We are very lucky in that recently not one but two new soft play areas have opened within a few minutes of us – and they are both smaller-scale places much more suitable for smaller children than some of the other soft play providers near us.
Bounce at the Barn is an inflatables-based soft play, run by a third-party company called Ace Airplay Events, inside Flittons Garden Centre in Wallington, on the London/Surrey borders. It was originally intended as a summer-holiday pop-up but was so popular that it has carried on, which I’m very glad about!
They offer an under 4s session on weekdays, and an under 8s session on weekends – though not every weekend as it depends if they have private parties. They also run special events like an opportunity to meet Elsa from Frozen, or Elfina the Elf at Christmas, and have also had a Halloween party and a Christmas party, both of which we went to.
The soft play area itself isn’t massive but there was plenty to keep my three-and-a-half year old busy for an hour and a half. There are three good-sized bouncy castles, one with steps and a slide, which she loved, as well as hard-foam soft play equipment like blocks and animals. Sophie spent quite a lot of time arranging the cows, horses and unicorns as if they were having a tea party!
There is also a crafts area set up that offers colouring; at the Halloween event, each child was also given a Halloween mask and window picture (the kind that lets the light shine through) to colour, as well as a trick or treat goody bag with lots of little chocolates and sweets. The Christmas event was similar with a bag of treats, lots of things to colour like Christmas cards and a ‘Santa stop here’ door hanger and more.
You enter through the garden centre but the soft play is in a separate building, which means it is entirely self-contained, though there are two entrance/exits to keep an eye on (something that always makes me a bit nervous!). The soft play area itself has a plastic barrier around it, but there’s no gate so children can come and go into the café or crafts area.
Another thing I really liked was the proximity of the café area to the soft play – tables and chairs are set up right in front of the play area so it’s very easy to watch your child while being able to relax and enjoy a drink or snack, which is not usually the case in larger soft play venues. There’s a small café area with a good menu; my husband had a bacon roll and I really enjoyed a slice of Halloween chocolate cake (shared with my daughter of course). We ordered hot drinks and when I asked if they offered hot chocolate, I was told not in this café but they were happy to go over to the main coffee shop in the garden centre and fetch me one. I thought the staff were very helpful and friendly and I really liked Bounce at the Barn – and so did my daughter. I’m hoping we will be able to do one of the character meet and greets at some point and meet either Elsa or Cinderella!