We went to a birthday party at Monkey Bizness soft play in Southampton in late 2021 and found it offered just the right degree of challenge for my three (almost four) year-old and her just-turned-five year-old cousin, who was the birthday girl.
There’s what is essentially a two storey structure but it isn’t strictly on two floors, there are sections that are slightly lower, some that are slightly higher and what looked from the outside like mini sub-levels, so rather than a case of either being on the ground floor or climbing up to the top floor, there was much more a sense of exploring. There’s an adjacent area for smaller children which my daughter didn’t bother with as the larger part was so much fun. There was a tube slide that curled around in a spiral – she had never gone on an enclosed slide like that before, or one that spiralled, or one that was so long, but she threw herself into it and kept going back!
There’s a large cafe area, with some tables directly in front of the play area and others further away in an L-shaped room, though the building itself has a secure entrance/exit that means if a child came out of the soft play and was looking for their parents they wouldn’t be able to leave the building and wander outside which has sometimes been a concern with other soft play venues we have been to.
Speaking of outside, the soft play is a stand alone building on an industrial site, it has a car park that isn’t huge but was bigger than I expected given they warn of limited parking – they do suggest some nearby side roads to park on instead, but luckily we managed to get a space.
Going back to the cafe, my husband hadn’t had breakfast so ordered a sausage bap which he thought was pretty good, and I was very tempted by the range of cakes and cupcakes on display, but didn’t have anything. Next to the counter were two baskets of balloon modelling swords and flowers priced 50p to £1.
There was also a ride on vehicle, I think it was a jet ski, that cost 50p a ride. While I thought the balloons were a nice touch, I actually don’t think it’s very helpful for soft play venues to have paid-for rides; you’ve already paid your entrance fee and young children don’t always understand that you have to pay extra for some things and indeed if they go on it once they want to go on it again!
The toilets were nice – bright, clean, with jungle animal pictures. But what really stood out to me was a sign about autism on the back of the toilet door, explaining how a child on the autism spectrum might behave or have certain needs, written in a way that a child could understand (whether reading it themselves or having a parent read it to them). More places should do this – well done to Monkey Bizness!
The party was 10-12 and we were called to go to the party room for food at 11.15, so the actual time in the soft play seemed a bit short – though to be fair by the time the children had food and the birthday cake was cut and placed into party bags to take home, it was gone 12. Luckily the birthday girl and my daughter were allowed to go back into the soft play for half an hour after the other party guests had left while my sister and I transported gifts back to the car.
It’s a shame this soft play isn’t local to us as I did think it was very good and would go again!