6 January 2023
One of the best ways to amuse the kids for an hour or two is to take them to a soft play area. They will happily spend hours traversing the obstacles and playing in ball pits, usually surrounded by other children. This may not sound like the most fun from an adult perspective, so why is it that children love soft play areas so much?
As anyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s watching Funhouse, which was presented by the man with the best mullet on television will know, soft play areas are full of adventure. This chimes with children’s innate curiosity and almost relentless desire to explore their immediate environment.
Visiting a soft play will be an excellent learning experience for them as they interact with different textures like rope clamber nets, wooden ladders, smooth plastic ball pit balls and soft foam.
Children use all of their senses to learn, and touch shouldn’t be neglected. In negotiating soft play areas they will also learn about spatial awareness so that they can begin to understand where they can and can’t fit.
Soft play areas are brightly coloured for a reason, children in particular are attracted to bright, primary colours that may seem over the top to us when we are adults. Children are attracted to these colours as their eyes have not finished developing yet, so they are not as well able to perceive duller shades and colour palettes and they gravitate to the colours that stand out to them.
Children often enjoy the company of other children, and being exposed to the kind of environment that is present at a soft play area can also help with their socialisation. This early exposure to other children also helps to stimulate the beginning of an understanding of concepts like sharing with others and that the world doesn’t revolve around their desires.
Many children are very sociable and outgoing by nature and will enjoy this time spent relatively free from hands-on parental supervision and restriction. The ability to run as a pack with the other children and to forge their own relationships outside of their family group can feel very fun and freeing.
The illusion of being free from parental control but at the same time being able to seek parental comfort and company if required can help to enhance their confidence in playing on their own or with others. They know they are safe as a parental figure is relatively close but they are getting to direct their own play and do the things that interest them the most.
It really isn’t hard to see what children like about soft play areas, it is the best of both worlds really from the children’s perspective. They get the benefits of being with their parents but an enhanced level of freedom because of the relative safety of the soft play area, in comparison to the harsh concrete and tarmac environments encountered in everyday life. In some cases they will make new friends and even get something nice to eat and drink while they are there.