Boost your child’s self confidence at your local soft play centre

Guest Blog by Little B and Me

Soft Play is a place some parents take their children to let off all that excess energy while they get to have some time to enjoy a coffee or cake. Maybe even both sometimes! It’s far too easy to forget that soft play can provide so much more for children; whilst it can be used to let off steam it can also be a fantastic tool to boost a child’s self confidence.


Let’s start with independence; soft play is a fantastic and most importantly safe place to boost your child’s independence.

Soft play offers a safe and open environment where a child can run around completely carefree.

Its bright & interesting colours, hidden places, slides and wacky stairs make a tempting sight to children, somewhere that entices exploring and is welcoming to a child’s eyes.

Their independence may not increase straight away but with a few visits to the same soft play a marked difference in your child will be noticeable. Don’t push them; let them work at their own pace. Enjoy the time when they want you to run around and play with them! Too soon it will be gone.

My son’s independence took off on a recent trip to 360 Play in Stevenage, he went from a boy who begged me to follow him everywhere & cried if I didn’t, to a boy who wanted to try new things & cried if I dared to follow him around! This was all in one soft play trip.

Social Skills

Next up, social skills. This isn’t such an issue for children of school age but toddlers like my son sometimes find it difficult to find other children their own age to socialise with, especially ones that are into the similar things.

This is where soft play can come in exceptionally handy. Depending on what time you go you’ll figure out the type of age group that will be there, we usually head over around 11am & it’s all toddlers! Perfect for my son to interact with. Time is how you will gauge what age range will be in there.

You will tend to notice that when another child see’s a child their own age playing with something they tend to be drawn to it, this in turn usually means they will interact in one way or another. Age dependent this could be talking, sharing or making up games. My son, for instance, quietly engages & shares with other children at the ball vacuum at our local 360 Play.

Remember, ‘social skills’ doesn’t mean just talking so YES your baby could thrive at soft play as well!


Now for experimentation. Some children are less open to trying new things or experimenting with things that they can already do. Being in a situation where they see plenty of other children doing different things encourage them to try.

For instance, my son flat out refuses to go on slides; however once he has seen a few children happily going on the slides he is far more open to trying it.

You would be surprised of exactly how much of a boost it is for your child to see another child doing something they are hesitant of trying or have never thought about trying before. Even as an adult, we are more tempted to do something if we see someone else doing it.

We are exceptionally lucky to have such an amazing local soft play, 360 is where my boy plucked up the courage to try out new things. He now has a huge love of carousels; unfortunately I don’t share the love due to a balance problem.

Make sure to be aware though this may not always be a good thing, my son has watched other children walk up slides & now he tries it. Be aware of this fact and let your child know when the thing they are doing isn’t a good idea.

Problem Solving

Last but certainly not least, problem solving. Lots of soft play venues have activities dotted around that have a problem solving element to them or indeed you could make your own situation up for your child.

Being able to solve something all by yourself is a huge confidence boost, it gives you hope & belief in yourself. Imagine how much of a boost that will be for your child.

At my local 360 play there are lots of problem solving activities to take part in. If you don’t have a soft play that offers problem solving activities I recommend making your own up.

For instance, tell your child that they need to get a ball from the top of the play frame all the way to the bottom without using their hands.

There are a few ways they can complete this task, it’s fun for them to decide which one suit them best & it’s a fabulous boost for them when they solve the problem you’ve given them.

Whichever problem you choose let your child solve it on their own, advise them along the way if they need it but when they realise they solved the problem alone it will be a huge boost to their self confidence.

Little B and Me was inspired to write this blog after a visit to 360 Play and we are really proud to be mentioned. We hope you enjoyed reading it. You can find more great parenting blogs over on the Little B and Me website

Deadbeat Dad and Promises of Bogey Burgers

When I promised my son a bogey burger, I thought there was an understanding that I neither have the sufficient stock of bogies to actually make the burger and that even if I did I would not actually give it to him.

So when he and his friend came for their much planned dinner (which seemed to require the type of cross-parental co-ordination normally reserved for an SAS mission), they were presented with chicken nuggets rather than the much vaunted green patties and as soon as I placed that beige feast in front of them, I could see their faces melt into disappointment as they looked on their feast a little like you’d view a pair of socks unwrapped on Christmas morning (useful but ultimately not what the gig is about).

‘Look, guys, bogey burgers, they’re not real,’ I said, covering my back.

Like being on the end of an argument you’re never going to win, the response came….


Instant crushing guilt!

What made me make a promise to one so young and then so wilfully break it without missing a heartbeat? Am I becoming another lazy deadbeat dad that all of those Hollywood films have told me not to be? (Okay, let’s glaze over the fact that it was chicken nuggets for dinner and not hand reared avocado, free range broccoli and Greenpeace endorsed chicken breast).

It made me think about what we promise and what we deliver for our children. A passing word here, a phrase there, it might seem fleeting, but words stick and actions (or lack of them) are remembered.  I still recall being promised a fishing trip with my dad; the chance to play with the fantasy fishing rods I’d long admired in the pages of the Argos catalogue. It was a small promise, nothing major, just a few words said in passing and quickly forgotten – but one that was never fulfilled (I know, I need to get over it thirty years on).

The promise to my boy was easy to fix. Baked avocado on the next dinner menu (the better choice vs my initial idea of green iced burger) and chocks away, one happy kid (not that he ate it of course – he was never going to).

But what is a promise between a parent and child? When does it become a bond, a bind between two people? Should it be that a promise only counts when that child reaches the age of 18 and can understand the full weight of what a promise means?  Surely promising a bogey burger doesn’t count as a real promise?  Or does it? A child’s understanding differs wildly from that of the fully evolved version of the species, so who knows what weird logic goes through those little heads. Besides, I’m constantly let down by own child’s promises to me (he promised not to come into my bed in the night and steal the duvet  being the latest), so is it not fair that this is returned?

Sadly not, a promise in this arena is sacred because it is the first steps in teaching trust. Sure, a promise missed here or there can be explained away or usually resolved with a touch of green icing, but be careful how many you break, particularly if you want them to believe in your word. Next time I will be a little more careful in my language, replacing ‘promise’ with ‘we’ll do our best’ (surely the motto for any parent). And as a final thought, avoid bogey burgers this Halloween; there are easier and tastier gruesome food tips!


Being 5

Your 5 year old, no longer the tiny demanding baby, past the terrible toddler 2’s AND 3’s and yet still not the capable child who welcomes independence, brushes off kisses and demands that you let them go out to play alone. Why is being 5 years old so massive?

The year our little people turn 5 is a huge milestone and not only for them. For us parents it sparks the change of everything that we were just beginning to get our heads around.

We have nourished, loved, taught, trained, nursed and held close these small beings through every aspect. We have sheltered them and watched as they learn practically everything about being human, but now, in their fifth year, we hold back the tears as we watch their tiny legs carry them off to school.

This is SCHOOL, where they will be with another adult for longer than you in any given day. Where we no longer decide what they get up to for a fair chunk of the day.

‘Let them go, be off with you’ said no parent ever.

So off they go, they are 5 (or going to be very soon). ‘I am 5’ says every child proudly, holding up their entire hand, all digits raised. It really is something special and here is why.

  • Independence
  • Capability
  • Responsibility
  • Growth
  • Understanding
  • Emotions

Inside such small little bodies, still with baby hair and speech too big for their mouths, they have an ever developing brain. Major changes are occurring. During the last few years, being a toddler, they have learnt about the world they live in, explored how things might work, had a go at controlling some of their emotions, grasped the majority of their basic language and even begun basic maths and English.

MY sweet boy, good as gold, was four. He followed the rules, hated me being upset with his behaviour, was polite and also held my hand and cuddled me A LOT!

BANG! He is off to school, he is 5! He is learning and making his own independent choices…………. And boy don’t we know it.

He has:

  • made ‘friends’ with EVERY child
  • learnt delightful knew ‘noises’ from said friends. The most pleasant of which is to imitate a foghorn for long periods of time (usually in the middle of the doctor’s waiting room)
  • kindly brought me TWO PE tops home in his bag
  • crammed an entire box of used tissues into a zipped school fleece (discovered AFTER a wash)
  • skinned 3 holes in 2 pairs of trousers, in 2 days
  • fallen over EVERY week in the playground, resulting in a ‘yellow card’ implying I must attend to the teacher for the details

Being 5 means:

I have to leave my parents, walk away by myself, sit on my own, listen carefully, be kind to other children, control my emotions, stop my lip wobbling when I am scared, hold it together, be brave, follow orders, follow the rules, know how it all works.

Being 5 means: I have time to think without my parents, time to decide alone, people to choose from, decisions to make, games to create, space for my own things, belongings to take care of, ideas to share and wonderful experiences to tell…..

And then I get to go home, still cuddle my Mum and Dad, still kiss them 1 million times before bedtime, still eat my dinner with my fingers and let Mum stroke my hair in bed. Mum and Dad can still sing me my favourite song to help me sleep and I can snuggle with my comforter. That is all ok because I am 5!

Just 5

Why would I want to visit a play centre at the end of a long, tiring day? By a 360 Play mum of two.

Last week I found myself asking this exact question as my boys, who are 8 and 5, begged to go to 360 Play. I work during the time that my children are at school and after getting up before the sparrows, making lunches, putting washing out and on, dressing us, dispatching them to school and then doing a day’s work, by the time I collect the boys from school, I am just about done in.

A trip to the park, a play date maybe, but a play centre….way too much effort for a weekday!

However, as my children are some of the nation’s best negotiators, they wore me down and it was off to 360 Play for us straight from school on a Wednesday afternoon.

The resulting two hours really surprised me and so I give you my top 5 reasons why after school play centre visits are actually the best thing since school re-started and the nights began to draw in.

1 – It was amazingly quiet.

Far from being the flurry of cheers, cries and general noise I was expecting, 360 Play had a really nice atmosphere and it wasn’t extraordinarily busy either. Clearly I am not the only one avoiding the place at this time.

2 – I didn’t think of anything but my children.

We are all guilty of it but when I am at home I am busying myself with the list of tasks beset on us as mothers and mostly ‘ignoring’ my children. Being at 360 Play I was able to take off my shoes and go and play with the boys for some quality time together.

Simple and joyful and they absolutely loved having my undivided attention.

3 – I got to have a coffee and… sit!

Yep sitting! That long forgotten art of being still with your feet up.  Surprisingly they serve barista style delicious coffee too.

4 – Dinner got done and dusted, and I didn’t have to make it or clean it up.

The reasonably priced (and apparently fairly revamped) menu lured me into buying dinner for the boys. It came, it was lovely, the friendly staff took it away and washed it up and by the time I left a massive day’s task for me was taken care of.

5 – Tired children.

The very best moment was when bed time came they were full up on healthy food, full up on mummy attention and unbelievably tired! I didn’t even get a ‘mum I’m thirsty’ call.

Time to buy an annual pass!

Travelling With Children

Entertaining car journeys without reaching for the electronics!


This summer you are likely to be in your car with your children for lengthy periods of time, going off on a summer holiday or day trip, possibly to a great play centre called 360 Play?

However being ‘non tech’ play advocates, we think hiding the iPad and using the time in the car to play is a great for the whole family and creates wonderful memories. For me I remember singing songs with my family and laughing at my dad getting all the words wrong!

We entertain children all the time at 360 Play, and so we have put together our top 5 tips for ‘in car entertainment’ to stave off cries of ‘are we there yet’ and stop the need to referee sibling squabbles (for some of the time).

1. Name game

Go around clockwise in the car saying ‘My name is (insert your name) and I am going to a party and I am going to take (insert any object beginning with the same letter as your name) For example: My name is Ben and I am going to a party and I am going to take a Balloon. Then the next person has to remember your thing and add their own and it keeps building up. Great as a memory trainer!!

2. Campfire singing

One person takes the lead and says or sings random phrases and the other passengers have to repeat. You can change it up a bit by changing how quietly, loudly, stupidly, in a funny accent, we can sing.

Here are some of our favourite phrases: ‘Flea’…. ‘Combanna combanna combanna bista’…. ‘eddiebeedie esta berry you are the wonka berry’.

3. Story building

Each passenger takes turns in making up a line of the story, building it up to a full (normally crazy) tale. This is wonderful for building literacy skills as well!

4. Mime

Each person takes turns in miming something and the other passengers have to guess what they are doing (like charades). Eating an apple, brushing your hair or applying suntan lotion are good starting points.

5. Number plate bingo

Each pick a letter and if you spot a number plate with that letter in it you get a point. 1st traveller to 50 points wins. This will involve some score keeping.

Car journeys needn’t be boring!

It’s a great time for conversation and family fun!

The superhuman skills dads really need

You’re a dad, your job’s pretty straight forward right? Fix stuff that’s broken, hug little people that are broken and show off your muscles when opening the lemonade bottle! Done deal.


When it comes to being a father in the true sense of the term, there are so many skills that dads really need.

Some days you need to be superhuman so here are the superhero skills you should master to ensure you are the best dad for your little ones.

Go Batman on healthy eating
Superhuman Detective Skills and superhuman strength of will 

These are exactly the skills you will need when trying to get your batboys and batgirls to (def)eat the universal baddie Dr Cabbage!

Here are some secret weapons for your amour:

  • Chop vegetables into minuscule pieces and hide it
  • Make it into a dinosaur shape
  • Pretend it is the best thing you have ever tasted
  • Keep adding veg to the plate everyday, even if it’s rejected. Exposure is a good thing.
  • Explain it makes them run faster/ jump higher or look cooler

Never negotiate! Never plead, beg or cry. Weakness has no place in Batman or at the dinner table!


Go Ironman on creative projects 
Tony Stark is a genius and he invents sophisticated devices, plus he has a keen business mind!

Stand by your cereal boxes! Kids will ask you to make the most weird and wonderful things. ‘What’s that, World? Sorry I can’t help I am building Sodor Island!’

From stick ‘lightsabers’ to blanket dens, without question dads are expected to be able to make things and find their inner Tony Stark.

Go Antman on sleeping
Ant-Man had the power to shrink himself (and other people and objects along with himself) to the size of an ant and return to normal.

Men aren’t world renowned for their ability to wake up during the night when the kids are up. In fact, dads usually sleep through even the noisiest midnight tantrums (even those from mum)

Inevitably you will share your bed with a little starfish, who insists on taking up half the bed and probably a partner who is too shattered to fight them back into their caves.

Your job in this situation is to shrink small enough to make sure everyone gets a good night’s rest. Here’s how to manage this Antman style

  • Sleep on your side, facing away from the starfish (less chance of arms or legs catching valuable parts of you)
  • Place your hand in front of you to stop ‘tipage’
  • Stick out your legs a little, creating yourself a V style formation and thus gaining valuable inches on your side of the bed.
  • Never complain!
  • Never ever complain (worth mentioning twice)
  • If all else fails, shrink super small, secretly slide out of bed and go and sleep in the child’s bed. This act alone will gain you massive mummy points! Everyone’s a winner.


Go Captain America on competition
Captain America has agility, strength, speed, endurance, and reaction time superior to any Olympic athlete.

Be it the dads race on sports day, or teaching some football skills to your little ones friends, dads are known to be slightly competitive (it’s true and yet they hide it so well, really…).

Kids love it when dad shows his skills. They love it even more when dad teaches them those skills.

Take some time to literally pass on your knowledge of all things physical, race with them (let them win sometimes too!) and play.

And finally … Go Thor on the morning after
Thor possesses physical powers, immunity to conventional diseases, enhanced endurance (Thor’s Asgardian metabolism is far greater than a human and  superhuman strength.

We’ve all been there, well most of us anyway. You’ve enjoyed a rare night out while someone else looks after the kids for the evening and because it’s a relatively rare occasion, you may well have ‘gone for it’ and had one or two (or more) too many Asgardian ales.

Come the following morning, though, you need to be back in the ‘dad zone,’ although it probably feels more like the ‘dead zone.’

Here’s how to attack this:

  • TV is your wing man.
  • Train tracks are your distracter.
  • Snuggly book time (you read to me sweetheart) is your saviour
  • Bacon is your friend!

To all dads, no matter what child related challenges await you, have a fun filled time with your little ones this Father’s Day.

Happy Father’s Day

Watching football when you have children!

The Euro’s are here!  Football fans across the country will be settling down tonight to watch the first game – France v. Romania, but of course for us Brits the real interest starts on Saturday evening with England v. Russia and Wales v. Slovakia.

As a parent, being able to actually sit down and enjoy a game for the full 90 minutes may seem impossible. Actually, being able to sit down for 90 minutes period seems impossible, but I digress…

So from the experts in children’s play, 360 play give you:

5 top tips for watching Euro 2016 with young children.

1 – Keep them in the room!

Anything that keeps them in the same space as you means you don’t have to keep moving to check on them! We think bowls of snacks, train tracks to build and artwork to doodle should do the trick!

2- Get Active

Before the game and at half time, take your mini’s into the back garden and have a kick around, pretending to be Rooney or Harry Kane makes it even more fun!

3 – Blanket snuggles

Watching evening football games with children means they are more tired and irritable, so snuggle them under a blanket and use the quiet time to explain the rules of the game you’re watching (and hopefully they will fall asleep next to you – two birds, one stone)

4 – Board games

Get out a game that you can play and keep an eye on the TV. We recommend Monopoly, snakes and ladders or a jigsaw puzzle.

5 – Let them eat cake!

Cakes with icing in the colours of different teams might be fun and again would be something everyone can get involved with, making them on a Saturday afternoon and enjoying hem through the game.

With older children you can make two cakes, one for each team playing. Then they can have a small piece of the cake when that teams scores. They’ll soon be cheering them on! (Just make sure you monitor what a ‘small piece means’ for some unknown reason, kids don’t seem to understand this!)

There are, of course, a host of ideas to be had via the internet and one site we particularly like is , a fabulous website for kids with lots of great ideas. Among their free items are a host of colouring printables, many of which are football related, so the children can get into the football mood.

However you plan to ‘tackle’ Euro 2016, we hope you have a ball!

Should you let your child walk to school?

Does your young child walk to primary school? Or do you take them in the car, day in, day out, even if the school is only a short distance away from home?

It’s a subject that is regularly discussed and we heard an item on the radio recently which looked at why so few primary school children these days walk to school. There were arguments for and against, but to be honest, those against were not that convincing.

The overwhelming reason parents don’t let their young children walk to and from school is one of safety, be it a fear of them being abducted or involved in a road accident. Yet statistics show that there is very little chance of this happening. Of course, any such incident is tragic but because it is so rare, if it does happen, it makes headline news and naturally makes us all think twice. After all, we’re only human.

Walk-to-school campaigners believe that half the parents driving their children to primary schools live under a mile away from their destination. Now to be brutally honest, that’s just ridiculous! Okay, there are no doubt some days when taking the car is necessary – maybe it’s pouring down or your little one has something quite heavy or bulky to take in or perhaps even an injury of some kind which necessitates the use of the car – but on most occasions walking would be quite possible.

Of course, very young children can’t be expected to walk to school on their own so mum or dad will obviously have to go with them. But when they are eight or nine, and having hopefully learnt the rules of the road by then, they should be perfectly fine to go with friends or a friend. This will allow them time to socialise while also giving them some of the vital physical activity they need for a healthier life style – something we fully support at 360 Play and which is reflected in the physical activities we provide in our centres. And it will have the added benefit of ensuring that when they arrive each morning they are refreshed, alert and ready for a day’s learning.

There are a variety of associated negatives too about driving just a short distance to school – the chaos at the school gate, the good chance that you’ll have to park a distance away and walk anyway and the fact that such short journeys are quite literally bad for your vehicle.

There is a tendency to give children much less credit than we should for what they are capable of and these days we seem to mollycoddle them a lot more than in previous generations. So why not change that, teach them the safe way to walk to school and when they are ready, let them be on their way!

180 days of 360 Play in Basildon

To celebrate 180 days of successful trading in Basildon, we would like to say thank you to our local customers, who have visited us so far this year, with this great limited offer.

Be there in person on Sunday 22nd May to receive one of the 50 available annual play passes at 50% off the original price.

An Annual Play Pass gives you all this:

  • UNLIMITED Play time! – Unlike our competitors, our valued customers can visit when they like for however long they like!
  • Up to 50% Discount on special events
  • Play Pass member goes free to their birthday party
  • 4  free guest passes to bring a friend

To claim this offer you need to go to the Basildon centre and register on 22nd May. Be early because this offer will not hang around for long!

Only 50 Play Passes are available ay 50% off the original price, at 360 Play Basildon.

Terms and Conditions:

  • This sale is based on a first come, first served basis and 360 Play reserves the right to close the sale at anytime.
  • Customers must come to the 360 Play Basildon centre to claim the offer.
  • This offer can only be purchased at 360 Play Basildon. However annual passes can be used at all four 360 play centres in Milton Keynes, Stevenage, Leicester and Basildon.
  • All usual annual pass terms and conditons apply.



Why do we need competitive sport?

The subjects we debate from day to day are many and varied but one that often rears its head in relation to young children is that of competition in schools and in particular of late, competitive sports.

Participating in sports activities in school is clearly a positive thing from a health point of view and most children are naturally competitive; it’s human nature to want to do well and hopefully win at whatever it is you are doing. The majority of children love running around and playing sports – and competing – but there are, of course, youngsters who just aren’t that way inclined and have no real interest in taking part in sports.

But life itself is competitive so like it or not children do need to learn about competing and how it feels to win and lose. Being involved in sport is one way of doing so, but for those who aren’t athletically minded maybe schools should offer some form of competition in other areas too. Activities like spelling bees, maths rallies, art events and ‘best dressed’ at the school disco all offer alternative forms of competition away from sports that still teach children about the competitive side of life and allow those who are less athletic to shine in other ways.

Competitive sport in particular, though, is a great way of encouraging kids to compete against themselves to be the best they can and work towards personal goals. As well as being good for your health, if it’s taught in the right way sport in school encourages youngsters to continue to be active all their lives. And just because a child isn’t good at one sport it doesn’t mean to say they won’t be good at another, so the chances are everyone can be included and can find a sporting activity they have a chance of being okay at and enjoy.

Competition is inherent in sports. If you have two teams going up against each other then the whole point of the exercise (pardon the pun!) is to try and win. Okay, it’s meant to be fun too, but both teams will want to win. But at least when children are involved as part of a team, if they are on the losing side, then any disappointment is shared which, certainly for the very young, has to be a good way of learning how to cope with such a situation and how to support one another.

Competitive sports also allow those children who may not do so well academically to achieve elsewhere. This is a key point as no matter how much some children try in class, it may be that for whatever reasons, they just aren’t good on that side of things. Doing well at a sport and being rewarded for it by doing well or actually winning shows them another side to themselves.

Today’s modern life can be tough and the world is a very competitive place. It can only make sense that children learn about success and failure from a young age as we all have to deal with both at some point. Competitive sports and other activities in school is one way of doing so.