Wednesday, 29 October 2014

5 Reasons to Love an Indoor Playcentre

On Terrible Tuesday this week, I took all my kids to our local indoor play centre. I know these places can be a turn-off with all the noise, the germs and the rough kids, and they cost a pretty penny too, but for me, they've been a saviour.

Usually, when I take the four kids out, I encounter the following obstacles:
  • Parking issues. I need to be able to park as close as possible to the planned venue, or it just gets so hard herding the big kids along. I would also prefer not to pay for parking but I will fork out the money if it means convenience.
  • Toilets. These have to be nearby and accessible for the pram. I need to be able to get there in a flash if Miss P announces that she needs to go.
  • Does the pram fit where we want to go? I really try to avoid mass furniture re-arrangement just to accommodate the pram, I hate all the fuss.
  • Where is the coffee? This needs to be at said venue, or we are all screwed.
  • Overall amusement factor. Is there enough to keep the big kids happy for a decent amount of time? After all the hassle of getting there, the place has to keep us all sweet for a good couple of hours.
The play centres we frequent have none of these obstacles, or I wouldn't go.  I make it a rule to arrive early, and strictly go during term-time only, so its never too busy. When we went this week, we were the first ones to arrive, so the place was a) clean, and b) like one big private playroom for my kids. The babies usually sleep well in their pram while the other two run around, and when they do wake, there is plenty going on for them to sit back and observe.

Here are the other reasons why I find play centres so darn good:

1.       The kids can burn energy like crazy. What’s not to like here? Busy, live-wire kids like mine need to run, jump, slide and bounce. Even better, 90% of the structure is soft, so hurting themselves is hardly an issue.
2.       The Café. Serves. Coffee. It’s not brilliant, but it will do. The café at our local place is also pretty good for healthy food, so it’s easy enough to get the kids some food that isn’t god-awful. Equally, it provides perfect fodder for bribery, which is useful if you need some bait to get them to leave without throwing an embarrassing tantrum.
3.       There are toilets for everyone. Including baby change facilities. And they’re RIGHT THERE. No roads to cross, no stairs to commandeer, no queues to wait out. We used the ‘family toilet’, a.k.a. the disabled loo, which is the only one I can get the double pram in. But we all squeezed in and went about our business, stress-free….
4.       Magazines and music. I love this touch. A pile of donated magazines and newspapers for relaxing mummies and carers to casually leaf through, while sipping their coffees and glancing over at the kids every now and then. In the background, some sort of smooth music loop plays songs  that are uplifting and great for day dreaming.
5.       Other mums. It’s a great place to chat with the other mums. I made two friends yesterday and came away with a new kids clothing website (Baby Boden) and a new view point on the benefits of early childhood reading lessons.

It was actually a bit of a crime when we went there yesterday, as it was a glorious sunshiney day, but I had to go with the overall convenience option. We wouldn't do it every week, but for once or twice a month, it's worth every cent.

* My tips for play centre visits:

·         Avoid school holidays and weekends unless you want giant children trampling all over your precious cherubs.
·         Arrive first thing. The place is as clean as it's going to get and most families don’t seem to arrive until mid-morning. Also, depending on the parking options, arriving early means you get the best choices.
·         Put brightly coloured clothes on your kids so you can easily spot them from a distance. You don’t want to have to keep leaving your magazine and flat white to check on their welfare.


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