Sooo…what to do with a rainy Saturday afternoon? One option was to drive around the M25 with some friends (yes, they were doing it for fun), which would have sent the kids to sleep but might just have sent me and Nathan to sleep too. Instead, I took the opportunity to check out a fun-sounding soft play I’d heard about in Balham. Our local soft play isn’t open till March, so we had to get on a bus or tube somewhere and Balham really isn’t far away. Plus it updated that pin in my Northern Line game.
On the way there, a couple of surreal things happened. Firstly, we were accosted by a boy in Cleaver Square, a posh square in our not-so-posh neck of the woods. I’m always a little wary of being stopped by youths in South London but he was only about 8 or 9, so we stopped to talk to him. He indicated his mother on the far side of the square, with a table full of toys and said (and I swear these were his actual words)
“We have some toys over there, which may be suitable for children such as yours, if you’re interested”
“Such as yours”? Just BLESS a lot. Who talks like that? Certainly not these rude youths the Daily Mail is always banging on about. There you go, they’re not all bad. Sadly, with no buggy we weren’t prepared to take on anything extra, so we had to politely decline his polite offer. I felt a bit bad.
The second surreal thing was that there was literally no-one else travelling south on the Northern Line today. Just look at the platform:
But we got to Balham without being savaged by the undead. I did see an off-duty drag queen as we left the station (the eyebrows are a giveaway), but that was as edgy as it got. And 5 minutes from the tube, we reached our destination: Adventure Island!
It’s a pirate themed soft play/cafe that’s run by the same people who run The Bertie and Boo coffee shop (also in Balham). They’re called Bertie and Boo apparently, and they do magic as well as sell cakes. They come from a magic family too. It was all a bit exciting.
It was an easy sell to Roo – pirates, soft play, magic? He’s there. I assumed that being a bit trendy and being in a-bit-trendy Balham it would be a but pricey too, but it was only £2.90 for Roo and free for Eva. That’s for an hour’s play, but we only got there an hour before it shut anyway. We had to wait a few minutes for the 3 o’clock session to start, so Roo entertained himself playing in the rowing boat in the cafe.
Then we went in to play, ushered in by (I presume) Boo in a polka dot 50s skirt that looked like something Vivien of Holloway would make (I LOVED my Vivien dress before I had babies. Now I don’t fit it). There was a small soft play area outside, with a cool ball-blower thing and a screen showing vintage magic shows. I thought that was “baby island” but no…there was a whole other room past the gate that was set up for babies. In it, someone I assume was Bertie was trying to fix a foam house that would later become a magnet for destructo-boy. But here it is in its glory:
You can see Roo’s head behind it there. It didn’t stay intact for long. I assume he was being a Big Bad Wolf and blowing the house down, but the last time he played “3 Little Pigs” it didn’t end well.
And yes, Roo was hanging around the baby room. Show Roo a locked gate with toys behind it and he’ll want to get in. I kept trying to remove him before noticing that the sign said “3 years and under”, not “under 3 years”. A technical difference, but it meant that he could legitimately play in there. At one point, he and Eva climbed into a treasure chest together.
Aww! Dark and fuzzy, but Aww! Eva was overtired and mood-swingy the whole time we were there, but she seemed to enjoy herself at least part of the time. She even crawled round the main frame with Nathan before getting stuck and wailing for Mummy.
Meanwhile, Roo was playing in a shark-infested ball pool and sometimes taking all the shark fins out for a run-around with some other small-boy friends he’d made. It was a very cool feature. The soft play room itself was pretty small, but the space was well used and there were bridges and a slide as well as the ball pool. The baby room was more spacious and lighter, but they were playing “Somewhere over the Rainbow” (ukelele version) on repeat, so I couldn’t stay in there too long. I love a ukelele cover version as much as the next person, but I have a limit. She seemed happy enough in the big kids’ bit anyway (where they were also playing cool retro music but -crucially – more than one song)
So, the kids had a good time. When the bell sounded the end of the session, Reuben was what you might call reluctant to leave. There was a private party starting as we left, and the sight of the trasure-chest party favours was a bit much for him. “I want the treasure!” he wailed as we got him dressed. The cafe smelt like good coffee and the cakes looked lovely, but it was crowded and we needed to get both meltdown-y children home. The cafe also sold baby food, Annabel Karmel ready meals, smoothies and healthy snack packs. Unsurprisingly there were also a LOT of highchairs and a buggy park. We bribed Reuben with some Monster Munch and dragged him back home. A fine afternoon out!
VERDICT: A small but cool soft play, with lots of quirky touches.