So I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was going to write a no-holds-barred expose of soft play hell, based on a couple of experiences I had had. They’re loud, drafty or hot, smell peculiar and often seem unclean. Children run rampant and feral and the whole experience feels like a hyper-coloured scene out of Lord of the Flies.
So my heart sank somewhat when, due to the ‘inclement’ (read: fucking miserable) weather, The Man proposed we ran the fidgets out of The Boy at a softplay in Didcot they’d been to before. I reluctantly agreed to go along as The Girl was on day two of a feeding frenzy that left me with no free hands and a desperate need to get out of the house in an attempt to save some of my last remaining sanity.
Unlike many softplays, The Treehouse is not housed in a large industrial unit facility, but rather an old converted retail property, so it’s more ‘bijou’ (as estate agents like to have it) than your standard soft play. This works in its favour in that it’s not as drafty, is less overwhelming for children who lack in confidence and it’s easier to keep an eye on your progeny whilst you enjoy a nice coffee.
The costs are reasonable and flat-rate, as in: they don’t bump the prices up on high days, holidays and weekends. There’s a decent coffee shop with reasonable prices, comfortable seating for adults (including some nice squishy sofas) and the loos are spacious and very clean which is a huuuuge tick in their favour as far as I’m concerned.
The equipment is fun and well padded and the whole place seems very clean. None of that worrying suspicion that a teenager on their Saturday job may not have spotted or cleaned up a lurking puddle of wee somewhere that I have experienced at other venues. In fact the staff seemed older and more responsible altogether, and very clear on safety and hygiene. When my nudity-loving Boy attempted to shed his socks and go on the run a member of staff was on him before The Man could put his coffee down and, whilst it was a bit disconcerting to have a staff member swoop in and pick up my child without checking with me first, I do appreciate their vigilance to maintain hygiene (and their fitness – The Boy is a fast runner).
The Man worked his way round the outside of a Bakewell tart and a coffee whilst I sat in a daze and fed the milk beast – I mean my daughter. All this time The Boy ran around in a happy mania, well entertained, and unable to escape as the staff operated a strict sign-in/sign-out system with a staff-operated lock on the gate. Even more handily The Treehouse is situated close to a big Sainsburys and a number of other high street favourites, which means you can hit the shops after a session – or even sign your little darling up for an hour’s ‘Drop and shop’ which sounds like an excellent idea.
Even better, for the technologically minded or self-employed amongst us, they have free WiFi, so you can take your laptop/phone/tablet along and make the most of your free time.
The only downside? It’s maybe a bit loud and airless, but quite frankly what do you expect with a screaming horde of under-tens having a whale of a time. Take some headphones and block it out, it’s still better than listening to a bored three year old whingeing!
The Treehouse Play Centre can be found at:
Off Broadway and High Street,