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.

WRONG.

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!

spidey-dad-son

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.

superhero-father-and-son

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 www.activityvillage.co.uk , 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!

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.

Home education – an alternative to the norm

There are no official figures available to show how many children are currently being home educated in the UK but it is estimated that the number is approximately 80,000 and growing – rapidly each year.

Education for children between the ages of five and 16 is compulsory in the UK, but sending them to school is not. As the figures prove, many parents are deciding to educate their children at home for a variety of reasons and they have a right to do so under UK law. Additionally, families who home educate do not have to follow the National Curriculum as schools do and there is no single correct way laid down as to how to educate your child at home.

In the hectic lifestyle we all seem to lead these days it’s hard to imagine taking on the role of ‘teacher’ for your children, but increasingly parents are seeing many benefits to choosing this route. There is often a particular reason or reasons behind the decision, with some parents deciding on home education some time before their child reaches school age and others taking the decision when they see that school education, or school generally, is not suiting their child. This might be down to all sorts of things, such as a child being bullied, being anxious about aspects of school, finding it hard to fit in, maybe having special needs or simply finding that school does not fit a child’s particular way of learning. Being unhappy or distressed at school can also impact on a child’s behaviour at home to the detriment of family life and impacting on other family members.

Many parents considering home education (HE) therefore feel they are in a better position to cater for their child’s individual needs. Naturally there will be a period of getting used to the fact that mum or dad is now the ‘teacher’ but that aside, along with getting over the fact that the kids are still at home, with a suitable work area and carefully planned and organised timetable, many parent are finding it’s a very successful way to educate their youngsters.

Our research shows, for example, that the ‘one to one’ scenario means they get through a lot of work, while in doing so it frees up time to incorporate other activities, such as attending HE groups to socialise and make friends or doing more outdoor and physical activity time.

Many HE children go on to higher education and we came across numerous examples of those who have been taught at home going on to university, so it can clearly be a very positive and successful way of educating children. The more you delve into it the more intriguing and interesting an option it becomes – as more and more parents are finding out!

‘Team 360 Play’ 50 mile cycle ride raises £3,000 (and counting!) for charities of the year


A team from local family entertainment centre operator 360 Play has raised over £3,000 so far for the company’s four 2016 charities of the year following a successful cycle ride on Sunday, March 20th, as part of the Sport Relief event.

Led by Managing Director Duncan Phillips the team was made up of several members of the head office staff at DP House in Milton Keynes, with the tough 50 mile route beginning and ending at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’s iconic Lee Valley VeloPark, part of the site of the 2012 London Olympic Games.

IMG_2274On a windy and occasionally showery day, the circuit took riders up and down lots of hills around beautiful Essex countryside and along some busy main roads around central London, but everyone completed the task unscathed – apart from a few aches and pains which came on after the event! And the participants were ably supported by a support team, who ensured everyone was well hydrated and provided for with energy boosting food along the way.

Funds raised to date through individual sponsorships total over £1,500 and with 360 Play operating company DP Leisure match donating to the final figure, over £3,000 has been raised so far. The funds will be split between the four 360 Play centres’ charities of the year – Harry’s Rainbow in Milton Keynes, Polly Parrot Children’s Appeal in Basildon, Tracks autism in Stevenage and the Phoenix Children’s Foundation in Leicester – which will all gain valuable support from this event.

IMG_2262“We’ve supported local charities and the wider communities in all the areas in which we operate for many years and the idea to add to this with a cycle ride around this year’s Sports Relief appealed to several of us at head office,” said group sales and marketing manager Billie-Jan Humphries. “It was tough going at times but really worthwhile and the money raised by each member of the team, which is being matched by our operating company DP Leisure, will enable us to provide a real boost to this year’s 360 Play charities of the year.”

IMG_2276IMG_2278IMG_2281The 360 Play team’s efforts also reflect the company’s philosophy for young children. Providing fun activities designed to encourage physical, active, imaginative and creative play is key to the 360 Play concept, enhancing and supporting children’s development. Its centres are packed with a wide range of elements to ensure this is achieved among its young visitors who may one day themselves take part in a Sport Relief event.

Keeping the toddlers entertained during the holidays

It’s amazing how quickly the years go by. The older you get the faster they go but one of the most unbelievably quick periods of adult life is without doubt your children’s younger years. If you have young kids now, in a few years’ time you’ll look back and think ‘where on earth did those first few years go.’ Having been there we know – it’s quite scary!

The period when kids are toddlers up to when they start school is a special time. Yes, it’s hard work as you never seem to get a break all day, every day, but it’s a fabulous time for doing whatever you like with them, be it planned or spur of the moment, while at the same time watching them develop and learn every day as they take in so many new sights, sounds and experiences.

At this age the school holidays obviously don’t mean that much (unless you’ve got older siblings too of course), but even when you’ve just got toddlers to entertain things can still be impacted upon, with clubs and other activities closing for a week or two, prices for lots of things rising and everywhere getting much busier.

So what can you get up to with your youngsters?

The chances are pre-schoolers will be up and about pretty early so why not take advantage of this and visit places earlier in the day when they won’t be so busy? Play centres such as 360 Play are quieter early on – and we also offer breakfast if you fancy a hearty start to the day – while swimming pools will more than likely be quieter at this time too and therefore much more suitable for the very young.

The park is always a great place to go, weather permitting, while the same can be said of going for a walk somewhere nice. You can try smelling different flowers, search for insects, do some bird spotting and just take in the fresh air.

And of course mums and dads can simply enjoy a time when there’s no real agenda or timescales involved, no rush to get the kids somewhere or to pick them up from a club or similar. It won’t be long before you are having to do all that – the many years of being a taxi driver – so make the most of the early years now, because for sure they’ll be gone quicker than you think.

Coffee time and play time rolled into one

It’s not easy when you’ve got little ones to find places to go for a coffee and a chat with friends. At best the youngsters might sit still for five or ten minutes if they have a drink and a snack to keep them occupied, but if they get noisy or throw a tantrum in a restaurant or a coffee shop it can become decidedly awkward and uncomfortable for parents.
Of course we can’t expect the under four or fives to stay still for long – it’s not in our nature at that age – but most parents of pre-school or slightly older children don’t want to spend every day on their own at home. They want to get out and continue doing things like meeting friends for a coffee or at least go somewhere where they can meet and talk to others in the same position.
A current trend in some towns and cities are play cafés where coffee shops also incorporate small play areas for very young children with toys and perhaps some soft play items to keep them busy while mums and dads enjoy a drink and maybe food too. But in addition to such places, a good quality play centre such as 360 Play can also offer some respite for parents and a genuinely comfortable place to meet up with friends with a place for the kids to play nearby.
We’ve carefully studied and researched all areas of play centre operation over the years and not surprisingly, as is apparent in the design of all our centres, mums and dads want to take their children to a warm, safe, clean environment which offers comfortable places to sit while the youngsters play. They also want a good cup of coffee and decent food, both for them and their kids, something else we have always provided.
Okay, 360 Play isn’t your high street coffee shop, but we have an F&B offering in all our centres that matches or betters many such outlets and provides a great alternative if you are looking for somewhere with a pleasant environment that will give you and your friends the coffee and chat experience you want, while at the same time letting the children use up some energy.
It’s hard enough as a mum or dad with young kids and it’s important you get out and mix with friends and peers. So if you haven’t already, give us –and our brilliant baristas – a try when you and your friends next arrange to meet for a coffee. You won’t regret it!