4 reasons why a recent visit to a play centre will most likely be my last

Posted in Toddler Essentials.

I’ve always been a fan of the play centre and consider myself a bit of a veteran. Over the last nine years of parenting, I’ve learnt how to make the most of my local indoor play centre and have spent many mornings watching my kids happily play while I nurse a crappy but hot cup of coffee.

Play centre pro

See, I know that indoor play centres come with their drawbacks, but I’ve always been able to sidestep them. We’d go early to avoid the crowds and get the least of the germs, for example. Besides, any negatives were pretty much offset by the positives: my local one used to play Smooth FM over the speakers, provided magazines and free wi-fi, plus the cafe sold actual healthy snacks for a decent price. Even better, the toilets were all in arms reach and had plenty of space for navigating big prams with kids in tow.

When my favourite one closed down, I cried real tears.

Anyway, over the holidays, I decided to venture to another play centre. With all the rainy weather I wanted my kids to burn off some energy and have some fun.

This play centre experience wasn’t good. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it was the worst.

Keep mums happy

The biggest problem with this space is that parents weren’t considered in the design process. Instead, it’s clear that the only thing front of mind was PROFIT. Far from providing an oasis in a world of exhausting parenting, this place was an assault on all my senses, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only parent to think so.

I think I’ll pen a note to the management about it. They need to know where they’re getting it wrong. You see, I’m no businesswoman, but I can say one thing for sure: when it comes to activities for kids, MAKING PARENTS HAPPY WILL MAKE YOU MONEY.

So, management of Play Centre that shall not be named, here is why my recent visit to you was likely my last:

(btw am I just a big whinger or have you noticed this about play centres too?)

1. The arcade games

Are you a play centre or a theme park? We paid the exorbitant fees to get in and play on your equipment, not to feed coins into all your machines that you considerately placed around entrance. Before we could even see the soft play area, we were confronted with flashing lights and noisy games, all asking us for gold coins. Naturally, my kids immediately all turned to me and wanted money to play on the machines. I hadn’t even finished putting my wallet back in my bag. And there was no way to avoid this area: you have to pass it to get in and out of the place. You know this makes us hate you, right? And parents who hate are less likely to fork out money. 

Read more about kids play:

2. The cafe

All that play makes for hungry appetites. Of course, you knew that, so after posting up signs prohibiting the bringing in of outside food, you hiked up your prices by 100 percent and expected us to cough big bucks for a couple of frankfurts and soggy chips. Listen, Play Centre Management. We’re parents; we’re in the supermarket all the time. We know frankfurts cost about 20c each. Pricing three of them with a small handful of chips at $8.50 isn’t going to wash with us. And by the way, we’re onto the odd numbers in your servings, too. Three cocktail frankfurts won’t share easily between two kids, so we’re forced to buy two servings if we want to keep hungry children happy. Not nice.

3. The staff

While we’re at the cafe, do you think you can put more staff on? Your fellow at the coffee machine doesn’t know how to look up and make eye contact with anyone, and he burnt our banana bread twice. If you’re going to charge restaurant prices, you need to run the place like it’s the real thing. We waited 20 minutes in the line just to pay and then a full hour for the food to arrive. And while I wanted to be cross with your staff, I couldn’t. I felt too sorry for them, having to work in the worst job in the world.

4. The noise

Oh dear God, the noise. It was just screaming kids and crying toddlers everywhere you turned. Mine included. Can’t you do something to create some ambience in the place? And in between all the outbursts, there was no Smooth FM, just thudding beats from the speakers. Come on guys; this shouldn’t be difficult. We parents are the ones spending the money, we’re the ones you need to keep happy. Or at least keep the kids happy. Mine actually wanted to leave early, which is the opposite effect a play centre should have. And believe me, I wanted to go, but I was still waiting for the banana bread.

Next time I want the kids to stretch their legs on a rainy day, I think we’ll stick to jumping in puddles.


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