The filthy truth about soft play revealed after worker opens up on the grim findings (and it's not just the kids)

A soft play centre worker has lifted the lid on what it's REALLY like after the parents and kids have gone home

Little boy having fun at indoors playground, playing with multi colored balls - stock photo
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A soft play centre worker has revealed what it's really like after families have gone home - from dirty nappies to what staff do when a child pees in the ball pool (and it's not just the kids that need to be grilled on their behaviour).

When it comes to looking for things to do with the kids, going to a soft play centre is up at the top as not only is it a perfect all-year-round activity come rain or shine but it also enables parents to have a coffee and a catch up with other parents (well when they're not being dragged round the obstacle course pushed into the ball pools that is).

Kids just love the place and it allows them to burn off some energy and can prove a lifesaver when wanting to know how to get your child to sleep as after a full morning or afternoon session they'll most probably want a nap that's if they haven't already fallen asleep in the car on the way home.

Soft play centres can be a bit like hotels, with some great reviews and also some bad experiences. But did you know that behind the scenes (when the kids and their grown-ups have left for the day) the centres can be a bit grim, to say the least? According to one anonymous employee, it's not just the kids' toys that end up being left in lost property, condoms have even been found in the ball pit.

In an interview with The Sun, the anonymous worker, confessed, "My first job when I was 17 was in a soft play area adjoining a pub, and the job description should have included “nightclub bouncer”. Parents would come along to get drunk and ditch their kids. The rule was they had to stay with their child but they were far more interested in getting back to the pub.

"They would have drunken arguments with us and other parents, usually when they were asked to actually look after their own kids. Our closing time was 6pm and by then parents had often been drinking since noon and were paralytic. Often we had to call the police because they weren’t safe to take their kids home."

Cute little boy plays with soft cubes in the dry pool in play center. Kid playing on indoor playground in foam rubber pit in trampoline.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

But while boozy parents are a risk, simply banning alcohol doesn't always work and wine bottles have been found "stuffed in the bin" according to the unnamed source.

"We’d found everything in ours, from condoms — thankfully not used — to money. In one centre a knife was even found, as well as miniature bottles of booze. In some centres, a child will urinate in the pit, and staff will just take out the nearest balls to wash."

She continued, "We can get through a Hoover in two weeks as we use it so much. But other places are filthy. I’ve heard stories of dirty nappies lurking in the topmost ­corners and vomit caked onto mats." Grim.

Some of the grim soft play antics reported:

  • Parents bringing their own picnic and leaving the mess behind to clear up
  • Sleeping parents who can't stay awake to watch their kids
  • Single parents try to hook up with other single parents (usually on Saturdays)
  • Dirty nappies lurking in hidden places
  • Vomit caked onto mats
  • Unused condoms, a knife, miniature bottles of booze, and child urine were among the grim findings of the ballpool.
  • Drunken parents ditch their kids to go back to the pub
  • Parents involved in drunken arguments
  • Paralytic parents who require police assistance
  • Empty wine bottles found stuffed in bins

In other family news, Baby formula recalled after a germ at risk of causing “sepsis or meningitis” in young children was found inside - more than 675,000 cans could be affected and if you're struggling with the new year, here's the TikTok parenting trends that will be genuinely useful in 2024 – and #4 is genius.

Selina Maycock
Senior Family Writer

Selina is a Senior Family Writer for GoodtoKnow and has more than 16 years years of experience. She specialises in royal family news, including the latest activities of Prince George, Charlotte, Louis, Archie and Lilibet. She also covers the latest government, health and charity advice for families. Selina graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2006 with a degree in Journalism, and gained her NCTJ and NCE qualifications. During her career, she’s also written for Woman, Woman's Own, Woman&Home, and Woman's Weekly as well as Heat magazine, Bang Showbiz - and the Scunthorpe Telegraph. When she's not covering family news, you can find her exploring new countryside walking routes, catching up with friends over good food, or making memories (including award-winning scarecrows!)