I’m a softplay convert

Suffering from post-Christmas boredom? Come on infants get your things together and drag your mummies and daddies over to the nearest softplay place.

All right it probably wasn’t the best idea to try while your baby brother was still being carried around in a sling, but now that everyone is mobile give it another go.

It really gives them a chance to reprise the childhood they never had. They’ll love it. Scrambling up the ladders, avoiding the wobbly thing at the top, helping you roll through the tiny gaps and attempting not to bash their knees too hard doing the same. The best bit is when you get to the almost-vertical scramble nets. They’ll beg you to let them enjoy the challenge of keeping themselves upright while supporting your back with one knee and helping you move one arm at a time with one of theirs.

The extremely-fast high slide is a favourite too among the more adventurous adults. And that curly slide that they’ll bang their head on all the way down? The best. Littlest Fibber does still need a little help after all, and they won’t want to be left too far behind as you run off to explore the network of high and low rollers they have to do an SAS-style scramble underneath.

If you really want to jolly them into a good mood, push them through that section with lots of obstacles in it, the ones sticking out on both sides, top and bottom. And of course show them how fast you can negotiate these obstacles. They’ll just have to resort to increasingly desperate pleas to wait while they squeeze one limb at a time through. Maybe they’ll get a few more bruises to add to the collection. Maybe they’ll give you a few coins to play on the obligatory electronic side-shows instead.

Of course that also gives them a chance to gaze longingly at the mummies and daddies of older children sitting down outside, admittedly covered in the family coats but enjoying nice cups of coffee while reading their papers and tablets. It’s always good to give them that sense of anticipation, the hope of future joys and rewards before you snatch it away from them when you get to that age and reveal that you actually don’t like soft play any more. Meanwhile they can revel in the sense of superiority their active lives allow them. Being able to keep up, even half-way, with two little Fibbers [the eldest one is starting to learn the family tradition very well too. Sigh. So proud] for a whole solid hour longer than any of the other mummies and daddies in the hall is an achievement after all. They’re getting a bit of mid-life spread to be honest, they need the exercise.

If things do start to wind down a bit, don’t forget that old stand-by, conspiring with little brother to run one way while he runs another. It’s hilarious watching the adult struggling through those small asymmetric holes as fast as they can after the little Fibber while you run off and get yourself lost. It’s usually good for at least 15 minutes of peace while they a) despairingly look around wondering where you are and then of course b) somehow persuade little brother that he really does want to be with you and c) manoeuvre their way through themselves. Relax in the ball pool while you wait.

The best thing is that just two hours of it and the adults will be so tired they’ll let you watch TV all afternoon and not complain once.

As you’re enjoying your sedan chair ride home (well almost, on their shoulders) eating your healthy cereal-bar snack – don’t forget to leave the obligatory crumbs in their freshly-washed hair – you can reflect on the experience and ponder how short a time it will be before you hear the question: “When can we go again Infant Fibber?”

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