I’m not normally a soft play goer (other than birthday parties) so when we had a play date set at one I was a bit worried.
It’s not the intricate climbing structures that scare me (though I know I’ll inevitably be called on to climb into it and somehow get stuck), but the cost – £4 for 2 hours! Ridiculous! (Especially since it’s not for peace and quiet. It’s actually for crazy over-excited nonsense where they go crazy part-way through due to sugar overload and tiredness).
It’s not exorbitant or anything but I’m cheap. No doubt about it I prefer free than having to pay. And its not really just the entry fee that I mind, it’s all the costs associated with going to soft play. Inevitably you’ll need to eat, and it normally adds up to a small fortune! You’re effectively a hostage to their menu.
But, on this day I swallowed my skepticism about soft play and made the plunge.
We’d been to Jungle in the City before when the lady was about one. She was too small for the big climbing frame so we played in the ball pit – which she wasn’t so keen on. But this time, with the help of her friend, she enjoyed a play on the big climbing frame (without asking mummy to get lodged into a tight space! Hooray).
Overall, the place is a bit run down and needs some TLC. You know, knackered mats, duct tape keeping things up, holes in walls, books with torn pages, walkers and toys with broken bits and sticky parts, ripped and torn dressing up clothes, sort of clean toilets and somewhat surly staff. Not ideal. But, the climbing frame does look sound.
Listen, I know plenty of parents who swear by the place so maybe I’m just too picky. (Or not).
So what about the food you’re wondering. Well, it’s actually great value for money place (if you get the meal deal mid-week). Their meal deal entry includes all day play and a meal bag (sandwich or soup, yoghurt, raisins, crisps and apple juice), all for under £5. Reasonable as anything. It’s the perfect size for little fingers and since you have all day play, they can eat and play and then come back for more at any time.
Okay, it’s not gourmet, and it’s not really the healthiest place in the world. They have the usual. You know, sandwiches, soup, baked potatoes, etc. But it’s all mostly butter, mayonnaise and cheese laden (which I love but I know is really not bad for your health – and I can’t really say anything since I had the chilli nacho bowl while I was there … v bad for you but oh so yummy!)
And as for snacks, not much other than baby chocolates and cakes. (I’m being unfair, they have fruit and raisins – but the lady doesn’t eat them so I tend to overlook them). I would have liked for them to have more healthy snacks available for us parents with less enthusiastic eaters. You know, rice cakes, fruit pouches, fruit nuggets or the like. Stuff that’s processed but at least pretends to be healthy.
My verdict – It wasn’t as bad as I imagined but could have been better. Not glowing and not scathing either.
Would I go back? Well, I went back the weekend after our play date, but I’m not sure I’d go all that often from now on. I’ve been to a few soft play centres in the south side that were cleaner, had better snacks and the staff were a bit nicer. So if I want to go anywhere I think I’ll travel the distance for a better experience for both the lady and myself. Saying that, if I’m meeting a local mum without a car, I’ll make an appearance.
Do you frequent Jungle in the City? What’s your take on the place?