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.
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.
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 www.littlebandme.co.uk