Soft play centres - my boys seem to keep getting into trouble

(177 Posts)
mandbaby Mon 16-Jun-14 09:58:14

We have a local soft play centre which my two boys (4.7 and 2.11) adore. However, I hate it because nearly every time we go, I seem to have to warn them about their behaviour towards others.

Now, I'm of the opinion that we all take our children to these sorts of places so that they can let off steam and burn some energy, and I expect there to be rough play and for the odd, accidental bump to occur. But it seems some parents go over the top and I end up leaving before some mothers get out the stakes and pitchforks and light bonfires ready to throw my children on top of them.

Yesterday was no exception. It started off with my boys being the victims of an older, bigger boy (aged 8). My hubby overheard this boy saying he was going to "karate kick" our 4 year old in the face. Moments later, he did. shock My hubby had a word with the boy and that was enough for him to stay away from our boys. (His own mum appeared to be studying for something and had her nose so deep in a thick text book that her son could've committed murder and she wouldn't have noticed).

However, half an hour later and my boys were dominating those wrecking ball type things (big balls that you sit on and they run on rails from one area to another). A very small boy (aged 2ish) was in there and unfortunately found himself getting knocked down a few times by the balls that my sons were on. My hubby told them to calm down and be careful of the boy, but before we knew it, the young boys mother was there yelling and actually crying, before going to a member of staff saying her son was being "bullied" by our 2 boys. Now, I'm sorry, but whilst my boys weren't being angels, boys will be boys right? And if you leave your 2 year old son to go unattended in a rough play centre, don't you expect that he's going to get knocked about a bit? Hubby and I were both watching our boys every move and would NEVER let our boys get violent or angry and the moment they go over the top, we remove them and have them sit with us for 5 minute to calm down.

What bothers me more than anything though, is that something of this nature seems to happen every time we go. It really stresses me out because my boys must appear to some parents like really horrible children, and they're not! They're just boisterous boys letting off steam.

How do you deal with your kids when "rough-housing" becomes over the top behaviour? Where do you draw the line?

Cheryllou Mon 16-Jun-14 10:51:17

I don't have boys but would be furious if 'boys being boys' hurt my own children...

I think you sound like you're doing all you can though - maybe make it very clear from the word go what is and what isn't acceptable, then if they break that rule once, make them take a time out for 10 minutes. If they do it again, take them home.

Or just don't go to soft play centres...they are havens of germs anyway!

fledermaus Mon 16-Jun-14 10:56:40

It's a soft play centre, not a rough play centre - why on earth do you expect there to be rough play???

I have a 4 year old boy and he goes to soft play to climb, run, slide - not to "rough house" or be knocked over or get hurt!

Sounds like your attitude is the problem and you're raising your children to be rough/aggressive not "boisterous".

TheAbominableWoman Mon 16-Jun-14 11:02:55

It's not the 2 year olds responsibility not to get knocked down repeatedly by your 'boisterous' children. It's your responsibility to make sure your children know how to play with consideration towards others. When they'd knocked him down once, you should have removed them, not let it keep happening. If that had been my 2 yr old, if have been preparing my pitchfork too bit I don't go to soft play places because of parents like you.

Artandco Mon 16-Jun-14 11:08:28

Sorry I would be pissed off also if yours did that. Mine are 3 and 4 and know they have to watch out for others in places like that, not hurt people, and share. I would take mine home after a warning not just 5 mins time out

We never go to these places as mine end up in tears half
The time due to other kids rough play

mandbaby Mon 16-Jun-14 11:17:52

I think you've totally missed the point! I don't raise my boys to be boisterous AT ALL, but by the very nature of their gender, they're likely to be. If my son slides down a slide and accidentally knock a 2 year old over who's stood at the bottom of the slide, or worse still, climbing up the slide, whose fault is that? I would say it definintely isn't my son's fault.

Perhaps "rough-housing" was the wrong word to choose. But I do accept that at a soft play centre there is likely to be rough and tumble (hell, the place is even called that!). But if I don't ever want my sons to get hurt, I'll wrap them up in cotton wool and keep them away from germ-ridden places. wink I certainly wont go yelling at any other child who accidentally gets a bit too excited and goes running past and accidentally knocks my child flying. Accidents happen. Especially in places like this.

As I said, another boy twice my DS1's age karate-kicked him in the face. My boy didn't cry, but that's not the point. As his own mother was oblivious to what had gone one, we told the other boy (without us having to yell or break into tears) that his actions were unacceptable.

Should I remove my boys from there because they're running around and accidentally hurt someone? Should they REALLY be punished for that? Cheryllou I always explain how I want them to behave before we arrive there. If I think they've overstepped the mark, I remove them for 5 minutes and tell them if it happens again, we'll leave. And I always follow through with my "threat". Like you said, I believe I'm doing all I can.

Fledermaus, I don't believe there is ANYHING wrong with my attitude. I bring my boys up to be polite, careful, empathic and kind. But they ARE still young, energetic and learning. I'd say there was more wrong with your own attitude. My point to this thread (which I'm now regretting starting) was more about getting my boys to calm it down a notch in a place where 90% of the children act in a way that they do, but unfortunately for my sanity and blood pressure, there are 10% of children whose parents expect something different and want the other 90% of the kids' heads on a stake. (I guess you fall into that 10%, fledermaus)

mandbaby Mon 16-Jun-14 11:19:19

I should add that the 2 year old that my 4YO accidentally knocked down was in the "over fours" area - not in the under 4s area. Do you still think it's my fault?!

There is a reason why these places have age-appropriate areas.

mandbaby Mon 16-Jun-14 11:21:17

Theabominablewoman - my 4YO DID only knock the boy over once and was warned. The boy didn't cry and wasn't badly hurt. However, mum saw it and was over with the pitchfork. Shame she didn't stop her son entering the over 4s area beforehand.

Artandco Mon 16-Jun-14 11:23:30

I don't see how them being boys has anything to do with it. Mine are both boys, if they don't watch where they are going and hurt others they will be removed.
I wouldn't let them climb slides either, they are for sliding down so if they hurt a child as in the way they shouldn't be doing that anyway
Soft play is for climbing and playing on equipment. As appropriate. If you want them to run about wild go to the woods

mandbaby Mon 16-Jun-14 11:25:46

Artandco - I don't let them climb up slides. Re-read my post. I said if they slide down and crash into someone else climbing up, whose fault is that?

ChocolateWombat Mon 16-Jun-14 11:30:13

Why have you come onto this thread and asked the question if you are not prepared to hear what people say and only want to justify your children?

If your children KEEP getting into trouble, as you say, then clearly something is not quite right in their behaviour.

I wonder how you are responding to them being in trouble? Are you telling them that they are in the right and that in a soft play place, people will get hurt (as you seem to be saying here) because this kind of response to them, will not help them modify their behaviour. Are you using some kind of time out, or low level sanction for their behaviour? If it keeps happening, whatever you are doing now,modes not seem to be working and you do need to think about a different approach.
Perhaps telling them if it happens again, you will not be returning for a month. And of course, stick to whatever threat you make.

Yes soft play allows high spirits. It should not result in other children (especially smaller ones) being hurt.

I agree with you to some extent, I do think soft play is to let off steam, and I am really not bothered (neither are my dc) if they get knocked over or bumped in to, its part and parcel of soft play, they and most other dc we have encountered just smile laugh pick themselves up and carry on.

I also agree that if little children are in the bigger children's area, there is a chance they might get knocked over and with my dc we have always entered at our own peril.
It does sound though, that your dc are more boisterous than others, it's not like this weekend was an isolated experience, if it keeps on happening every time you go out, then the problem is unlikely to be with very other parent you encounter.

MissVanDyke Mon 16-Jun-14 11:30:41

They shouldn't be sliding down the slide if someone else is already on the slide (regardless of whether they should be climbing up or not). I really don't think it is an issue of boys being boys either (speaking with one of each).

If they enjoy that kind of play then maybe an outdoor space would be more suitable?

Kleptronic Mon 16-Jun-14 11:30:52

So, what nature do boys have, purely by dint of being boys?

You're saying your children's behaviour is unavoidable because they have a y chromosome?

What are girls like then, by their very nature, hmm? Decorous and placid and interested in pink?

This is not reasonable.

PourquoiTuGachesTaVie Mon 16-Jun-14 11:32:51

My 3 year old knows not to go down a slide if someone is already on it whether they're going up or down.

He also goes into the "over 4s" area because the toddler area is boring for him and he can physically navigate the over 4s area. That doesn't mean he should be knocked over repeatedly by other children.

If I see my son not being careful of other children then I go in there and remind him how to play nicely.

And the fact that he's a boy does not in any way mean that he is allowed or to be expected to behave aggressively. How ridiculous.

fledermaus Mon 16-Jun-14 11:34:04

Well, I take a 4 year old and a 2 year old (boys!) to softplay most weeks and they have never been in trouble or yelled at by another parent, so something is going on with yours.

They are energetic and like to run, jump, climb and occasionally there are bumped heads etc, but I don't expect or allow rough play.

Cheryllou Mon 16-Jun-14 11:36:10

We stopped going to soft play after girls then husband got stomach bugs. TWICE... I'm not squeamish usually but now I just view them as precursors to vomiting...or worse...

Your boys will grow out of it, but as I say, if it causes nothing but stress, save your cash and play outside. :-) Life's too short ..

lljkk Mon 16-Jun-14 11:37:51

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

fledermaus Mon 16-Jun-14 11:39:23

If I saw mine "dominating" an area, and knocking into a younger child, I'd have been straight over there to make them stop, pick up the little boy and check he's alright, and move on to play with something else.

mandbaby Mon 16-Jun-14 11:42:12

chocolatewombat I'm happy to receive advice and constructive criticism as yourself and one or two others have offered. I DON'T tell my boys to expect and do rough play. If they knock someone over accidentally, they always apologise - even without me asking them to. As I said, I teach them to be kind and empathic - ALWAYS. However, it seems with some parents (of which there are clearly some on this thread) that an apology isn't enough - they want them hung, drawn and quartered.

My boys are very aware of what is expected of them and if they overstep the mark, we leave and don't return for at least a month.

They were great yesterday - they played brilliantly. But my 2YO followed my 4YO into the over 4s area, played on the wrecking balls and accidentally knocked another boy over. His mum's reaction was totally OTT given that my boys were told to be careful, and it was an accident. They were playing with each other, didn't notice another boy had entered the area, and accidentally knocked him down. Should I REALLY punish my boys for this?! Just because a parent acted hysterically, should I really have punished them?

Yes, "incidents" like this often happen when we go, but not because my boys are aggressive, but because they're energetic, accidents happen, but the minority of parents completely over-react. I didn't over react when a boy twice my eldest boys age and twice his weight karate-kicked him. We politely told him it wasn't nice behaviour.

THAT was my point. How do I stop accidents happening and being made to feel like the worst parent in the world by the 10% of parents who expect something different at a place called "rough and tumble".

fledermaus Mon 16-Jun-14 11:45:19

At first you said they knocked him down repeatedly, now it as just once accidentally?

mandbaby Mon 16-Jun-14 11:45:55

lljkk - thank you smile

mandbaby Mon 16-Jun-14 11:49:42

fledermaus My apology - yes, I did say a few times, but it wasn't a few times. (I'm typing fast without checking what I've put). He got knocked down, once, by the moving ball that my 4YO was sat on. The boy stood up and fell down again afterwards as he got to his feet.

My error, sorry.

sleepyhead Mon 16-Jun-14 11:49:52

So the boy only got knocked down one time, not the "few times" that you said in your op... tbh, if you'd said originally that it was one single time and not "a few times", you might have got different replies.

If you stay on top of what your children are doing (at 4 and 2 they're not old enough to play unsupervised imo), make sure they look out for other children, and jump in when someone looks like they're about to get hurt, then there's not much more you can do tbh.

ChocolateWombat Mon 16-Jun-14 11:50:28

Sounds like you might need to watch more carefully and intervene more quickly. Your 2 year old had clearly had time to get into in the older age section and be there long enough to get to the balls and have a few go's in order to cause the issue, before you intervened.

Some people do over react. That is true. You do have to shrug those things off and not let them make you feel awful. However, if it is happening frequently, you need to realise it might not just be one or two over sensitive people. There may be an issue.

Looking out for what other children are doing, is all part of being in soft play. There are always others coming from the other direction, people climbing slides when people are going down. You have to teach your children to watch out for what others are up to too.....it's like being on the roads, we are responsible for ourselves, but also keep an eye out for unpredictable behaviour from others.

If its just yours who are getti g into trouble, or yours a in trouble more than others, then there does seem to be an issue. And the key thing isn't about how you feel about it.....it's not about if it makes you feel like a bad mother or not, but about making sure this environment can be fun for everyone. You seem more interested in how it makes you feel than the behaviour itself.

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