kids

Think of the parents: Why going to play parks with your kid is an adult's worst nightmare.

My second son Leo is finally on the move and sadly for me, I can no longer keep toting him into cafes as he is far too squealy, squirmy and bored. We have progressed to spending our out-of-the-house time at either the park or in a soft play centre, both of which have to be some of my least favourite places to hang out.

The admittedly rather selfish problem I have with most of these kid-friendly places is that they are made only with the kids in mind. Not the parents who skirt the edges, trying to prevent their loved ones from eating bark chips or biting other children.

The point is of course to keep the little rascals amused, but would it really hurt if local councils or centre managers put some effort into making parks and soft plays more adult-friendly? Here are my three top complaints that I can be found muttering about to fellow parents while watching from the sidelines:

1. Where is the coffee cart?

I’ve just spent 10 minutes origami-ing my wriggling infant into the car seat, packed the boot and driven to the local park or soft play centre. We find a decent car space not too far from the destination in order to unload him, the pram, the picnic rug and assorted accoutrements such as hats, sunscreen, snacks, special play socks etc. This baby is smart, he knows where we are going and I do not want to have to walk another 100m to the café and queue for a coffee while he squeals in anticipation of the fun times I am preventing him from having.

All I want is to arrive at either the park or the soft play centre and give my coffee order to the fabulous and talented barista while I get all set up for a morning of pushing the swing or nervously waiting by the edge of the trampoline. Park or soft play life is a pretty repetitive and boring game, and I know that a decently made double-shot flat white would help me to get through. Maybe even some brioche or a bran muffin? A smattering of magazines? Two-for-one cocktails? Okay I digress but a coffee cart would sure beat my soggy homemade sandwiches or overpriced hot chip and Pluto Pup meal combo.

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2. Would madam prefer sunburn or a lack of oxygen?

As our routine is bound by school drop-offs for the eldest and nap times for the youngest, it currently suits us to make our outings at lunch time and during summer this makes Aussie parks hard to love. I don’t like to throw shade on every park in Australia but it is shade that I have my beef with because council people – where the bloody hell is it?

We are blessed with many great local tree-filled parks, but the equipment itself has zero shade coverings, making the standing around for us parents uncomfortable, and the equipment bottom-burningly hot. Try scooting down a metal slippery dip on a 35-degree day – yeowch!

My other option if we choose soft play in favour of the sweet air-conditioned comfort means we have to head to venues that are either underground without windows, or in some giant airless warehouse. Are soft play business owners all vampires? I am confused but then perhaps this is due to the lack of oxygen in the bouncy underground bunker…

3. Safety first – where are the fences?

This one applies to outdoor parks only – why is it that so many of them within sports ovals or as part of a big green space, don’t have their own fencing? I assume with some of the smaller parks this is a financial problem and councils can’t afford to stick a fence around every set of swings on their portfolio. BUT surely each suburb deserves one park that is fenced and safe so that the little escapees don’t run directly off the climbing frame and into traffic. Or face first into the creek.

I am quite aware that it is my responsibility to look after my own child and as of yet I haven’t had to rescue either of them from potential danger, but as a parent who is permanently knackered, I am just asking for some help. I don’t have eyes in the back of my skull (and I might not have had that coffee yet), so a couple of parks with simple low-level fencing and a gate would be wonderful, thanks.

Young Leo couldn’t give a stuff about any of this as he is happy to be out of the house having fun with his mum, so for his sake I’ll keep my complaining to a minimum. But if you do happen to know of a shady park or light-filled soft play centre that also serves fantastic coffee and treats, you will let me know, won’t you?

What do you think about parks and soft play? How would you make them better for grow- ups?

Morris Gleitzman joins us to tell us why kids’ stories are so important, we discuss why kids are clueless about money, and we answer the question – can you turn down hand-me-downs?

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