minute wait on hot food even at quiet times and you can expect more like 45 minutes at busy periods so you need to order straight away.
The baby area is geared more towards toddlers than very young babies but there is more to do for the toddlers who might get pushed around on the larger climbing frames. I’ve not taken my little boy on the larger climbing frames as they are so extensive but they do look great for older children which is probably why this soft play centre is so popular.
You get a loyalty card as you join and you also get a drinks loyalty card for the cafe, which is a nice touch. Parking can be limited so my best advice is to park in the Giltbrook (Ikea) retail park in the underground part and then walk through the cut through.
This play centre has a lot more on offer although I haven’t actually looked into the other services available yet. The soft play centre is a good sized area and is very bright and airy.
The baby/toddler section is more geared towards toddlers than very young babies so bear this in mind if you are taking a tiny one. There is fun to be had with ball play balls and a vacuum/blower machine… very entertaining. A twirly slide is also a welcome part of the baby/toddler section.
I haven’t ventured onto the larger soft play with my son yet but it looks very entertaining and they children I have seen on there always look to be very excited and happy. There is a pirate ship outrigger part which makes it look fantastical which I think the kids love.
The menu is good and fairly priced and you don’t have to wait too long for service.
As this is in a more rural setting it can be quieter than some of the others but don’t expect this place to be empty, it has always had a bustle about it every time we have been.
I hope my mini reviews have given you some inspiration for soft plays in the area. There are more but I chose the best 5 that I have been to.
Thank you for reading.