Recent data released by Statista identifies that 30% of boys between two and ten years old are already overweight or obese in the UK. The data is also concerning when looking at the rates of obesity among girls in the same age group and both genders in higher age groups.
The numbers suggest that obesity is now starting at extremely young ages, which begs the question, can soft play and indoor playgrounds help tackle childhood obesity?
What Is Soft Play and Indoor Playgrounds?
Soft play is a type of venue that includes soft play equipment so children can explore, run, jump, slide or crawl around the equipment without causing themselves an injury. Most people in the UK will have experienced soft play when growing up. You might have attended a commercial venue and jumped in a ball pool or navigated an obstacle course with soft play items at nursery.
Soft play equipment is adapted to different age ranges. Some of the equipment is meant to be used by early years children who are just developing motor skills and cognition. But there is also soft play equipment for slightly older children, which typically includes more obstacles and greater challenges.
The general public sometimes confuse soft play equipment with indoor playgrounds. Indoor play does not necessarily include soft play and is typically made up of rope bridges and more advanced obstacles. These will be used by older children and early teenagers who have already developed the strength and stamina to use the equipment safely. You typically find a soft play zone for younger children within commercial indoor play centres.
Who Invented Soft Play?
Soft play for children was first thought up by Jack Pentes around 40 years ago. At the time, it was officially called Soft Modular Play but is now known as Soft Contained Play (SCP).
Mr Pentes – who also designed the Land of Oz theme park in Carolina, USA – created the idea of soft play equipment because he realised that most serious injuries to children would occur when playing on outdoor play equipment. Soft play became a solution to reduce serious injuries but still enable children to access the health and social benefits of play activities.
It should be noted that outdoor play equipment has been made safer today thanks to clever designs that mitigate risk while still providing optimum stimulation.
How Can Soft Play and Indoor Playgrounds Decrease Childhood Obesity?
Soft play and indoor playgrounds have the potential to decrease childhood obesity levels in the UK. These spaces encourage children to move around more by crawling, throwing, running and even carrying pieces of equipment.
Indoor playgrounds can burn lots of energy, and even using soft play can use up calories and keep weight in check.
Several studies have looked into using play activities as a way to reduce obesity levels. One of the most acknowledged is a study published in 2015 that found preschool children reduced their BMI the more they partook in play activities for at least 37 minutes each day.
But this is not the only way – or even the primary way – that soft play and indoor play can reduce childhood obesity.
Soft play and indoor playgrounds introduce exercise and physical activity as a fun and engaging activity among younger children. This can increase a thirst for physical activity and get them playing more active games at home or later in the playground with their peers. Soft play should be seen as an early stepping stone to encourage an active lifestyle and to stay active as children grow up. And indoor play can be seen as a way to continue that journey into an active lifestyle.
It may sound a bit odd to worry about obesity in young children, but the data we presented at the start of our post highlights a real and worrying obesity trend, even in younger age groups.
How Can Soft Play and Indoor Playgrounds Improve Childhood Learning?
Soft play and indoor playgrounds are not just great for tackling obesity and encouraging healthier living. They are a fantastic way to boost children’s cognitive development and learning.
When children use these spaces, they are frequently presented with challenges and obstacles to address. Sometimes these challenges are physical, such as balancing across a platform as they move. Sometimes they are mental, such as a challenge to correctly order soft shapes. And in other times, they can be a bit of column A and some of column B.
Even though they may not realise it, children develop different critical thinking skills when facing these problems. They also learn to work as a team and to communicate with others effectively. This can be some of our earliest experiences at learning to interact with others on a shared task, i.e., teamwork!
What Are the Benefits of Using Soft Play in Nurseries?
Soft play spaces are typically found in commercial venues and nurseries. You sometimes find them attached to restaurants. The benefit of using them in nurseries is that it allows every child using that nursery to experience soft play and reap its benefits.
Some children may not live near a commercial play centre, and the cost of these businesses may prevent some families from taking their children to them regularly. A soft play zone in a nursery overcomes these barriers to participation and helps all children get frequent use of soft play toys and equipment.
These children will then experience the physical, cognitive and even mental health benefits of using soft play equipment no matter their location or family’s financial situation.
Is a Soft Play Venue a Good Business Idea?
A soft play business can be a profitable venture. Most businesses of this nature charge for one-off fees or use a subscription business model comparable to a commercial gym. One safe aspect of setting up one a business like this is that you can be sure your product will never go out of fashion. Children will always love playing and exploring mini obstacle courses with other children. Moreover, parents tend to love these venues as it gives them a break to have a catch-up with friends while the children are entertained and away from a TV screen.
It may require some initial capital to purchase the soft play equipment, but the best equipment is long-lasting and seamless to maintain.
Where Can I Buy Soft Play Equipment?
If you want to buy bespoke soft or indoor play equipment for a school, nursery or a commercial business, don’t hesitate to swing on by to House of Play.
We design, manufacture and install all of our products rather than just sell them on from other manufacturers. You can choose from our current creations or speak with us directly to discuss a bespoke design that meets your space and needs.