What fresh soft play hell is this?

Soft play is a necessary evil of modern parenting. Although it’s a great way to entertain/wear them out without anyone wrecking your own clean (ish) home, for goodness sake do your research before you go. Some can be fine but others are a seething pit of bogey-smeared miniature disaster zones. I found this out the hard way recently.

It was a rainy day. He was bored. The house was a tip. So I thought I’d take my toddler to a new indoor play area (I use new in the sense that we hadn’t been before – the run-down building situated on an old industrial estate that looked like a Mafia torture den definitely wasn’t new in any way). I had a bad feeling about this place as soon as we walked in. It was like a barrage on the senses: loud screaming, bright lights and the faint whiff of vomit greeted us at the door. Sadly we had already paid the £5 entry so we were going to try to stick it out, much to my better judgement.

We wound our way around the ominous ‘caution wet floor’ signs to find a table that looked as though only 3 previous groups had been there and eaten their body weight in turkey dinosaurs before us. Within one minute my little one had slipped over in a pool of drool that wasn’t his own. (I never thought to bring towels and plasters to these places but I will do from now on.) Drama over, I thought we should give the climbing frame a go.

If you haven’t ever managed to get slightly stuck at the top of one of those soft play frames then I am impressed. The giant rollers are the worst (though annoyingly they were never a problem for smug Pat Sharp fans on Funhouse). This one was so badly designed that you had to turn a sharp right straight after the horrific rollers, then go straight down the slide. I’m sure they did it on purpose. When we were at the crucial half way point through the rollers (boobs successfully through but now for my bottom), some spoiled brat at the top decided he would block the slide and not go down. I couldn’t go backwards for the queue behind me, and my little one couldn’t go forwards due to spoiled brat blocking slide who would not be reasoned with. I looked around and, with no visible parent in sight, I made a decision to push the brat down. He shouted for his mum, only to be told by another adult at the bottom that she was “out having her fag”. Whilst I had gotten away with it I decided we had better hot foot it to the ball pit on the other side.

The ball pit smelled like an actual cesspit. I checked my little one’s (empty) nappy, and there was nobody in the immediate vicinity who could have let one off, so we carried on regardless assuming that we were simply downwind of the dodgy toilets. Just then, a trouser-less urchin came running up, holding his mum by the hand, saying “done a poo” – whilst pointing into the pit. I’m not sure I have ever moved so fast. Not wanting to tread on the actual floor of the ball/cess pit I hauled my toddler out, above my head, like those army people who have to walk through a lake whilst keeping their guns dry. I bet Pat Sharp never had to put up with this sort of rubbish.

Shuddering at the thought of what may have unwittingly touched us in that pit I whisked him straight to the loos, to wash every square centimetre of skin which was exposed, when – to my horror – there was no soap. The realisation that almost every child and adult in that hellhole had not washed their hands just about tipped me over the edge. We marched out, shoeless, to the safety of the car.

The thought of that day still makes me want to get the anti-bac out. Let this be a warning to you: just because the equipment is wipe-clean doesn’t mean it has been. And on that note – I’m off to get my hepatitis B jab.