All those parents, childminders, grandparents and family members that look after kids will know that the world of soft play can be a grubby experience. Sticky plastic, snotty loud kids and horrendous coffee can all make the trip rather hideous and unpleasant. But of course it depends where you go. When you have your first child, you have to wade through the jungle of childrens entertainment on offer and find the ones your child and hopefully you enjoy, and they do exist. Your friends may tell you where they go and you will give them a try only to find it’s not the one for you, so keep going until you find the right fit. The one with the classes you and your kids like, the one with similar parents to you or the one that has really good coffee or hopefully all the above.
I have found a handfull of places that suit my daughter and I, for now, as I am well aware that as she gets older the places she wants to go to will change. She will want bigger, crazier and in turn busier places. For now at least I am safe with the smaller play cafes as I have a 17 month old.
One of my favourites in the Dorset area is Lollipops in Westbourne. It’s in an old church converted nicely with a floor to ceiling climbing structure and extra rooms for classes and even a hair salon. Brightly decorated with various bugs and butterflies, plenty of tables for mums to set up camp by and a good selection of healthy snacks for kids and decent food for grown ups too. I like this place because it has a nice vibe, the staff are lovely and it’s got quite a cosy feel. It’s not too big (although it can get pretty busy on a Saturday when they have kids parties in), it’s not expensive and they don’t charge for adults which is something I really resent. It’s the classes that I really like though.
One of the first classes I took my daughter too was ‘Minky Moos Sensory Experience’. Run by Penny, this is a class for babies and there is a separate class for walkers. Penny has enough energy for everyone which is great when you’ve been having sleepless nights and are struggling to entertain your little ones. It’s a class full of music, sounds and sights. Bright parachutes, jingle bells, shakey eggs and flashing squidgy light toys. Penny uses a mixture of nursery rhymes, classical music and pop to keep their attention and finishes off with a mini disco with bubbles and lights. I noticed how engaged my daughter was from the beginning to end and would then sleep so well after which was a major bonus! Minky Moos Site
The second class we discovered here was Debutots. This one is storytelling and Drama activities. It’s also a franchise, so for those of you that aren’t in Dorset may find one in your local area. Debutots site. The teacher at the Bee a Bug class is a lovely lady called Becky, she has three kids of her own and knows her stuff. She keeps the kids so engaged with the fab yet simple stories that include sounds, actions and puppets that make it so nice and interactive.
Both the sensory class and Debutots are ‘pay as you go’ which is great. I tend not to sign up to classes where you pay up front for a term as so often your child is poorly with a cold or teething and you miss the class and it feels like money down the toilet.
There are many other classes that we are yet to try like ‘Swish’ Baby Ballet and Jo Jingles Musical Movement but I hear good things about them.
Lollipops really does have a lot to offer for children aged 0-5. Again this is great because when you have little ones the big places can get a bit out of control with older children. My time will come for the venues that cater for +5’s, so for now I avoid them as much as possible.
My NCT group held our 1st year Birthday party here and it was great. The food spread was brilliant full of vegetable sticks, fruits and sandwiches and they all got party bags. It really took the head ache out of organising and wasn’t that expensive.
So if you’re looking for somewhere to ease yourself into the world of soft play then I recommend Lollipops.