on the twirly pole at soft play

Soft play for preschoolers and when to let go

I think we’ve been to our last birthday party for a few weeks.

The last one was interesting with N to say the least.  It was held at a soft play that we’ve not been to since he was probably under 1.   It was always more pricy than another larger soft play in our town, not as big, and until the children can go on the larger equipment, less for them to do.  But now they’re mostly fine for using the large frames, so I suppose we should think about going back there again.

I realised that N would need to have me go round with him once to show him what there was and check he could get himself round (sometimes the ‘steps’ to climb from one place to the next are too large but these were manageable with a bit of practice.  So we went round one and he seemed fine.

on the twirly pole at soft play

He was even happy enough going down the wavy slide without holding my hand – he went without waiting for me to go so I thought he’d be fine, especially as his friends on the climbing frame were zooming around with no problems going all over the place.

I checked that he wanted to go round again, he nodded and off he climbed, not looking back to see where I was, so I assumed all was ok.  Boy was I wrong!

After a while I thought I’d better have a wonder round to look up and see if I could spot him.  No, but nothing unusual as there’s lots of nooks and crannies.  Next thing I know and he’s at the top of the slide with one of my NCT friends encouraging him down.  Turns out he’d been face down crying in a corner, and another friend had rescued him when she was up chasing after her daughter.  I felt so bad, for not going round again with him, and chit chatting rather than regularly climbing up to check he was ok.

I don’t know whether he’d got a bit lost and didn’t know how to get to the bit that he knew how to get down, or whether he’d slipped over.  But all very sad, although he didn’t seem too concerned 5 minutes later.


Luckily we didn’t have to worry about him going back on for a while as it was then time for party food.  Cue staff member on duty for the party trying to get a bunch of 3 year olds to dance and play musical bumps.

kids at party

After food, it was chance for a bit more play with the children shown the ‘secret’ helter skelter slide back down to the soft play area.  Lots of the kids jumped up and got excited, although the adults were mainly looking down and thinking that the slide looked a bit vertical, and being enclosed isn’t something that all children (or adults) like.  A few went down, and I thought I’d grab my bag and go down with N who was standing in the queue, probably wondering what he was queuing up for (been trained well as nursery obviously!).

I grabbed my bag, and turned back to find he was at the front of the queue, sitting down and he was off….err, this is N who usually isn’t that keen on slides until he’s been down once or twice with me, or had me holding his hand over the side as he goes down!  Off I legged it down the stairs to meet him at the bottom, and found him ok and trying to look back up the bottom of the slide the way he’d come down.

Unlike the birthday girl who’s usually clambering all over the place like a mountaineer, who was in tears.  Hmm, bit of a surprise turn around for the books.

I asked him if he enjoyed going down the slide.  Errr.

Was it scary?  ‘yes scary’.  But he didn’t seem too concerned otherwise, so maybe he’s better when he can’t see what else is outside?

We had one more trip up exploring the climbing frame before coming back down the normal slide, so hopefully he’d go over his earlier crying session up at the top.  Hopefully I’ve not traumatised him for life, and he’ll be fine again on soft play equipment once I’ve been round with him again.

It was a bit of a shock as usually one time round is enough.  In future, I’ll need to be a bit more with it, and follow him up without him knowing so he’s still got the person there in case he’s worried, but still has his independence.

looking through the glass at soft play

Being a parent’s a hard one, as you never know whether you’ve done too much or too little, or whether your expectations of them are too much.

Have you ever had any bad or learning experiences at soft play (other than having to be there at all!)?

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