Soft play. It sounds gentle, warm and fuzzy, doesn’t it?
We had experienced the joys of a minor soft play area during our trip to the winter wonderland of Aviemore.
However, what we braved the other weekend was on a much bigger scale.
Marooned on an island of development ground - you have to cross roads and car parks to get to Tesco on one side and soulless identikit housing on the other - is an aircraft hangar of a building that contains an enormous, three storey climbing frame full of netting, slides, ball pits, trampolines, punch bags, foam-filled rocking horses and a mini football pitch.
All round the perimeter of the place are leather sofas and end tables so parents/guardians can sit back with a coffee and watch the kids from a distance. And everyone is in their stocking soles. It felt eerily like twenty-three conjoined living rooms.
Toddler Who Must Be Obeyed needed no instruction, set her hyperactive drive to maximum and buzzed around for 90 minutes like a hummingbird on Pop Tarts. We were there to say happy birthday to TWMBO’s cousin who had turned one. (TWMBO can now tell you, if you ask her, that’s she’s two. She might also tell you she’s had a poo, even if you didn’t asked. You have been warned.) The pair of them romped, as did the five million other toddlers in the place. It was a Saturday.
TWMBO fell asleep almost immediately after we left the building and I wanted to join her.
Now that I think about it, it was possibly the only place I’ve been where you don’t have to hunt for a highchair in the café - there was a massive rack of them, lined up like supermarket trolleys.
Adding to the thrill of the day was our decision to use public transport. It’s so easy to think: we’ve got a pile of stuff to do today, there’s three of us, so let’s jump in the car. But instead we hopped on the train to Inverness, noodled around the farmers’ market (offering commiserations to Donnie ‘Knobbly Carrots’ Macleod in light of the close-but-no-cigar Green vote), then took the bus out to the retail tundra. Even with bags of presents and organic rhubarb it wasn’t complicated getting around.
And when we returned to the Brighton of the North the usual faff of getting across the railway bridge was eased thanks to a good Samaritan who took one end of the buggy.
The other we created our own Soft Play area on the back green. A blanket and TWMBO’s old baby bath. Suddenly she was captain of a ship on a tartan sea. Who needs a foam filled rocking horse when you have imagination…