Soft Play. The dreaded words, how do you feel about it? Love it or loathe it? I’m not entirely sold on the notion of soft play, usually choosing to go somewhere outside to burn off energy or visit a child-friendly museum or cafe. But somehow I do find myself being drawn back to soft plays every once and a while.
My toddler loves them, and on days where it’s pouring with rain, or I can’t be bothered to traipse my two across town in the double buggy, a convenient, all under one room soft play sometimes holds some appeal.
Where are the best soft plays in the North East?
But now that I have a toddler and a baby me and Soft Play are ‘on a break’. There were a glorious couple of months where my toddler was finally old enough to appreciate soft play, and if he needed me then I could dump the baby in the car seat to hop over unsuspecting small children and plastic balls to rescue him from whatever scrape he was in. Now my baby is crawling she wants to be in on the action herself, and is most upset if I have the audacity to leave her to save older brother from a bottomless ballpool or child-eating cargo net. So now I’m either avoiding soft plays or going with an extra pair of hands, whilst I’m on the hunt for the soft play holy grail. One which will entertain a very active toddler, whilst provide somewhere safe for my baby to play, and the key factor in all of this is that it isn’t overrun with older kids.
Whilst I haven’t found the ultimate place that ticks all of my boxes I think I’ve visited enough to be able to spot the ones that are the best soft plays for my needs with two very small kids. The ones which would bore the tears out of any 6+ year olds, and therefore they are usually quiet so toddlers can be free to explore without the risk of being flattened by an older kid around every corner.
Toddler friendly soft play in the North East
@The Castle – Blaydon
This is a fairly regular haunt for me. There is only one structure, so no having to re-direct your toddler from a much more interesting and dangerous option which they are too small for. The seating area faces onto the play space, and all the exits come out in the same place, so there is no chance of a particularly adventurous toddler getting lost. There are a couple of slides, none of which seem to be heart attack inducing. It also has a play space for babies and toddlers with toys, and a closing gate so the babies can’t escape. They also have a range of activities on each day like rhyme time and crafts which are included within the entrance price.
Find out more: @ The Castle website
Adults & babies under 6 months : Free
Babies (6 months – 11months) : £1.00
Children aged 12 months-3 Years: £3.75
Children aged 4 years + : £4.25
The Ark – Crawcrook
Another single structure play area which is great for toddlers, their younger siblings are catered for too, with two areas for babies. One is an enclosed toy area, and the other is the baby sensory room. The baby sensory room is accessed via a baby gate so no runaway tots here, and has a host of lights, sounds and activities for babies to play with.
Find out more: The Ark @ Crawcrook website
Aged 0-12 months – £1.00 (unless accompanying an older sibling, then the child under 1 goes free)
Aged 1-4 years – £3.50
Aged 5-12 years – £4.50
Wacky Warehouse at Callerton
Completely separate to the pub this play area is great as it’s quite small, the perfect size for toddlers. The play structure has only one exit so you can be sure your toddler hasn’t popped out of any others whilst you looked away. It is an absolute bargain at only £2.25 during school hours including free juice for little ones. Outside there is loads of free parking, and a very small park area so the kids can play in the fresh air for a short while on a dry day. The only negative with this one is that the party area is accessed by 2 small steps. So unless you want to man this bit constantly then it’s probably better to wait until they are past the crawling stage.
Find out more: Wacky Warehouse Callerton website
£3.75 per child or £2.25 during school hours.
The Splat Centre in Whitley Bay
This soft play has recently been taken over by new management, and they seem to be making some positive changes. We recently ate there and I was really impressed with the food and the way it was presented (they even put their beans in a separate little pot – perfect for any fussy toddlers) Another really reasonable option with babies under 1 being free. There is a decent sized enclosed baby area with some toys, a two story soft play structure and some nice extra bits like some drive along cars and fancy dress costumes to entertain the small people.
Find out more: The Splat Centre website
Under 1’s – FREE!
Under 3’s – £3.50
3 years and over – £4.50
Newburn Leisure Centre
This soft play is really small, there aren’t any cafe facilities in the soft play area, but if you are looking to kill some time with a toddler it’s a good option. You quite often have the whole place to yourself, if the weather is decent you can team it with a trip to Newburn Park, and it’s another cheap-ish option at only £2.50 per child.
Wyevale Garden Centre, Gosforth
This one is a bit of a hidden gem as there isn’t any information about the soft play on their website, but it is very small so well suited to toddlers. Nearly everything is on one level and you can see the whole play structure from the seating area. Plus the cakes are lush.
Those were my picks for the best soft plays with the least likelihood that your toddler is going to get trampled on. Some other recommendations that I haven’t been to, but have heard recommended for toddlers are:
- The Parks Leisure Centre – North Shields
- Space to Play – Bedlington
- Jelly Bugs within Mothercare – Team Valley
Whilst I want the small space of the internet that I inhabit to be full of positivity, there are a few soft plays that I would give a miss if you are a toddler owner. These are great play spaces if you have older children, but don’t fit the bill for me with little ones.
- Jungle Jack’s in Eldon Square – Great for meet ups with friends as it is so central, but for me the size of the toddler area is far too small for the entry price (over £4 last time I was there) Each time I have been I have had to fight with my toddler not to enter the older kids area, as that is the only place he wants to be.
- Round the Twist – Benton – This place is huge. Probably perfect for older kids who can really explore the soft play, but slightly terrifying on my one visit there when I kept losing sight of my little boy.
What have I missed? Do you know of any great soft play centres to take toddlers to? Do you love or hate soft play? Leave us a comment below.
This was a guest post by Sprog on the Tyne – a brilliant website and resource for parents in and around the North East.
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