January 6, 2013
Indoor soft play is a type of children play centre that we only recently found out about. There are loads of them in the UK, over a thousand of them, but somehow we are just unaware of their presence after living in the UK for over 15 years. My English friend has not been into one before, and probably has not even heard about it before! To be fair he has got any kids yet.
In the UK these play centres are located away from busy areas like the high streets or city center. Rates at these locations are understandably higher. But they also don’t often have large and/or tall enough premises to house climbing frames which are normally found in every indoor soft play. So these play centres are often located at light industrial estates, in warehouses for example. This explains why we have not come across of them before. And the fact that we have few friends who have kids did not help too.
So in the UK many parents will make effort to bring children to these places like play ground and indoor soft play, where children can have a fun time (I think the parents enjoy having fun with their children too). In Malaysia, there are indoor play centres too (also known as play gyms in Malaysia). They are relatively small, when compared to those in the UK. But most importantly most if not all of them are located in shopping malls. How successful these play centres are I can’t tell. What I can say is families are charged more as a result of the premium location to get in in return for a poorer indoor soft play experience. Does not mean that there is not a business case for such model, as Malaysians like to visit shopping malls for whatever reasons and that means a one-stop location for the family to do everything. Parents are happy because they can shop and children also happy as they get to have fun in the soft play (of course provided the parents are happy to bring them in!). But from what I understand, these play centres seem purely for the children to play. There are often not a lot of space like seating area where the parents can sit down, relax and possibly catch up with friends if they go in a group. This is another interesting phenomenon in Malaysia. Often children are taken to wherever the parents want to go. And the places they go are often not children friendly. Children get bored quickly and make life difficult for the parents. Children friendly places on the other hand are not very parents or adults friendly. This is probably a big reason why parents are reluctant to bring their children into the play centres, as it is awkward for them to be there for long period of time.
I just hope that there will be more young family friendly places in Malaysia. Family should stay tight as a unit, whatever the circumstances. It is all too easy to leave children at home with their grannies and leave them to play on their own.