Instantly it hits you. Overpowering every fibre in your being; the stagnant smell of sweaty socks fills the air, thick and all consuming.
Sounds. So many sounds: squeals and shrieks, murmurings and mutterings punctuated with the occasional ‘Stop that!’ and ‘Watch out’. Another shriek pierces your ear, did you just cower?
Something short darts past you, then another in close pursuit of the first. Movement, so much movement. You look up and see them; swarming like bees in a hive. Interweaving in and out, up and down, round and round. You feel dizzy just watching them.
Colours, so many colours – mainly that contrast but some are just jarring and putrid- splashed randomly on the walls and on the equipment.
Breathe – it’ll be fine… you think as you watch your little bundle head off to join the chaos.
A saviour amongst rainy day activities, offering a haven of play and adventure but, in reality, pretty close to hell in the form of a kiddie prison.
Pudding is only one, and we’ve started to visit soft play more and more. Slowly, I am beginning to realise that this is one party I don’t want to be invited too. However, Pudding has other ideas. The sheer look of delight on her face cements the fact that this is a place that will frequent our social calendar over the next decade or so…crikey!
There are small blessings: one can purchase caffeine at this establishment. In fact, maybe there will be an opportunity to enjoy a hot beverage whilst Pudding plays. This is short lived as, having a toddler, soft play is something that mummy needs to do too.
My stomach turns, the toddler area isn’t enough to engage Pudding, she is precocious and wants to do as the older,
more dangerous mature children do. She is far too little to negotiate the perils of the older section alone – I must accompany her.
The shoes are removed. The socks will not be. I try to push aside the flash of all the unhygienic elements that I am to encounter once I step inside the webbed wonder that is the main play area. Hmmmmm..suck it up mummy – this is happening.
Cautiously, I enter – following the excited trot that Pudding has adopted. A massive grin erupts across her face. My back aches from the bending down. I feel dizzy. She spots the soft, squishy climbing steps. Not the next level, but alas this is where we are heading. She is too small to manage it herself, so I hoist her to my hip and begin to climb to the next floor. And so this is the next twenty minutes of my day.
We dash about, whilst she giggles and squeals with delight. She stops to watch the bigger kids as they scramble past. Some stop to play with her and I am reminded of how innocent and inhibition free young children are.
She explores whilst erupting with excited exuberance. I frantically follow, trying to fend of the frenetic older children. This is exhausting, can we go home yet? I persevere – soft play will not beat me.
Time passes slowly in here, I note. By the end of the experience, I am tired and sweaty but Pudding is glowing with elation. Until next time soft play, I bid you adieu…