If we have visitors with us for the weekend we tend to warn them of the upcoming experience. For those who have never been to one before, I often watch them in the rear-view mirror on the journey home. They look almost traumatised. A shadow of their former self.
So here are my 'heads up' tips for those of you who have yet to spend a good few hours at a soft play.
1. You can't wear ear defenders, but you'll wish you could.
2. Yes those children are totally high. They have been pumped full of the pink or blue slushy drink you yourself used to gulp down as a child. A drink that you now look on with utter mistrust.
3. You should definitely drink some of that pink or blue slushy stuff. You will need it.
4. If your child runs at you soaking wet, take a minute to consider if he/she is usually a Sweaty Betty. Otherwise consider that they may have accidentally climbed into a pool of another child's wee before you make contact. ..... think it doesn't happen... think again my soft play newbie friend!
5. Don't touch another child. I'm serious. If one comes at you wailing and crying because they can't find their parent, resist the urge to lift them up to help. It sounds harsh but you will become patient zero in the subsequent weeks of temperatures and sniffles that will follow in your household after touching said unknown snot child if you don't follow this advice.
6. Wear a belt. Bum cleavage is likely and unsightly.
7. Layers; you will sweat and you will freeze. It is indeed an ever changing alien climate.
8. If you put money into the Peppa Pig car prepare to be mobbed as children swarm like honeybees, thereby knocking your child out of the very ride you just paid for them to enjoy.
9. Don't hold your child's hand down the side-by-side slide. The laws of physics, gravity, friction or whatever will state that neither you or your child will travel at the same speed. Inevitably you will accidentally pull their arm out of their shoulder socket because you're either travelling too fast or your sweaty bottom gets stuck and slows you down.
10. Yes, you are too big to fit through those rollers. Yes, you will get stuck.
11. Equally, the same will happen if you attempt to get into that Little Tikes car.
12. If you're the lucky parent who doesn't get dragged around, don't rest easy. Your job is to act like a sniper. You may sit, but you must visually hunt, locate, track and wave. Your job is to wave. Don't forget it.
13. Antibacterial gel for your hands. More than once. About a hundred times.
14. If there is a free sofa don't be polite about it. Run. Run like the wind towards it and launch your entire body onto it before some other desperate adult does the same.
15. You may order a hot coffee, but you certainly won't get to drink a hot coffee.