As all new mums would know, it's a secret rite of passage to become an expert in the best soft play centres in your local area.
What? You mean, you don't know what I'm talking about? I'll let you in on a few secrets from this strange world, from a Northern Beaches perspective...
I say strange because you'll find yourself meeting your mother's group at the oddest and most hard to find warehouse spaces, often in the middle of a business park, or an industrial area. Is this really where my child's play date is happening?
One of Flip Out's satisfied customers and play centre regular
Once you overcome the unlikelihood of it all, you'll come to relish these well-hidden centres of safely fenced-off fun for your babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers. Most, if not all, have cafť areas for the parents who can't possibly survive the outing without their morning coffee. I've been there, believe me!
Anyway, I love giving a shout out to child-friendly businesses that provide great entertainment for kids and though this list is by no means exhaustive, here are four of the best soft play centres I've come across on the lower Northern Beaches and why I would rate them. What do you think? What have I missed?
Despite the name, I was pleasantly surprised not to find any messy sandpits here at all. Instead, there is an air-conditioned play space that specialises in genuinely challenging climbing and play structures for pre-schoolers needing to burn off their endless energy. Itís a fabulous and reasonably-priced party venue too and there is a comfortable area for parents to sit, while still in eye and ear shot of the kids. While the centre is well hidden inside the complex, the complex itself is very accessible, just off Pittwater Road at North Narrabeen.
Photos courtesy of Sand Bucket Play Centre Facebook page
There is nothing fancy about this warehouse space but for Dee Why/Cromer parents, I recommend it because there is great onsite parking and pram access, itís not overcrowded and itís perfectly manageable for toddlers. The equipment is of low difficulty and the play space is very open and visible to parents from the eating area. Iíd also say itís safe for babies (as there are no kids over 6) but note that it's only open on weekdays unfortunately.
Ok, this one is part of a big chain and it does feel the most 'user-pay' of my recommendations, with entry fees based on time increments. It can also get crowded and itís especially well-hidden but I sometimes say, if you canít beat them, join them. Trampolining centres are all the rage and for active children, they are great places to physically exert themselves and maybe even find a sport they love. For 0-5ís, Iíd recommend the smaller trampoline area is the safest but as they get older kids will be desperate to venture to the larger trampolines and have their next birthday party here, no doubt.
The smaller trampoline area for younger kids is safer and not as busy
Nicely tucked away in the Warriewood Business Park, this is one of the more modern facilities Iíve seen and the play centre is high rather than wide, with a focus on climbing challenges and high slides, best for kids 4 and over, I would say. This is one where the kids really should be able to fend for themselves, (unless you fancy trying to climb up after them!), so the ability to hold their own and manage physically is essential. Itís tremendous fun for them and parents have a comfortable place to sit nearby with coffee and snacks for the kids available at the shop.
Photos courtesy of Cheeky Monkeys Facebook page
There is also a dedicated babies' soft play area, which will help a lot of parents bringing a baby along for a pre-schooler play date. I also canít wait to hold a disco party here for my son. They have rooms upstairs dedicated to this. How fun! This centre is also rated as one of the best soft play centres in Sydney by Rebecca from Mumís Group, so donít just take my word for it.