So, today was the opening of the long-awaited Crazy Chimps in Kennington.We were there and so, it seemed, was half of Kennington. It was packed. Eva had just woken up and was staring around in confusion. Reuben, by contrast, got involved straight away and we lost him for a few minutes, until he re-emerged from the playframe.
The space wasn’t huge but they fit a lot in there – ball pool, some slides, baby area, trampoline and a cafe. There was some food out, and a cold beer for Nathan, which was nice. And a LOT of small children. It was a bit manic, and all the children were getting more and more hyper. I put Eva down to play in the baby area, but she got knocked over by some bigger kids and was a bit wary after that.
The good points are that the play equipment is all new and flawless, the trampoline is huge and they had some exciting touches like a light-up slide. Eva liked the foam blocks in the baby area, but she did try and sink her teeth into them so I took her away from those. Roo thoroughly enjoyed himself and ran around like a loon. And Peppa Pig even made an appearance, although we didn’t pin her down for a photo.
Now for the not-so-great points – it was very newly finished. The paint on the fences seemed a bit sticky still and there was a bit of building dust around. I reckon they have time to sort that before the official opening though. A few parents mentioned that the baby area could do with being fenced off, as it’s between the main door and the playframe, so the older ones rampage through it on their way to play.
And the big one – the pricing. Every parent I talked to was surprised at the pricing. Peak-time prices are £8.80 for a 3-16-year-old and peak includes after school on weekdays. Given that it’s right next door to Roo’s nursery (and hopefully his school as well) it might have been somewhere we frequented on the way home, if he needed to blow off steam. But probably not for £8.80. Eva is turning 1 soon, so she will be £5.20, and even off-peak she’d be £3.80. Compare it to Bertie&Boo, which is a similar small independent playhouse – it was £2.90 for Roo and free for Eva, on a Saturday afternoon. Wavelengths, which is also brand new, was £2.50 for each of them, at any time. Plus, you have to pay Adult entry at Crazy Chimps (£2.80/£3.50), which is unheard of in South London. I’m guessing rents are pretty high in Kennington, and I know they have to cover their costs, but it would be irresponsible of me not to report back the word on the street.
Basically, it’s £21.00 for the 4 of us to go on a weekend day or £6.60 for Eva and I to go off-peak. It’s a bit off-putting when there are so many free playgroups around. Every parent there was doing similar calculations so I know I’m not alone. But it would be a nice place to hang out if it was more affordable. And SO very local. I’m a big supporter of local business and am prepared to pay a bit more to an independent business (like the Tea House or Kennington Bookshop) but I would have trouble justifying the price of this.
And what happened at the end? Are you ready for this? Already a bit frazzled from the crowded party, neither Nathan or I were quite ready to deal with Reuben stripping off in a slightly inaccessible part of the playframe. But we watched with horrified eyes as he took off his trousers, socks and pants with another small boy watching him, also in horror. Nathan yelled at him through the netting, Reuben screamed the scream of the overtired-boy-caught-doing-something-naughty, I got stuck in the ball pit trying to get to him and Eva started whining. Nathan eventually struggled through the playframe, extracted the screaming boy, put his clothes back on and we frogmarched him home.
No, we have no pictures of that. But the mental images will be burned on our eyes forever. Apparently, he was “getting ready for the slide”. Sounds like a recipe for friction burns to me…
VERDICT: A nice, local soft play but the pricing is a bit scary.