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The Etiquette of Soft Play

August 30, 2010

I am not a very sociable mother. Other mothers scare me. They wear make up and matching shoes and know what is happening in Eastenders. I can’t move in such circles and hope to stay afloat without waterwings so we tend to lead a slightly sheltered life.

All this has had to change recently though as Lyra has discovered a passion for climbing that would rival Edmund Hillary’s. Her climbing knows no bounds so we have recently had to embrace the nightmare that is ‘soft play’ before Lyra did herself a life threatening injury trying to trapeze from the table to the cooker top or such like.

Soft play is an interesting place. I don’t understand the rules yet at all. There is an unspoken etiquette about when it is and isn’t okay for one child to stand on another’s fingers and where the line is drawn between rough and tumble and bullying in the ball pool. The other mothers seem to understand these and many other rules so I will watch and learn.

The one thing I will need to work on is my voice projection. It seems that a crucial element of attending soft play is being able to bellow your child’s (often terrifically unsuitable) name at 300 decibels and then berate them even more loudly when they do not come running the very moment you first called. I look forward to that.

I’ll start practicing now.

“LYRAAAAAAAAAAAAA!”

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14 Comments
  1. mummyandkatie permalink

    I definitely need to learn my rules of soft play… I seem to not follow these…. except the matching shoes. Socks on the other hand. And likewise, I feel my voice projection needs working on. As does my ability to read Ok! Magazine and entirely ignore my daughter. That also seems to be a key expectation in softplay.

    • Oh yes, OK! magazine – I forgot that. It’s one of the most important rules too. I also need to work on ignoring Lyra generally. I’m rather failing.

  2. I have given up learning these rules… We have been to softplay a handful of times, Ben now prefers the big-kids’ area which involves me getting a WHOLE lot more involved and therefore I have no time to observe etiquette…

    That said, even though I don’t wear makeup, I do know how to apply it to good effect 🙂 And I love my shoes 😉

    Magazines? I didn’t even have time to read the Sunday paper last week, it is now over a week old and remains unread!

    • In your house the sunday supplement is more likely to end up as a flying papier mache elephant than reading material – or am I misjudging you?

  3. SuzyPink permalink

    aaah yes soft play etiquette. I think it just involves ignoring your child whilst reading a magazine and drinking tea from a plastic cup, until another small child is injured by your slightly bigger child. You then swear blind that you were watching your child the whole time, and smaller child must have accidently stood in the right place for your child to accidently knock smaller child over with such a force that he/she is now howling.

    Alternatively, you could arrive, (with matching shoes and socks, and a small smudge of mascara/eyeshadow) and spend the morning trying to spread yourself between the baby area, and the “big boys” play frame, deciding that you’ll just give in, and take the baby with you on the big frame just so you can keep an “at distance” eye on bigger sibling.

    • sadly the big boys at our soft play seem to treat the tinies area like a cool hang out, a great place to leap, frolic and be loud and heavy…

  4. Liz permalink

    From what I can remember of what has osmosed into my motherhood-addled brain (;-)) I tended to go around with/near/behind my kids until they were of an age when I could sit down and drink tea. I did this at dreaded M & T groups too (made me very unpopular with the other mums, who were all doing as you describe and practising their ‘broke to words’ verbal commands). They couldn’t understand why I would want to be involved in what my child was doing and not sitting round the edge of the hall waiting for one of them to condescend to speak to me. You may gather from this that M&T and I didn’t last that long. Irreconcilable differences I’m afraid. Soft play, however, is more salvageable as a pastime. I found it helped to have at least one ‘buddy’ to go with, someone with a similar attitude to parenting and preferably a similar aged child.

  5. marypot permalink

    I am not a particularly well turned out Mum, and haven’t seen Eastenders for about 10 years or more. Luckily, I’ve got to know a great group of Mums here who are all on the same wavelength though! As for the etiquette of softplay, I do find it hard to ignore bad behaviour of kids (and parents), perhaps because of my teaching experience. Luckily though the teaching experience means I have no bother with voice projection! My Husband in the other hand will not return to soft play with our kids after seeing a big bruiser of a toddler attack our eldest girl. He was restrained with the parent on that occasion, but it was very difficult for him!

  6. Dotty permalink

    Stay AWAY from the other mothers… you’ll only have to spend more time trying to avoid them in the playground 😉

    Brilliant, witty, charming blog. Book next…. mark my words!

    • I think you have a lot more confidence in my abilities and organisational skills than is warranted. But thank you xx

  7. mummyandkatie permalink

    Well, I have clearly let my daughter down. This morning at the play cafe, we (as in Katie and I together!!) went on the climbing, and Mummy didnt once pick up OK! although there were 3 different editions available. I’m clearly failing drastically as a mother.

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