Play centres – the good the bad and the ugly

One of my key toddler distraction tools over the last couple of months has been trips out to so called “play centres”. I’m sure you know the places! Filled with mums and dads who are desperate for a break from energetic kids, to have a decent cup of tea/coffee or just a few minutes to catch up with friends. I have visited my fair share, and there really is a big variety. Here is my summary:

  • Pub play centre – as the name suggests, it is attached to a family pub and allows families to enjoy their activities in close proximity. Unfortunately this normally means that the play centre isn’t well looked after and has probably had quite a few beers spilt in it, along with the destruction that mostly unsupervised children cause. Kids are mainly left to run riot whilst parents relax, and it gets worse the later you stay as older children take over. Only positives are that they are normally quite close to where you live, sometimes have good offers on (our nearest one is free after 3pm) and you can have a good meal whilst visiting.
  • Wacky warehouse – technically also a pub play centre as are attached to fayre and square pubs, but a little more upmarket. The brand itself is quite old and so a lot of these play centres need a little updating, but all now serve Costa coffee which means you are guaranteed a good drink! Lots of offers available through the chain, such as free tots entry throughout December with vouchercloud. If you visit during tots club time (before 3pm term time) then there are also art and craft activities provided which is nice and they give you free squash.
  • Warehouse play centre – these are the ones located on random industrial estates where you spend half an hour driving around trying to spot it amongst mechanics shops. They are big, loud and cold but generally have better play equipment due to the space. You will be able to eat anything fried including the classic chicken nugget and chips. The noise and chaos compounds inside these places, but as its so big your kids will get lost inside for hours!
  • Purpose built play centre – these are play centres that think they are better than the others. They have mascots, nice clean buildings, proper cafés inside and charge adults to enter as well as kids because the atmosphere is just that nice. Kids are properly supervised by adults or asked to leave and their parties are the best in town.

These are just a few of the play centres I have visited, and if I can get in for free at some point in the day/week or with a voucher or promotion then I will try any play centre! Why not share below your experience or favourite type?


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