Reviews Day Tuesday: Soft Play Nirvana
In our local area, like many others these days, there are a plethora of soft play centres, even our local garden centre has got in on the act! It’s become a rite of passage as a parent to bemoan your child’s love of these warehouse hells. Luckily for us, here in East Kent though, we have a soft play that is for really little ones (under 7’s mainly) that is actually quite nice. Decent food, amazing homemade cakes and a soft play small enough to keep an eye on the children, but large enough to let them run off their energy on a cold winter’s day (or a British summer’s day!).
Helter Skelter, in Broadstairs, is literally minutes’ walk from the High Street and beach so is very accessible and great if the weather suddenly turns on a Spring or summer day, or even if it’s too hot (yeah I know!) and you want to get the kids out of the sun for a bit. It’s hidden away under a church so isn’t immediately obvious but once you get inside, the charm of this quaint little centre blows you away.
There is a hall space at the back which is used for Baby and Toddler Sensory sessions as well as children’s parties. We have also started using it as a craft fair space which works really well too. In the main area, there is a small kitchen area which serves up freshly made paninis, sandwiches, baguettes, salads, potatoes and pizzas for the adults, and fruit pots, sandwiches, mini fairy cakes and other snacks for the children. They even do proper coffee and various teas as well as the standard fizzy and squash type drinks.
The soft play space is situated in the middle and to the side of the hall which means you can pretty much sit and watch your children from all angles. Even better, at the back, is a “zen” space with sofas and a cot for parents with really little ones to step back from the sometimes chaos and noise of the main area. The tables are all lined with beautiful oil cloth designs, giving the place a Cath Kidston vintage feel without being over-the-top flowery!
There is a fenced-off toddler play area which is right by the sofa space meaning parents with newborns can safely watch their older children play while nursing the baby in comfort. Near to this is a book shelf, heaving with books that are begging to be read when a little downtime is needed, and there are dolls and teddies to run around with too.
The main play space has a small ball pond, a small slide (perfect for toddlers just learning to get about by themselves) and then a net climbing frame with crawl net, swinging ball, giant gym ball and bumpy slides. My girls love it there and are absolutely the perfect age for it at 19 months and 4 years old respectively. I enjoy it as I know I’ll get a good lunch (and probably a huge slice of homemade cake too) and can relax while the children play, safe in the knowledge that it’s small enough to hear if one of them gets into trouble. And the staff all treat their guests like old friends, taking care of the children as if they were their own.
As mentioned above, the centre also runs various activities for children, from baking sessions to baby sensory. They have regular children’s parties and special events to mark the big occasions (Christmas, Easter, Hallow’een, etc) and it is the meeting space for local NCT and new mum groups. We also run the Birds & Bees cloth nappy and sling libraries from there and this is proving to be a real success as it gives expectant and new parents an excuse to check the place out before their little ones are old enough to begin with pester power! It is rare that I don’t know at least some of the parents and children there as we all become regulars very quickly, choosing to bring our children there rather than the big, unfriendly warehouse style play centres. Even more reassuring, is the knowledge that its owner, Fiona, has a real investment in the local area, chairing the local Town Team, organising and running the Big Broadstairs Weekend and being a key player in many other local events and activities, proving a real asset to this small, seaside town.
I am always thankful that I discovered this little nirvana of soft play centres and dread the day when Bunny and Bear are too big to play there. For now, though, you’ll find us there every Tuesday lunchtime, chatting about cloth nappies, slings, breastfeeding and all things babies and children. If you’re local, or if you’re visiting the area, do pop in to experience this special place!