WARREN HAYDEN: Soft play centres '“ where I can find peace!

The 'epicentre of fun', a soft play centreThe 'epicentre of fun', a soft play centre
The 'epicentre of fun', a soft play centre
Soft play centres are the perfect place to take my daughters.

We have a few to choose from across the Portsmouth area.

When my daughters know we all have a day off together they will often suggest we visit the place with the multi-coloured slides, rope bridges, crawl tubes and ball pits.

Lately I’m more inclined to say yes to their request.

It’s not just fun for them, but something I enjoy too.

Not that I’m allowed to join in the fun, even though I may want to. I think I’m a bit too tall at 6ft 1in and may get stuck in the crawl tube.

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But it gives me the chance to sit down have a hot drink and apart from lifting the cup to take a sip of coffee, do nothing.

It seems like only five minutes ago, that it was me, as a child, enjoying the soft play.

Back in the 1990s, on a Saturday, my friends and I would set off to the shopping and car park complex known as The Tricorn Centre.

Among the concrete was Monster Mania, a soft play centre and, for me, the epicentre of fun in Portsmouth.

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We would get there early on a Saturday and get home in time for Gladiators on the television.

What is so great about a soft play centre and why do children love them so much? I don’t know the precise answer to that question, but to put it simply, it’s so much fun.

It is a safe environment and is difficult for a child to hurt themselves so they can crouch down then leap in the air and land in a pit of different-coloured plastic balls.

Then they can hurl themselves down the slide knowing a soft spongy matt will be at the bottom cushioning them as they come to a stop.

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With my two daughters it seems to be a place to make new friends.

It amazes and delights me how quickly children can make new friends and form new alliances. Then, when those children are told by their parents it is time to go home, it won’t take long until a new friend is found.

Sometimes I don’t see my daughters for 20 minutes, then they’ll pop back, out of breath, for a gulp of juice before heading off to play again. All this while I’m sitting doing nothing. This is satisfying.

But of course, it’s not the most peaceful environment.

Which is why on the last visit I took a pair of headphones with me.

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So, all the noise from the children having fun and the parents having a gossip that was bouncing off the walls was kept away from my ears thanks to my phone providing some music through my headphones.

Who’d have thought a soft play centre could be so relaxing?


I’ve written before in this column that one of the many advantages of being a parent is having an excuse to watch great children’s films.

Not that you need an excuse, but I’m sure if I wasn’t a parent I wouldn’t enjoy as many Disney classics as I do now.

Last year we took our daughters to see the heavily praised Trolls movie. I thought it was fantastic.

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It had a great storyline for children and an excellent soundtrack for the grown-ups with classics including Hello by Lionel Richie and September originally sung by Earth, Wind and Fire. We all left the cinema happy and vowed to buy the DVD as soon as it was available.

Well, at the weekend we finally got around to watching the film in the comfort of our living room, but half-way through I realised I was watching it all on my own.

My fiancée Serena was in the kitchen and our girls were in the bedroom playing with their toys.

But I was enjoying it and unashamedly sat and watched it until the end.