As soft play centres reopen, here's what parents and children can expect

With soft play centres starting to open their doors across England and Wales, there will be new measures put in place to ensure safety.

This will make them very different to what parents, guardians and children are used to.

Soft plays are a vital part of a child’s development – and a godsend to parents living in a country with such unpredictable weather.

They help children develop vital motor skills and social skills and give parents and carers that well-deserved rest to have a coffee and a catch-up with other adults while also seeing the joy of their children’s energies and imaginations run wild.

As a nanny of 10 years, some of my favourite bonding moments with the children under my care were found at these irreplaceable places.

When Covid-19 hit and we were all confined to our homes, parents and kids were hit hard by massive changes in routine. Being unable to have the experiences they are used to – or mix with other children – started affecting not only kids’ social and motor skill development but their emotional wellbeing.

So, thank goodness soft play centres are back. But understandably, parents and guardians will approach a return to such a setting with some trepidation considering the pandemic is still a very major part of our lives – and social distancing in a soft play is a bit of an oxymoron, especially in the minds of children.

So what are soft plays doing to keep our children safe?

Leading London activity centre for children Kidzania has fully laid out detailed plans for how they will operate and keep children, parents and staff secure.

They will be working at 50% compacity giving children more space to play and socially distance.

You will required to book online and everything will be made cashless with kids given their own preloaded card to spend around the play centre.

At arrival they will be checking all temperatures and requiring everyone over the age of four to wear a face mask and as a welcome extra touch, they will be incorporating some of these new normal procedures into the imaginary play settings.

Seating throughout the centre will be reduced and more spaced out and everyone will be encouraged to wash their hands regularly. All eating and cooking utensils will be disposable and staff have been required to undergo new hygiene training and will be provided with full PPE throughout the centre.

They will also have additional mental health, stress management and Crisis training and at the end of every day deep cleaning will take place.

This is likely to be the story across all soft play centres in the UK – after all, the last thing they would want is an outbreak to close them down again.

Other measures such as closing ball pits will be pretty much the norm.

Jess is a mum of three daughters who regularly enjoy soft play time. She told ‘I have absolutely no fear in the girls going back to soft play.

‘Statistically speaking Covid isn’t a death sentence for most and even less so for children.

‘Social interaction is not only crucial for their development, social interaction is also crucial for my mental health.

‘Soft plays can be refuge for parents who spend their days alone with children.’

So as long as soft play areas adhere to government guidelines it looks like we can have activity centres back to some sort of normal and instead continue focusing on keeping not only children’s physical safety and development moving but also their mental wellbeing

And, let’s admit it, every parent will be pretty relieved by the lower capacity at these areas – so there are fewer crying tantrums of ‘that kid stole my block!’ and it’s easier to track your little cherubs in an endless maze when it’s time to persuade them to go.

We’d advise that you contact your local soft play centre in advance, visit their websites to get accustomed to the changes and discuss what they can do to ensure your child both is safe and can still have the fun they have been missing out on.

Claire Lindsay is childcare expert with 10 years experience as an attachment nanny and qualifications in child psychology and development.

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