The 5 Reasons I Hate Soft Play Centres

You didn’t have soft play when I was a kid. You had playgrounds with metal climbing frames, concrete paving and kids walking around in a dazed state with head wounds. Knees were grazed, roundabouts were spun and if you could jump high off a swing in mid-air, you were a hero.

We didn’t have soft play. We had steel and concrete play. If it was raining, you got wet. We didn’t have indoor playgrounds, let alone padded hardware. Concussion was par for the course.

This generation has different options available to them. Indoor themed wonderworlds of mazes, slides, ballpits and tiny ledges that would make your average claustrophobe weep for a week.

Soft play areas are, to this father’s mind, a circle of hell. They are padded death-traps with third rate character costumes, over-priced beverages and a higher price-per-hour fee than a Monte Carlo casino.

Here, then, are the five reasons why I hate soft play areas.

The Noise

softplay-1Imagine a movie where an evil villain creates a weapon that emits all manner of human screams, yells and noises at a criminally deafening volume. Congratulations, you’ve just recreated the ambience of a soft play centre.

A child spots his mother on the other side of the centre and screams for her so she can see him hit himself in the face with some plastic balls. Children shout at each other at infinity decibels because they’re not following the precise rules of a game that they’ve made up a minute earlier. And to make it worse, most soft play areas are in cavernous rooms where these noises echo and amplify and bounce around until they land in your terrorised ear-drums.

Other People’s Kids

I sometimes feel like I’m a bit too much of a disciplinarian with my kids when we’re out in public. I don’t want to be telling them off all the time but equally I don’t want to be the parent with the feral kids. Some other parents do not have this worry.

softplay-3I have seen things. I have seen children fight, bite, steal and attempt murder right in front of their parents who’s response is to simply do nothing. And what is up with kids not understanding what a Toddler Area is? What possesses a 10 year old to make him feel that it’s okay to enter the baby zone and start launching things into the air? Are they insane?

A play area in a nearby restaurant entertained a parent who wanted to let their child play naked from the waist down. I’ve seen children smush their food into other children’s hair. Children can be horrible and nowhere moreso than in a play place.

Not your kid(s) though. They’re awesome. Obviously.


The chairs in your average play place are not built for comfort. They are designed to be easily wiped down after a child throws up some birthday cake on it. It may be the case that this hard plastic is wonderfully sanitary but that certainly doesn’t translate into something that’s a pleasure to sit in.

It is clearly designed by a company that otherwise specialises in medieval torture devices and has the aesthetic qualities of a melted bucket. Please, play place owners, think of the parent’s backs. Or at least provide a reserved area for grumpy dads who want to bring their own sun loungers along.


softplay-2It is a rule that at any given time, there are a minimum of three children crying in a play area. How frustrating. You pay a small fortune for the kids to enjoy themselves and they end up crying. Either someone gets hurt or another kid pushes them or they don’t get the right coloured slushie…

It’s like videogames. They cost a huge amount of money and when do they ever make kids smile or laugh?

Play centres and videogames leads to frustration, anger and tears. And that’s just the parents.


If Jamie Oliver was upset at the state of the food prepared by school dinner ladies, he’d go crazy if he visited some of the soft play centres we’ve been to.

Now, this doesn’t apply to all places. Some centres really make the effort with fresh ground coffee machines and cracking cakes. Some places are so awesome it’s like they’ve tagged a soft play onto the end of the GBBO tent. But only some.

I’ve had the unfortunate experience of a panini so dry it turned to flakes of dust in my mouth, chicken nuggets so overdone they’ve chipped teeth and chips still so frozen that they sing “Let It Go”. Why not use nice cheese, not that block of industrial orange plastic? Serve fresh food, not a pre-made crappy meal. Serve fruit and veg in an imaginative way to try and keep your clientele healthy.

Yes, I know these aren’t restaurants but that isn’t an excuse. If you’re going to tell people that you’re serving food, make it edible.
And so this rant ends. I hate softplay centres, but I will continue to go because my kids love them. They love them and I think that is in no small part because they see how much torture it causes their poor old dad.


  1. 17 February 2016

    Ha brilliant post, I can’t believe you limited yourself to only five reasons – and no mention of the toilets!

    • 19 February 2016

      Oh, you have no idea. How is an adult man meant to use an infant sized urinal? Have you seen those things? It’s like trying to pee into a cup.

  2. 18 February 2016

    This post was brilliant! How have I not stumbled across your blog before? So glad I have now. I’m pinning this for future reference and I’m now off to see if you have a FB page. Thanks for the laughs.

  3. 18 February 2016

    Hahaha. Yes totally agree, chairs are instruments of torture, food is like poison, the children’s areas are like gallows and the only glimpse of light is when you leave and see daylight for the first time in hours. We’re not the biggest fans of Soft Play centres. Bring back concrete and grass.

  4. 18 February 2016

    As a stay at mum I was always quite glad to get out to a soft play centre with my daughter ten years ago. There were no children’s centres or toddler groups about so it was that or the supermarket! However when my son arrived five years they had become more popular and the kids more violent. I stopped going as I had to constantly watch my son as he always ended up being punched, kicked and dragged about by other kids. And yes these were the ones in the ‘under 3s’ only area with school uniform on!

  5. 18 February 2016

    OMG i thought I was the only one! If i have to go to one more kids party or play date at these places I will loose my mind and the main reason for me is the “other peoples kids” factor haha. I don’t mean too sound harsh but it’s like some of them are feral lmao I feel like shouting in there” Where is this child’s parent?” lol. I hate soft play!! x

  6. 18 February 2016

    This made me smile. I suppose we are pretty lucky in that our local play centre is nothing like this and the food is amazing, home made cakes etc.

  7. 18 February 2016

    we live right near one so each weekend I am dragged there Kia actually broke her arm at a soft play area – so much for soft eh

  8. 18 February 2016

    Do you know who you remind me of? My blogger pal Tori who is also in the same group, you have the same, dry sense of humor as her and I love it! Please write more posts like this you made my commute home a little more enjoyable x

  9. 18 February 2016

    I love soft play. We used to go to one with Sofa’s for the parents and I loved laying on the sofa and drinking hot chocolate while my daughter ran around and played.

  10. 19 February 2016

    I have a love hate relationship with our ones, although I have to say the one we tend to visit most has decent food. Other peoples kids always ruin it

    • 19 February 2016

      Other people’s kids suck.

  11. Fi Ni y
    19 February 2016

    Now that my son is older I don’t mind the soft play and funnily enough they were around when I was a child too as my Dad used to take me on a Sunday. Other people’s kids do annoy me when I’m there though and the germs!

  12. Haha and you pay over the odds for the ridiculousness of it all!!

  13. 19 February 2016

    I literally burst out laughing at the ‘Parent with the Feral Kids’ part ha x

  14. lynn heath
    20 February 2016

    Ha ha brilliant, I’ve got a headache just thinking about it!!!

  15. olivia Kirby
    21 February 2016

    I cannot stand these places. Kids running around sweating with no top on, yuk, kids hitting other kids and parents sat gasbagging to other parents, yuk yuk yuk. We don’t go to these places unless they’ve been invited to parties there. And when I say, ‘we’, I mean my husband – he takes them, I stay at home with my cuppa.

  16. 22 February 2016

    I’m amazed you managed to get it down to five. I hate soft play, there is always bigger kids in the baby/toddler parts with parents nowhere to be seen. urgh! x

  17. Jane wright
    24 February 2016

    Oh my goodness yes, the ball pool which was less about as clean as the bottom of a monkeys cage. You are’nt telling me that they get all those balls out and clean them one by one.. no way. and how do they possibly know what is lurking underneath them all? I will give you a clue.. things that fall out of toddlers nappies, yukky old dummies and enough uneaten food to feed an army of pigeons.

  18. Debbie Skerten
    26 February 2016

    I love this post. It made me laugh out loud.

  19. Nathalie Taylor
    27 February 2016

    This is brilliant! So glad I am not the only person to feel this way.

  20. Natalie Gillham
    28 February 2016

    I hater soft play centres too!

  21. Isabel O
    1 March 2016

    I’m with you on the noise thing. Granted, I actually have a problem with noise sensitivity, but these soft play places are a whole other level of hell for me. The screaming, oh god the screaming. WHY MUST THEY SCREAM?!

    • 1 March 2016

      Oh, the screaming. I have PTSD from the screaming.

  22. 5 March 2016

    pahaha I just laughed so hard I almost snorted my tea. I think I find this so funny, in part, as Little Man isn’t quite big enough to want to descend into one of these garishly coloured, padded circles of hell.


  23. William Gould
    6 March 2016

    Wrapped in cotton wool these days. No school cricket because you have to wear an expensive helmet, now they’re on about banning tackling in rugby!

  24. Abigail Cullen
    6 March 2016

    Great insight into Soft Play Play Centres, and why you hate them, love it! Great blog.

  25. 29 June 2016

    Fantastic post. I don’t have kids but have had the’pleasure’ of visiting soft play centres with my friend and her kids. Argh!

  26. 30 December 2016

    That’s hilarious because you’re right on many levels. The noise is atrocious and I’m speaking from more than a decade ago when I was one of those kids haha. Go dad and keep disciplining ! 🙂

  27. Your Father
    30 November 2017

    I could have written this, on so many levels you are right, I find that children are now appearing throughout areas where once you could guarantee they would not appear, you cannot have a quiet pint at lunchtime without some child pushing chairs around or being screamed at by some peroxide blonde to be quiet and drink your sugar infested drink that will make you even more hyper. In the Library I remember it being a haven of peace and as quiet as Gods waiting room, now its a screaming parody of of a earthquake in a playcentre. Remember when the rule was, Children should be seen and NOT heard. Now I remove my hearing aids and get constantly told by the wife not to be so grumpy, after all I was a child once, I might have been but I didnt have a 120 decibel scream and a mother who ignored me in public places.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *