The humble indoor play centre tends to get a bad rap from many parents. The questionable levels of cleanliness and rough and tumble nature of other children can be real concerns for parents who don’t need their kids to pick up more germs, and hate the idea of their toddler being knocked over by a giant child on the bouncy castle.
I totally get these concerns, but although I can see the downsides, the indoor play centre has always been my go-to for getting my small kids out and about in the easiest possible way.
In fact, my local Lollipops play centre was where I took my first solo outing as a mum of four. I remember the day so well, because I was petrified of being out with all of them on my own, as they were all under four years at the time. But once I got us all in there, I remembered what a godsend these places could be.
To deal with the aforementioned challenges, my rule of thumb for these places has always been to go first thing in the morning so there’s hardly anyone else there and the place is as clean as it’s going to be that day. Often I’ve arrived at a play centre and my kids are the only ones playing for a good half hour; it’s like having our own private playroom. I also make it a rule never to go during school holidays so we can avoid having to share the play areas with older kids.
If you have busy small children, here are seven very good reasons to visit an indoor play centre this week:
1. They’re parent-friendly
Let’s face it, the big bad world can be really unfriendly to those of us commandeering prams and trying to herd small children around busy places. Escalators, small shops and hard to find parent rooms in shopping malls can be a total nightmare for a parent trying to get out and about with their kids. A good play centre on the other hand, will have wide doorways, plenty of room for your child to run around safely and the toilets are a stone’s throw away. Not only this, but once the kids are playing, you can read magazines and chill out to smooth music. Play centres get what parents need!
2. They serve coffee
It might not be the best coffee in the world, but the local play centre will serve you up a hot coffee while you sit back and watch the kids play. You might even be able to drink the whole thing while it’s hot. It’s the stuff of dreams! Meanwhile the cafe has all the food covered should you need to feed the kids along the way, and a lot of the time, there are healthy options. So not only do you get a break from entertaining the kids, but you don’t have to make them lunch either. Result!
3. It’s as safe as you can get
Okay, so I know that just because it’s soft and plastic, the play centre isn’t necessarily going to be an injury free zone for your children. There are still slides, climbing equipment and other kids running around that could cause accidents, but when you think about all the places you can take your curious toddler and busy preschooler, the play centre is pretty likely to keep them safe. Unlike your local playground, there are few sharp edges and sudden drops to be found in a play centre that’s suited to your child’s age.
4. The toilets are RIGHT THERE
When I used to have my twins in a double pram and my older two to herd along, finding our way to a parents room or family toilet to accommodate us all was a sweaty nightmare. Play centres on the other hand, have everything you need in the toilet department right there. Perfect if you have a toddler who is in the midst of toilet training and announces her need to go with little or no notice.
5. You can breathe for a minute
I know it’s not a spa retreat and you’re not getting the massage you really need to unwind and relax, but let’s face it: if you’re a parent of small children, you need to take what you can get. And if your kids love to run around and are happy to leave you alone while they do so, then the play centre will give you a chance to get the timeout you need to get though the week. As long as you can comfortably check on your child, you can use the time to enjoy that novel you’ve been trying to get through or even bring your laptop along to catch up on some business. Many play centres have free Wi-Fi you can use.
6. The kids can burn off energy
Sure, the indoor play centre is nothing like running around in the fresh air or getting some splash time down at the beach, but those things can be hard work for parents. Kids tend to love running anywhere, and the play centre can be a cool new place to explore, that is so much easier for you to facilitate. If your child is into it, they’ll soon be running over to you all red-faced for water and snack breaks. Burning off all this energy will mean less bouncing off the walls at home and more chance of an afternoon sleep or good old fashioned quiet time for you all later on
7. It’s full of parents
If you’re heading to the play centre with small children during school term, chances are you’re going to run into other parents with kids the same age as you, which means they’re parents going through exactly the same challenges, behaviours and sleep issues as you are. And they’re usually up for chit chat, so if you’re the type of person who likes reaching out to another adult for conversation, then this is the place to do it. It can be a great place to connect with other parents by swapping stories and sharing notes about kid wrangling. I don’t know about you, but sometimes, a real conversation with another mum can be the thing that gets me through that day.