Thursday, January 28, 2010

Soft Play: a rant

My mum and I took Boy (and Missis) to a soft play centre this week. It was a different one from the local one we frequent. The equipment was much better, more, cleaner, more imaginative, better split into sections. But halfway through our visit, I asked for a feedback form. I wanted to complain. I never received one, so here is my letter of complaint.

Dear Sir/Madam,
I am writing this letter following a visit with my two year old son and 4 month old daughter to your soft play centre. I wanted to express my views on the way it was run, from a mother's perspective. I came that day to play with my son, and I assume that is the goal of most parents attending. But on arrival, the staff member at the front desk (which is in the same room as all the exciting equipment, separated by a gate) bombarded us with extra charges on our entry fee for "meal deals". My mother, attending with us that day, got very flustered, as did I (my son was very upset at this delay) and paid the extra monies for a drink and biscuit/fruit. We also had thrust upon us a form to fill in for The Body Shop, who were in attendance that day, apparently giving facials. By this point, my son was itching to play and we were finally let inside. Before we had even put our things down or taken our coats off, a lady from The Body Shop came over and pestered us. I was very annoyed at this point and walked away to tend to my son. I did not come to ignore my child and get a makeover, I came to play.
Later, the "meal deal" arrived. There was no choice of fruit, and I was shocked to see it was just two and a half slices (not wedges) of orange (not worth the money at all) and a very brightly coloured drink not at all suitable for toddlers. My son got most upset that I would not allow him to drink the juice, which although sugar free, was packed with artificial sweeteners, colours and flavours. I would suggest a carton or 100% apple or orange juice would be more appropriate.
I was mostly pleased with the actual play facilities, except the sports area for playing ball games. This could only be accessed via an assault course suitable for quite old children, and although he loves to play with footballs, my son would not cross these barriers to the sports area. The assault course also presents a problem for parents needing to retrieve a child from the area in an emergency, for example, an injury.
The cafe on site provided what seemed to be a host of healthy meals for adults, and a selection of junk food for the children. I was glad to have brought a packed lunch for my son, however frowned upon that may be. My main gripe with the food served, other than the rip-off "meal deals", was the deserts counter. It held lots of cakes, chocolates and biscuits, and was at the EXACT eye-level of a toddler. As you can probably tell from what I have written already, I don't believe junk food is appropriate for toddlers and my son rarely has access to that kind of fare. But he knows what it is, and repeatedly went up to the counter and banged on it, getting upset when I said no, and getting under the feet of adults at the counter carrying hot food and drinks above his head.
At this pointed I asked for a feedback form. It never arrived.
One more issue I had was the extra charge for the go-karts. I must say, I felt very much taken advantage of during my visit, really as though you were out to squeeze very last penny from my purse. The atmosphere was one of making money, not enjoyment. I will not be visiting again. Our local soft-play area, although basic, meets our needs much more efficiently, and does not ram commercialism and consumerism down our throats. On the whole, I think many parents, particularly parents of young children visiting midweek like I did, attend your establishment not to sit around chatting and having coffee while ignoring their children, but to have a nice family day out and enjoy being with their children. I would have appreciated being left alone once I had paid my entry to play with my son.

What do you think? Too harsh? ;-)


At 3:03 pm , Anonymous Laura McIntyre said...

I think it is the perfect example of what is wrong with most soft play areas , i have never thought about they junk being at toddler eye level but it is so true.

We are lucky to have a great soft play area nearby, that does not have any of those issues (down stairs in a restaurant so have to up stairs for anything other than juice) , Our biggest problem is it is small and perfect for younger kids (i would say pre-school ) but often get kids older there running amok and it is just to small for that.

At 10:57 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely agree - soft play areas and toy shops in my opinion should not be allowed to stock junk food and sweeties at eye level.

Our one is exited through the sweet shop - great chance for a tired toddler to tantrum and demand sweets.


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