Reviewed by Pamela Wright
Myself and my husband took our 5 children aged 3, 3, 4, 6 and 8 to the soft play at Xscape in Castleford. I hate to admit it but I didn’t even know there was a soft play area in the complex and after speaking to my friends I think I might be one of the few people not to know this!
We got there for 10am, the staff on the reception desk were really cheery and welcoming, they asked for the number of adults/children and then printed out a ticket with 2 adult 5 children on it and asked us to sign it – they then printed a 2nd receipt and told us that this was our exit receipt and to hand it in when we left, they explained that this was in case of a fire drill so they know how many people they have. This is something that has never crossed my mind before until today as at other local soft play areas they only count in people who pay.
As soon as the gate was open all 5 children ran off in front of us cheering and clapping – by the time we had caught up with them there was a pile of shoes/boots/coats dumped near a table and a very frustrated Aimee trying to get her boots off as quickly as she could. We gathered everything together and moved to a table closer to the play area.
The soft play is split into 2 separate areas, 1 for the under 4’s and 1 for the over 4’s, my 3 year old twin girls headed for the over 4’s area but then looked a bit unsure and made a u-turn for the under 4’s area. They played in there for about 10 minutes and when they got used to that they headed back to the over 4’s area. The eldest 3 were quite happy exploring in the over 4’s area.
I spent the first 10-15 minutes walking around looking to see if I could see them all and checking if they were okay, I am not really a huge fan of soft play areas and if you ask any of my friends they will definitely vouch for me. I’ve never had a bad experience so I think it might be purely down to having 5 children to keep an eye on and the fear of me losing one of them or them losing sight of me and panicking. The children all seemed to be having fun so I sat down and got the chance to have a good look around. It’s really bright, colourful and is VERY clean, there are lots of tables and chairs so there are no issues finding somewhere to sit –the seating area is very cleverly laid out in rows so there are aisles to walk up and down rather than weaving around like in other soft plays I have been to in the past which is brilliant for families coming in with buggies. The soft play area its self is quite big and has quite a few levels but because of its clever layout its really easy to spot your children and with it being at the bottom of the room and taking up the whole width of the room the children cannot get out of the venue without having to pass all the seating area – and then after that they wouldn’t get out without being counted and verified with the exit receipt.
Once I had checked everything out and the children were settled I decided to relax and get a drink while the children played – I was really impressed with the café, usually in soft play areas the café looks like an afterthought but here it was just as impressive as the soft play facilities. It was really lovely and immaculate and had lots to choose from. Unfortunately we had eaten already before we came out so we just settled for a black coffee and a bottle of pop, I was quite surprised when I got to the till as it didn’t cost as much as I thought it would have plus the coffee was a decent sized cup.
The children had been playing for about 40 minutes when they came back all red and sweating so I went and got them some juice, I got a jug of blackcurrant cordial which was a bargain £1.60 and we got about 7/8 full tumblers out of it.
After drinking a whole jug of juice you can guess where we ended up within the next 15 minutes, yep the toilets, so we headed for the ladies, they were really clean and tidy, they also had a larger cubicle which had a toilet and a baby changing facility. When I got back I asked my hubby to take our son to the toilet – when he came back he said that there was a baby changing facility in there too.Speaking of babies I also noticed that there were lots of clean/solid looking high chairs and some lovely clean/bright looking baby bouncers too.
I think today may have just changed opinion on soft play areas, before today I would never have imagined going to one out of choice. This soft play is lovely, it’s clean, spacious, reasonably priced and has a good variety of food/drinks. Plus they have a loyalty scheme and special offers – i.e. at weekends the 2nd child gets in for ½ price and children under 18 months are free when attending with an older siblings – I think this is a brilliant idea as soft play areas tend to charge for children who won’t get anything out of it.
The opening times are brilliant too so you could even hold a children’s party after school on your child’s actual birthday rather than waiting until the weekend. My daughter has asked me if she can have her birthday party here in May and I’m seriously considering it – I have had a look at their birthday party package and they look very exciting and competitive.
This is a brilliant soft play area and I’m really glad I was chosen to review it. If I had to be really picky I would say that the only downside was that the items in the café didn’t have any prices on them and you only found out how much things were when you got to the till but that being said I CANNOT fault anything else. Well done.
For more information on prices, opening times or party availability visit www.xploreplay.com/softplay.