Soft Play Is Like Labour – Trust Me: It Really Is!

soft play is like labour, trust me it really is!

Any parent of a toddler will know that soft play isn’t all it is cracked up to be. In actual fact I liken the experience to labour and giving birth. A bit melodramatic you say? Well hear me out.

With its bright colours and padded floors, wipe clean surfaces and treats on display you would be forgiven for thinking this is some kind of parent/child heaven. A place where the kids can go off and play whilst the parents sit and chat whilst enjoying a hot cup of coffee and a slice of cake. Who cares if your little poppet has one small pack of chocolate buttons? They have all that space in the world to run off that sugar rush. Well this may well be the case when your child is older and close to the age/height limit instigated by these warehouses of hell, but when you have toddlers this is just a front, it lures you in and gives you false sense of security.

The Contractions of Guilt

It starts slowly, you aren’t too sure if this is what is happening or not but you can feel a few pangs…. Of guilt that you haven’t given the kids a good run around for a few days, perhaps soft play would be a good idea? Yep, lets go, we got this. We are prepared, we have our bags packed lets get in the car and go.

The Drive

We are on our way. How exciting, first time, a little nervous and unsure what to expect but many women have done it before me. How hard can it be?

On a side note be careful not to run over the child that has somehow escaped their mothers python like grip and legged it across the car park.

The Arrival

As you walk through the door friendly smiley faces greet you. The gently spoken woman behind the desk asks you for your credentials and that of your child’s. You hand over a shiny note and she opens the gates into the rainbow kingdom.

It’s sounding a lot like going to hospital now isn’t it…?

Ellie soft play

Getting Settled In

As you find yourself a little corner in a room full of more adults than there are chairs you can feel the anxiety increasing. There is a lot of background noise, people rushing around and sense of hustle and bustle fills the air. No one will look at you and you try not to make eye contact either. You know you are all in this together but you don’t want to see someone even more nervous than you as that will make you feel worse. As would seeing someone coping more than you! Why did you think you could do this?

The Main Show

Off you go, it has begun. Toddler runs off and you follow. You make are they are ok and can climb on the bits they want, you make are they know not to go down the giant slide without you and they really seem to have listened. You got this! This is totally going to plan. After a short while you are both in a rhythm, you may even have managed to sit at the side of the play area for a little while safe in the knowledge that they know where you are. As a few more minutes pass by you see an opportunity. You have smelt that coffee from the lady at the table behind you. You could do that. That could be you with a coffee. Informing your charge where you will be you head for the counter and place your order. Just as you hand over the money you hear the scream of pain emitting itself from your toddlers lips. As you rush back to the aid of your charge forgetting your coffee and the slice of cake you were eyeing up. If you have been to the establishment before and it isn’t you first time you will manage to run back whilst remembering your coffee and placing it on an appropriate table as you go. For all you first time mums don’t worry, it is a soft play emergency skill you learn.

Once the tears subside you and your toddler will feel a sense of achievement, you are invincible; this leads to the following thought process… Let’s go in the ‘big bit’. DO NOT GO IN THE BIG BIT. Nothing good is waiting for you in there!

Once in the ‘Big Bit’ (you damn fools! I warned you) the sudden realisation that you are not invincible, you haven’t got this, how the hell can you do this, who are these crazy, mental women that have done this before you? This is not what you expected, nobody told you! Like really, truly told you! A new found respect for your mother washes over you. You question how she did this when you were young. It is starting to really sound like labour now isn’t it?

Girls soft play

Birthing in the Ball Pool

The ball pool will be safe, all kids love the ball pool with its rainbow colours, it’s safe confining sides. But as you wade through dragging your toddler up from the depths, before they suffocate under the weight of an older child, you have a sudden realisation that you are covered in bodily fluids. Is it even possible to have produced so much body fluid? Where has it all come from? Who has it come from? *At this point I can only hope that in actual labour the copious amounts of body fluid is purely your own.

The Final Push

You gather up your belongings after what seems like a lifetime and you give one final burst of energy to the exit. You have bags and coats slung over you shoulders and a wriggling, screaming toddler hanging upside down from your arms. They don’t want to leave. They want to stay forever but for you the end is insight. You can see that light at the end of the tunnel!

The Exit

You’re done. You made it. You are in the car. An unexpected sigh of relief expels from your mouth. The adrenaline is wearing off now and you are starting to notice some aches and pains. Bruises and a high level of discomfort settles into your body and the amount of work you have just done really dawns on you. ‘Never again’ you vow to yourself.

The Amnesia

Over time you forget the pain you felt. You forget the trauma and the effort. The pangs of guilt start again, you think you want to do it all again. It would do your toddler the world of good; they would love it. Then, before you know it, you find yourself back on ‘The Drive’.

The Experienced Mum

All of these stages being repeated slowly see you working your way into the ‘Experienced Mum Club’. This is a club reserved for the women who have spent the last 5 years going through this soft play labour process. They are the women with older children at school; they only need to ‘watch’ their toddler from a distance. They get to sit and drink the hot coffee you dream about and screams of pain never interrupt them because their toddler is used to being thrown about and pushed around by older siblings. These women will give a little smirk in your direction. This is meant to be a friendly smile of comfort. It was intended to be a reassuring smile that says ‘it gets easier’. Instead it is a smirk because it is impossible for them to hide their relief that they are over the shock of soft play, past the stage of being bruised. They are veterans.

I told you soft play was a lot like labour.



This post was originally published on You Have to Laugh.


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  1. Oh this really made me laugh!!! I feel like I get eye-balled quite a lot because I am that Mum sitting reading/on her phone/eating cake/drinking coffee while Amelia gets on with it. I check on her visually from time to time to make sure she’s still there/not killing another child/not stuck in a really high place (this happens a lot!) but she’s very good and pretty hardy too. She’ll run to me and say “Mummy I hurt my knee” to which I’ll respond “Oh no! Do you need me to look at it, or does it need a kiss?” and generally she’ll say “Nah, I’m ok”… Followed with a response from me along the lines of “Oh. Why are you here then? Go back to playing pumpkin, mummy’s reading”

    Trust me, it feels amazing when you get there! #BigPinkLink

    1. It’s all just jealous glances and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! I’ll be there soon enough, just need Trixie to be a bit older I think x

  2. Ha ha!! Very funny, thoroughly enjoyed reading this. My only experience of soft play so far has been with my 13 month old not yet walking crawling around soft play with me 30 odd weeks pregnant trying to help him without getting stuck myself or going into early labour! #dreamteam

  3. Very true! In fact having having to squeeze through one of those human car wash thingies feels a lot like being given birth to! If only they administered pethadine along with the tepid tea! Loved this Kirsty, thanks for linking up to #DreamTeam x

    1. Haha! Yes that is so true! Now if pethidine with my tepid tea was on offer I may be tempted to go more often 😉

  4. Ha Ha! Loved this! Especially the amnesia bit!!!! Brilliant! Oh, I am sooooooo pleased my kids are beyond soft play! It didn’t stop the prickles of sweat beading on my forehead as I read this though!! 😉 #Dreamteam

  5. Hahaha, this post made me laugh out loud! Birthing pool and bodily fluids! There are so many suspicious fluids all around that I need to sanitise my child right after. I haven’t thought about comparing soft play to labour and you’re hilarious. The only good thing is that there are no awful pains and I can EAT and DRINK anytime. Thanks for linking with #bigpinklink

    1. Yes thank goodness for eating and drinking. It is soft plays only saving grace! I’m glad it made you laugh 😉

  6. lol you hit the nail on the head there. So so true. It does get easier as your little one gets older. Jamie’s 4 in July and I am now one of those Mummies that can mostly just sit and chill out while he runs around and makes friends…..utter bliss. But crikey have we had some past incidents. Especially from other kids hitting him 🙁

    1. I wish I could just sit there. It’s my fault for having two kids 2 years apart really! The light is at the end of that tunnel I think x

  7. Haha I love this what a brilliant comparison. And just like after labour…you think never again! That is until your memory fades and you decide to go through it all again. Thanks for linking this up to #coolmumclub xoxo

    1. Hehe! Yep! Nearly went through it again on Tuesday (soft play not labour, that ship has sailed). Then I reminded myself not to be so stupid!

  8. This was hysterical I love the comparisons, though I think I am technically in ‘Experienced mum’ category my son still demands I go in and get my bum stuck in the crawl tubes or if I take two they tend to fight or someone looses a tooth in the ball pit. Actually glutton for punishment I am taking two tomorrow. Must be the amnesia! Thank you for linking to #stayclassymama xx

  9. Ah, the ball pool! My son always wants me to go in with him (in fact, he wants me to trail him all around the whole soft play) and I can’t help noticing all the dribble / thinking about the vomit incidents that have occurred in there! And definitely the amnesia – although clearly soft play has left more of a mark on me than labour as I couldn’t tell you the last time I went to soft play with Max, I still remember the fresh hell well enough to avoid it! Thanks for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

  10. And just like labour, we forget how bad it is and often do it more than once! I’ve managed to avoid soft play for quite a months now, but I have a feeling it won’t last. I don’t mind with my eldest and she just gets on with it, but my youngest still needs me to trail around after her. Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

  11. This is hilarious, love it!
    My kids are 9, 7 and 3 now and my youngest lives the big slides so it’s not as bad as it once was for me! But when I take my childminder children there it’s a whole different story!! Worry and stress overload! Why do we do it to ourselves?! Ha!!

  12. I’ve never experience labour but you’ve given me an idea of what it is like. But I have done soft play and it is awful. I am so glad my kids don’t need it anymore and I can just unleash them in a park!

  13. Oh my god I hate soft play! With an immense passion! There is nothing fun about it. I’d go as far as to say my labour was easier!! Hahah! Maybe not. But then it’s further in the distance than the memory of soft play – and we all know time makes us forget! #sharingthebloglove

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