It always used to be easy to meet up with friends and babies when they were tiny. They slept or fed but generally would stay in their prams out of the way while we conversed, drank coffee and ate cake (mmm, no wonder it took til 8 months post birth to even get motivated to lose my baby weight plus some!).
But now they wriggle, are on the move, and don’t sleep in buggies any more (well, mine doesn’t), we’ve had to reassess where we meet up. No longer M&S cafe on a Tuesday after baby cafe, we now have a new haunt for our NCT girls – one of the child friendly pubs in town, which has a nice carpeted ‘alcove’ area which means we can blockade off an area with stools and let the babies loose with their toys to play and scramble without irritating the rest of the clientele.
We also now go to Rugrats & Halfpints occasionally. We’re lucky in Banbury in that this award winning softplay area is available. There’s a baby sensory area for them with lots of different things to look at and listen too, as well as the usual crawling areas/soft blocks etc. It costs £3 a session for them, which isn’t too bad, but sometimes they may only be interested for 30 minutes so it does add up if you go regularly.
However, last week we were meeting a friend and her baby, with the midpoint being Cirencester area. So searching online to see where we could meet needing somewhere that N could crawl and stretch around in, discovered Magicland. Seemed perfect as it was a bargain 50p for adult off peak entry with under 1s free.
Well, we turned up and the place was massive. Almost like an aircraft hanger. Lots of small areas with different toy themes for toddler club and/or parties. A normal softplay/’adventure’ area for over 4s, and similar but smaller scale for under 4s. There was also a large cafe area with lots of tables & chairs for parents, families and anyone else.
The cafe (which we didn’t sample food from) had healthy options for children, with Annabel Karmel meal recipes, as well as a fair number of choices for the adults.
In terms of the actual softplay, although they say it’s appropriate for 0-4 year olds, there isn’t really anything on offer for really young babies as it is all soft play. Plus having up to 4s in the same area, does mean there’s a lot of danger of older children running around/being interested in the babies (N managed to ‘pull’ a little girl of about 3 who seemed rather taken with him, hugging him and following him around – didn’t feel I could really say anything, but it would have been nice if the mother had apologised or checked that we didn’t mind her daughter basically grabbing my son!).
There was lots of big soft blocks, stepped tower (which N loved climbing), a ballpit (not the best as it was very deep and meant sitting it in was like quicksand – a bit scary for babies as they start to sink down into the balls), slide and hanging soft things in the climbing area. Great for older toddlers. N loved standing at the top holding the netting and watching the older children playing.
Overall, I think once you’ve got a baby on the move I think it’s a real bargain and if we were in the area we’d definitely go back. It would be good to have a ‘baby’ area with some sensory lights/caves, then they could say they cater for every age.