My experience of soft-play with toddlers has been varied and colourful. When Violet was little I started taking her to a very nice, well equipped one in North London. I made some good friends there and had some nice times. Once, Ann-Marie Duff interrupted me moaning about my divorce to tell me that Violet had peed in the sand pit and it was only then I realised it that the bearded ginger at out picnic table (privvy to the more sordid details of my fractured love life) was in fact, James McAvoy. Reader, that’s not even the worst. Another time I arrived at a birthday party in a soft play next to a kick-boxing gym that had blood spatter on the wall of the shared entrance. I was desperately hungover and it was a particularly hot and humid day. This place is massive and the play area goes up, as in vertical. Violet froze with fear halfway up her ascent and called for me to rescue her. Readers, I got stuck trying to squeeze through a spiral staircase. There I was, dangling 20 feet over the heads of the parents from her pre-school like a red-faced chubby puppy stuck in a cat-flap… I declared myself DONE WITH SOFT PLAY. But like my declaration of SO OVER PREGNANCY AND CHILDBIRTH before it I made like my homegirl Britney and DID IT AGAIN. This time, it was different.
The Maggie and Rose Club experience is in a class all it’s own. I first learned of them at the launch party for their new retail division which sells housewares, art supplies, incredible fancy dress for kids and the most tastefully designed toys. It was there I learned that Maggie and Rose began as a wonderful family members club in Kensington with locations in Chiswick and a Hong Kong Beach Club. I had a pre-Christmas party to arrange with a group of friends and I wanted to see for myself what makes them so special. We visited the Kensington Club one afternoon and I was delighted by everything about it. From the moment you park your buggy you are treated to Maggie and Rose’s own brand of tasteful whimsy. The rooms are beautifully decorated and have copies of Vogue dotted around. The small but mighty cafe had options for every combination of allergies and sensitivities in our group and the staff were attentive, friendly and well-informed. The play area was absolutely gorgeous and full of wonderful toys like vintage ride-on cars, an extensive play kitchen, a darling vintage-inspired wood doll buggy and colourful fancy dress capes. There was also a lovely soft play section with nary a spiral staircase in sight… If I’m really honest I didn’t want to leave. It was the absolute perfect combination of the type of place I like to drink coffee (or even a glass of wine!) and the type of place my kids are having so much fun they forget about me for awhile so I can actually hold a real conversation. It’s a pretty classy joint so I can’t be sure if there were any A-listers listening in this time but I’m much less interesting these days anyhow 😉
I would urge any mum or dad who is in reasonable distance of a Maggie and Rose Club that membership is a fantastic idea, the best thing since artisan bread (that you slice yourself) came back into style. Alas, I live on the other side of The Big Smoke so I’ll just have to keep hoping that they continue to expand.