After a total of 12 months of closure parents rejoice as the indoor play industry is gearing to re-open on the 17th of May, in line with the COVID extension laws, but with the temporary removal of ball ponds.
The opening will be under social distancing requirements and indoor play centres have been forced to temporarily remove ball ponds, which have been a childhood staple for over 50 years, but are being replaced with role play areas, enrichment activities and additions to adventure play areas and have recently been featured in a zeitgeist-like advert as part of a Walkers campaign.
The Association of Indoor Play is awaiting acceptance and publishing of the guidance it has submitted to the Government, in association with UK Hospitality, and they are expected to include reduced capacity, online booking and enhanced staff training.
The Association has advised its members, as well as other indoor play venues, that children’s parties and must not be run until after the lifting of restrictions in June. Centres nationwide are already taking bookings online and have seen a surge in enquiries since the Government announcement.
“The industry has taken extraordinary measures including additional cleaning regimes, fogging, pre-booked play sessions, C02 monitoring and table ordering for the Cafes,” said Janice Dunphy, Chair of the AIP. “We also hope now that parents see the actual benefits of play in an indoor centre, we are not here to fill in time - we are here to enrich the lives of children and to help repair the damage caused by the pandemic.”
Indoor Play has put into force the most stringent measures of any industry and have had zero outbreaks of COVID in any venues.
The opening has been long awaited as parents struggle to balance home schooling and ensuring their children are enjoying adequate physical activity. They are also in need of respite as evidenced by popular Mummy Blogger “The Five Minute Mum” who posted a ragged photo of herself with the quote:
“IDIOT. Here’s an idiot. Taking a selfie of this face in soft play. Because I was fed up of being in soft play. I now know this person was a fool. Never again will I not be grateful for soft play. Soft play is amazing. The kids could play and someone else made me a coffee. What will you never complain about again?!”
The Association of Indoor Play (AIP) is a not for profit organisation set up to be the voice of the Indoor Play Sector. It was formed in 2020 by a group of seasoned national indoor softplay providers with over 150 years of combined indoor play experience between them with the aim of creating a specific and targeted vehicle to represent the smaller operators in this specialised sector. The overriding aims of the association are to raise the profile of the benefits of indoor play with the public and the Government, to rase the standards and reward excellence within the industry and to have a community where operators can discuss issues and access core industry information.
The indoor play sector, welcomes 60 million children visits for indoor play, role play and baby sensory, and has been one of industry hardest hit by the pandemic, with Centres only allowed to open for 12 weeks in total since March last year. Indoor playcentres are recognised as a cornerstone to children’s social and physical development, provides support with the mental health of parents and children and is a stepping-stone in socialisation.