COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on many businesses, not least children’s soft play centres which were among the last to reopen after the first lockdown. In fact our favourite one, Little Lambs in Coulsdon, didn’t reopen at all and has gone from being a soft play cafe to an actual cafe.
So once soft plays were allowed to reopen I wanted to be able to support them – as they are very often small independent businesses – and I felt like my two and a half year old had missed out on quite a lot over lockdown. But I wasn’t keen on going to a big soft play centre even if they were limiting numbers with other children running around who we didn’t know, where I thought it might also be hard for the staff to properly clean and sanitise the equipment. Of course, I do think that soft plays are doing a great job in general and no doubt trying hard to adhere to rules that must be quite difficult for their business. But we have been quite cautious regarding COVID and are working from home, not going out to the shops and so on, so I was still a little hesitant about whether it was a good idea or not.
Priscilla’s Soft Play Cafe in Croydon offered the perfect solution – one hour of private hire for up to two families (this was before the new tier 2 rules came into force) for £30. While £15 for an hour of soft play is more expensive than usual, it wasn’t a lot for an activity that we haven’t been able to do in a long time, which including getting there and back took up a good two hours of our morning. They are also open for mixed groups of no more than six children at once which of course is cheaper but we preferred just to go with friends – a boy from Sophie’s nursery and his dad who is a good friend of mine.
We drove into Croydon and parked in the Centrale car park which is convenient as the play cafe is within the Whitgift shopping centre adjacent – but parking is horribly expensive: I think we paid £5.50 for two hours. But we don’t know Croydon very well (even though it isn’t far, we almost never go there) so didn’t know where else we could park and didn’t want a long walk as the weather wasn’t very good.
We also couldn’t find Priscilla’s as we were following the signs within the shopping centre and eventually asked at the information desk only to be told their signs were wrong! We should have used the directions on Priscilla’s website which says it is on the first floor of the Whitgift Centre next to M&S.
The cafe looks really welcoming with a big window and bright colours. The lady working there was very friendly and apologised that there wasn’t very much of a food menu at that time – which made sense as they had not long reopened and with very limited customer numbers allowed I wouldn’t have expected them to have the full cafe menu. We ordered drinks and bought some snacks to enjoy while the children played – they were straight off!
The play area is relatively small and I think would be really nice as somewhere for children to let off some steam while parents enjoy a drink during a shopping trip. But as a destination in itself it’s not something I would normally do outside of lockdown, but these are unusual circumstances and we didn’t feel comfortable going to one of the big soft play centres.
I would say the equipment is more suitable for younger children – my daughter is 2.5 and the climbing areas where just about the right size. She was a bit disappointed there wasn’t a proper slide – there was a soft slide coming down from the climbing frame but it wasn’t that easy to slide down unlike a proper hard slide. There was also a large freestanding giant triangle with a picture of an octopus that you could climb up one side of and slide down the other, which my daughter and her friend played on quite a lot. There’s a good selection of soft shapes and a few animals to sit on but my daughter was more interested in climbing and crawling through the main structure.
It was a nice break from our (lockdown) norm and my daughter and her friend had fun – so if you are near Croydon and looking for something to do with the kids I recommend Priscilla’s!