Last Sunday it was my son’s first birthday. Having asked for recommendations for somewhere age appropriate to take him, someone suggested Moby’s which is a soft play centre in Fareham. I was told that they had an area for the under 4’s which was better than most and more importantly that it was a very clean play centre. I thought I’d report back and share my first impressions.
The first thing I did was to check the website and look for online reviews. I needed the address and directions and I also wanted to know what others thought of the place. In fact, the reviews I found were mixed, lacked detail and didn’t help me decide whether to go one way or the other.
The site is clear and has a lot of good up to date information. The prices are correct and you can view an online brochure telling you about the play equipment and their children’s party options.
We arrived to find the centre situated in an industrial park. There was plenty of parking and it was pretty easy to find. On the day we attended there was a notice on the window stating play time was to be limited to 90 minutes. Frankly 90 minutes is well in excess of my normal personal limit for soft play and so this didn’t bother me at all. Given the price however for older children, others may have a different view.
The pricing policy is as follows: £5.95 for children aged 5+; £4.95 for children aged 1 – 4; £1.95 for children 6 months to a year and it is free for children aged 6 months and under. Adults are charged a £1 each. It cost us £12.90 for two adults, my 5 year old daughter and my 1 year old son. You can see why a 90 minute limit might annoy some – that being said, I think we just about went over that and it didn’t appear to be enforced.
Children’s shoes are removed and handed over at the counter and exchanged for a key fob. There are good solid doors preventing entry and exit without being buzzed in or out which is reassuring as I have been to plenty of soft play centres with flimsy gates which can be pushed by strong toddlers, so there are no concerns that children can get out without parents noticing.
Entering the centre you walk into a large room divided into three.
The first third of the room is set aside for the café. The dining area is generously sized with plenty of tables and sofa seating. There are highchairs available. The room is light and airy and clean. The walls are freshly painted – I believe Mobys has had a refurbishment relatively recently – and local artwork is displayed for sale on the walls.
The café serves Starbucks coffees and other drinks which means a good choice of coffees, teas and other hot drinks but does mean also that they are slightly more expensive than you might ordinarily expect in a soft play centre. The prices range from £1.50 to £3 depending on the size of cup. The café serves the usual snacks, hot and cold food with the addition of food from the Annabel Karmel range and also Heinz jarred baby food. They offer a kids munch bag at £3.50 which allows the child to pick 5 items from a buffet including sandwiches, packets of biscuits (Jammie Dodgers), fruit, Babybell cheese etc. All kids meals come with a choice of water, milk or squash.
As is quite usual, you may not take your own food to be consumed on the premises with the exception of baby food and baby milk.
Main Play Area
This is a floor to ceiling play frame including a three lane slide, aerial glider, climbing wall and rope bridges. There is a black twisty tunnel slide, and numerous routes to the top. The frame is well thought out with several routes to the top rather than one or two which means less congestion. The routes allow for smaller children to climb to the top safely and with minimal help (a relief for me as my 5 year old is quite timid when it comes to climbing). The frame is large and even though it was busy that afternoon it didn’t look or feel crowded.
There were no signs for adults to stay off the frame that I could see and so I felt able to get on and encourage my daughter which meant she got a lot more from the session that she otherwise might have.
This is just off to the side of the main frame in another room. This is the soft play area for children under 4. There is more seating just outside this area so if you had a child at the older end of the range you could sit there, rather than be climbed all over. Normally facilities for this age range are small and seem like an afterthought. Not the case here. This is a good size room subdivided into three again. There is a room to the side full of soft play items including foam steps and slide, and oversized building blocks and other shapes. This seemed to be very popular with children aged 2 +, the confident walkers and movers. There is a baby sensory section with a bubble tube, fibre optic cables, mirrors and colour changing lights. There is a musical section with a tambourine, glockenspiel and sleigh bell wheel mounted on the wall and a sensitive mat which plays music and lights up wall lights when stepped on. Finally there is a mini climbing frame with a small slide, and up on the upper deck rollers and other obstacles to move around and climb over. There are also wall puzzles for you to fit foam shapes on the wall and an air pump for suspending balls in the air which my son found absolutely fascinating.
We spent nearly and hour and a half exploring Mini Moby’s with my son. He thoroughly enjoyed it, moving from activity to activity and relishing the large amount of crawl space he had. He can walk a few steps unaided but relies in the main on crawling to get about. There is so much room that he could really enjoy it without getting frustrated at being picked up constantly and moved.
One thing I was particularly pleased to see on arrival was a member of staff sitting in the area, presumably to ensure that older children stayed on the larger climbing frame.
I did ask to have a peek at the party rooms, which are located upstairs on a mezzanine floor. Outside each party room are sofas, and tables and chairs. There is adequate space for parents to sit outside and enjoy a coffee in comfort whilst the party is in progress. Each party room can cater for up to 25 children. These are themed and painted with murals. I saw all four and they include a space themed room, a pirate/mermaid themed room, a fairyland room and an enchanted forest room. The fairyland room was being used for a party when I had a quick look and everyone seemed to be having a great time. Each room had a special chair for the birthday child, silver in the space room, pink in the fairyland one and so on. The children can access the main climbing frame direct from the balcony and I can imagine that goes down very well!
Parties cost £10.95 per head and can be booked for a minimum of 10 children up to a maximum of 25. This includes hot or cold food. Music can be played in the rooms. There are various party packages and you can have a look at Moby’s online brochure for further details about those.
There are separate male and female toilets and a disabled toilet. Both the female toilets and the disabled toilet have wall mounted pull down changing tables. All the toilets were clean and well maintained. There was a small step stool provided for children to reach the sinks to wash hands which was a nice touch. Outside the disabled toilet is a sofa which I took advantage of to feed my son away from the distractions of the main play room.
To get to the toilets you need to go through fire doors with door closures. This means that they are a little heavy to open and younger children will need help with these, as indeed would anyone in a wheelchair. I didn’t notice an automated door opening button but I have to admit I didn’t look and so may have missed this.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our session at Moby’s. It ticked a lot of boxes for me. It was clean, the play equipment was in good condition, the facilities were good, there was a good choice of food and drink and the children loved it. I was particularly impressed with Mini Moby’s and it was very refreshing to find somewhere that catered for both my children equally well. It’s not the cheapest soft play you can find, but it was such a pleasant experience that I would definitely go again.