Playing with fire – the Firehouse Play Centre, Waltham Abbey

Preschool – finished for the day. Nap time – over. The afternoon loomed ahead with great potential for tantrums, wailing, and general opportunity for me pulling out most of my hair in frustration. Its my first afternoon on my own with both kids, and I approached it with more than a little bit of trepidation.

That’s when I remembered the flyer I’d picked up in a local shop and tossed into the car on a whim, which advertised a local soft play centre. ‘Would you like to go?’ I asked the Wee Man. He seemed pretty happy about the idea (The centre is called The Firehouse which I suspect helps – he’s very keen on all things ‘nee-naw’ at the moment) so we headed off to find it.

Coming up to where the handy little map on the flyer said it was situated, I was a bit perturbed as it looked like we were heading in to an industrial estate.

In fact, it turned out that the Fire House was actually situated in an industrial unit, and at first glance it didn’t look particularly like a child’s play place at all!

Heading inside with Bubby D strapped to my front and the Wee Man jumping around in excitement, it all looked much more interesting. The staff were friendly and welcoming, and after I’d paid the admission fee (which at around £4 was not too bad at all) the Wee Man was straight off to check out the giant inflatable slide. He was a little on the small side to climb up the steps on his own, but luckily there were some older children there who were happy to help him.

Several happy slidings later, and we went on through to the main play area. A small toddlers area complete with ball pond, small slides and soft blocks sits adjacent to the much larger three storey playspace, and the Wee Man briefly investigated this before charging on in to the main area.

Although meant for 4 year olds and up, the majority of the main area was easily accessible to the Wee Man, with large wavy slides, big inflatable balls to roll around and swinging rope bridges proving far more attractive in comparison to the more limited toddler area. Unfortunately, being as it was for older children, some of the stepped areas between obstacles proved a bit too high for him to climb. Cue cries of ‘Mummy, help!’

Climbing through small tunnels and up squidgy stairs with a 5 week old strapped to my chest is not one of my better ideas, it has to be said. I felt a bit like an orangutang with its young clinging to its underside, as I crawled on hands and knees through a child sized opening to retrieve him, Bubby D sleeping peacefully swinging gently beneath me.

A quick exit down the slides, and we went on into the cafe area to sample the freshly made and very reasonably priced pizza, which the Wee Man thoroughly enjoyed. Then we were off home to greet the Other Half, armed with a piece of pizza and happy smiles. All in all an interesting first experience of looking after two kids, but probably not one I’d repeat in the near future without another mum for company – I’d prefer to avoid further orangutang impressions for now!


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