How Old is too old for Soft Play?

On several occasions over this school holiday I have been subjected to the wonderful world of Soft Play thanks to the awful weather and having very bored children to entertain.

On two of these occasions the trip has been completely ruined thanks to children who were very obviously too old to be there, which led me to tweet “How old is too old for soft play?”

A very differing response came through, although we were all in agreement that it depended on the soft play area itself.  Both the ones I had issues in this week were designed for “young children” and were relatively small – in fact when looking into it further the age limits were apparently 8 years and 9 years respectively, which I did feel was still too old.

lemur landings

The secondary problem is, these children were very obviously not being supervised.  They were throwing balls at young children’s heads, pushing them out the way, blocking the slide and the whole place shook as they thundered past without a glance to make sure that no-one was knocked flying in their wake.  The staff seemed powerless to intervene and they took no notice of a “polite word in their ear”, despite the children supposedly not being allowed to play as they were not insured for that age (as I later found out).

Lemur Landings
I have to admit that I do tend to let my children loose in soft play, especially as I can no longer fit through the gaps, but I do sit where I can supervise and often do a floor walk to ensure they are up to no good.  I also take my 12 year old (if I can get him out the door), but he helps his younger brother and sister round and is sensible around small children.

My children are not angels – I have had to tell them off before and no doubt I will have to tell them off again, but you do expect that to a certain extent.  You can certainly forgive a boisterous toddler for a bit of rough or defensive play, but not a child that is old enough to know better.

So what do you do with older children?  It is a challenge finding somewhere suitable if you have a mixture of ages and as my husband pointed out, the soft play areas suitable for older children also mean’t a long bus / car journey and were very expensive to get in to.

LED Climbing Wall Lemur Landings

I did love @annieqpr comment though.  Like me, she is a childminder and has spent a fortune on entertaining the children in her care because of the weather and she thinks the government should provide a subsidy for “child entertainment” in cases of prolonged bad weather – I think she has a point!!

16 thoughts on “How Old is too old for Soft Play?”

  1. So tricky! I agree small play areas should be kept for small people, sounds like pre-school age maybe for the ones you are talking about. Having said that, big ones, like the two you and I frequent in Poole, are suitable probably up to 10ish. I wish people would keep their big kids out of the designated toddler areas in these ones tho! I have to say I avoid them apart from during term time becaus I know that Syd will just get endlessly knocked flying by hurtling kids. He doesn’t look whe he is going, and neither do they!! Luckily in my town we don’t have a big indoor soft play, just a small play cafe which is just filled with little kids toys and ride-ons and nothing that really appeals to big kids so we have managed to keep going there during the hols!

  2. I am SO GLAD my children are too old for soft play now – they are 7, 9 and 11. I’ve always hated soft play and my kids were never keen either. However, whenever we’ve been there I’ve always supervised my kids, for their own safety and the safety of other kids. We’ve always just played outside whatever the weather. We used to have a challenging soft play that was for kids up to 12, but that closed and the only one we have now is only suitable for kids up to 5 or 6. Kids any older would find it boring, quite apart from the fact they might annoy younger kids.

    • I prefer outdoor play any day, but sometimes it makes a nice change to go to soft play and when you look after other people’s children it is (very) common that they come dressed in clothes that are not suitable for outdoor play. There are only so many spares I have room to keep!

    • There are certainly some soft play areas which have twelve year olds in the toddler zone, throwing balls in younger childrens faces, rolling toddlers head first down the slide and pushing them neck first into the ball pit. Kassiopi coves junior zone is for children age 5 to 11 and a three year old accidently went into the junior area but she was co-ordinating with children really well and made some new friends. One of my friends mums has 3 kids age 6,8 and 10 and the 10 year old always gets up to mischeif in his local soft play area in Erith and his 8 year old sister is starting to be like him and the 6 year old just is perfect. My 4 year old friend hates soft play areas because of all the teenagers or adults sitting in the baby zone, toddler zone or even junior zone fighting and grabbing her by the neck and knocking her head to the bottom of the pit or down the slide. Soft play areas are designed for children aged 18 months to 8 years. It is definintley boring for most over 9s to be good in soft play areas and they would annoy under 5`s! The best place for older kids to be at is PGL or youth clubs. Certainly NOT soft play areas. Why did they even exist?

  3. I think soft play is more appropriate to under fives and I tend to avoid the bigger soft play areas for fear of my toddlers being pushed over or crushed by bigger kids, often purely accidental. However, I also have a ten year old to entertain weekends and holidays. He has just about grown out of soft play anyway so if I did take him with me and the little ones like your older children he would just help his siblings or sit at the side and beg to play on my phone.

    Maybe soft plays need a big kid corner….when I went to Butlins they had a games room with computers, console games, but to keep a bit of activity maybe limit to Wii sports style games, pool tables, air hockey?

    Indoor activities are hard enough to find even without balancing the needs of a large age gap.

    • I completely agree – the age gap does make it much worse. I know Lemur Landings has a few bits for older kids but love the idea of a games room. Not sure how financially viable it would be though?

    • Yep, probably not, but it’s an idea out there. until then we shall be dragging out older kids to softplay to sit at the sides on ipads :-/

  4. Have to say there’s a huge generalisation here that the bigger kids are going to crush the little ones/knock ’em over etc. And that’s not always the case.
    We’ve got a number of soft plays local to us – and the best ones have a mixture of areas for older and younger kids. My boys are 4 and 7.
    My 7-year-old is a gentle and sensitive soul, because he’s always been around his little brother and loves looking after young ones.
    My 4-year-old can be a thug, knocking kids over if they get in his way. He’s the one I have to watch. And I do – I watch him and take him out if he’s getting rough.
    I insist my sons stay out of the baby areas – I drag them out if I catch them in there.
    To be honest, any trouble we’ve had at soft play has been kids of 4 or 5 playing ninja and punching/kicking my boys and trying to start fights. I’ve always found smaller ones more aggressive.
    I don’t feel Brodie is getting too old for soft play. As long as he enjoys it and
    behaves himself, I’ll take him.
    I really feel what you’re angry/frustrated about is the parents’ fault.
    Some go to soft play and ignore their kids for the full hour – feeling they can chat to their friends and let the children run wild. They don’t care if their offspring are causing trouble. They don’t want to know.
    They’re using the soft play as a creche. I’ve experienced this.
    Older kids don’t bother me (and they didn’t when my boys were babies/toddlers either). I feel ignorant parents are the real issue here.

    • I agree that not all “big Kids” are destructive and intent on causing destruction – it is just these ones were and were quite vindictive about it too.
      The play areas I was at had age limits of 8 and 9 as they were small and had nothing for the bigger ones to do apart from antagonise their younger counterparts. The age of the children were 10 and 11 (I asked), so they should not have been there and were not covered by the insurance either so should have been refused entry or not allowed to play.
      Yes, the parents were not supervising them – and this made the situation much worse, but surely an age limit is in place for a reason!

  5. As you rightly say yourself, I think it depends on the soft play area and the size of the children. I know some 10 year olds that are bigger than me and probably heavier too! My kids are all small and if we’re in a suitable soft play place (which they will agree to playing in) I think that primary school is the cut off age. Neither of my girls (11 and 12) want to go anymore anyway, although apparently there is a new one local to us for up to 14! I do think that the soft play areas should have a height restriction and should enforce it. I also think that they should limit the number of children that they send through the doors….or avoid them at all costs during the holidays!

  6. I think that soft play areas should have a 0-2 years area, 3-5 years area, 6-10 years area, 11-15 years area and a 16+ area. If soft play areas do not let your big kids play it is not fair because the little kid might want to play with their big brother or sister. The 0-2 years bit should cost £0.50, the 3-5 years bit £1.00, the 6-10 years bit £1.50, the 11-15 years bit £2.00 and the 16+ bit £3.00. The 0-2 years bit should have a 3 lane 30cm slide, 0.3m deep ball pit, fun shapes and a 30cm trampoline. The 3-5 years bit should have a 4 lane 50cm slide, 0.6m deep ball pit, 50cm trampoline and rolling shapes. The 6-10 years bit should have a 5 lane 1m slide, 0.9m deep ball pit, 90cm trampoline and pirate/princess climbing cabin. The 11-15 years bit should have a 6 lane 1.5m slide, 1.2m deep ball bit, 150cm trampoline and a warrior/heroine climbing cabin. The 16+ bit should have a 7 lane 1.8m slide, 1.5m deep ball bit, 180cm trampoline and a PGL/army climbing cabin. What entertainment can you give older kids while parents watch on their little sister or brother? Maybe take them PGL or a youth club. Or just make sure soft play areas have those age group areas and fees. That is defintley something to look out for before you go to any soft play area and check the rules.

  7. I just had my 2 day old baby on Sunday and I’m not sure when to start taking him to make friends with other kids. I think the maximum age is 16, however it will get to babyish. Maybe I will take him at 6 months.


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