“ Children's indoor play centre / Address: Southdown Industrial Estate, Harpenden, Hertfordshire AL5 1PW / Tel: 01582 766100 „
This is an indoor play centre near to Harpenden where I took my young daughter. They have an excellent slide, but it was far too crowded for my liking - I was worried about children falling or being pushed down the stairs by accident. We had to park a long way from the play centre too as parking is very limited on site. It is very cheap to go to Big Space, and it is clearly popular, but we shall not be returning.
For ages I have taken my children to a local indoor play centre that is very good but rather expensive. I was speaking to a mother at school one day and she mentioned another play centre called Big Space which is in Harpenden. She told me that the setup of the centre was much better and that there was a toddler morning during school terms. The biggest bonus was that you only pay for the children to enter. I have always said it makes me sick that these places charge the parents to get in and then after that we end up sitting at a table watching the kids play!
I decided as we had no plans the next day to take my youngest there. I put the postcode into the GPS and off we went. The journey was quite straight forward until I got to the road the play centre was on. The GPS was telling me I was there but all I could see was a block of flats and an industrial estate. I figured it must be in the industrial estate so I pulled in to investigate. I drove straight up and thankfully noticed a brightly coloured sign and turned left to find it was indeed the play centre. You drive into the back to park and it's a bit crowded as the car park is small but nothing too terrible.
At the main desk you leave your child's shoes and get a sign in card. The card holds a tally of the money you spend whilst you're there. So at the desk the charge for your child getting in is applied and then any food you want you just hand over the card and they charge it to that for you to pay as you leave. On entry you will also get a token for your child to hand in at the food till to get a juice & biscuit.
First impressions of the centre were good. It looked clean and there was loads for us to play with.
As it was a mid-week morning we made our first stop the toddler morning which was being held in one of the party rooms up stairs. The play centre had only been open for about 20 minutes when we arrived so there were only a handful of people there. We were the only ones upstairs at first which was quite nice. My son got to choose if he wanted to read a book in the comfy corner, play with the big doll house, play with the village setup or do an art project. He chose to do some colouring first and then play with the cars in the village. It was perfect because he got to do quiet/calm play before moving downstairs.
After a little while upstairs we went down to get him his juice and cookies (my little man hasn't mastered the cup yet so I bought him a juice carton as the squash they offer is in a cup). I added a coffee to the order and we sat at one of the tables bordering the activity gym. My little one was running off to play before I had a chance to take more than a sip of my coffee but I figured as the play centre was designed so that you can see almost every area from the tables that he could go and play and that would be fine. I watched him go up the climbing frame bit to the top layer of the gym as that was the one area I couldn't see from the table and then I sat back and let him get on with it.
I finished my coffee and got ready to go join him and found that there was nowhere to leave my handbag. Haven't got millions to steal or anything remotely close but all the same I would have liked to put my stuff on a locker or something. I ended up leaving it on one of the seats under our coats. In future I think I will wear trousers with zip pockets so that I can have my phone and some money on me and then leave my cars keys in my coat pocket on the chair.
I entered the bottom bit of the gym and found the twists and turns to be quite good fun. There's one area at the back that has bleacher type seating and a television to play childrens shows/movies. Nothing was on but the kids must enjoy finding tucked away areas like that. I crawled up to the next area to find my son was jumping back and forth on big bean bags. He saw me and grabbed my hand to show me something. I was walked across a bridge and into another part of the top layer of the gym which was an indoor small scale football pitch with a big soft ball. We had a great time kicking the ball around and diving to get it. As it's a soft landing you don't mind jumping/falling all over the place.
He hadn't had a go on the big slide yet so I dragged him off to have a go. Along the way he got distracted by the scooters below the football pitch. He couldn't quite get the hang of how to manoeuvre them but still enjoyed having a try. Moving onto the slides we grabbed a wicker bag from the collection at the base of the stairs and headed to the top. He climbed half the stairs before asking me to carry him the rest of the way (he's only little). We got to the top and he decided he wanted to go on his own. Thankfully there were more bags at the top of the slide so I grabbed a spare. I tucked him into his and showed him the handles and then gave him a little push. I went down only seconds behind him just in case there was a problem. He went mad giggling and demanded to go again, and again, and again .... There came a point when I'd had enough so I dragged him off and offered to get him some lunch which got him thinking of something else.
For lunch we ordered a mini pizza and some crisps for him and I had a toasted sandwich. I was really pleased with how fast they got the food to us. At other places like this I have had to wait quite some time before. He walked away when he was done eating having noticed a games machine area. It was basically a table and a television screen all linked up to a PlayStation. There were buttons on the table for four players and the buttons were in the same colour and order as the Buzz controllers and the game in the machine was Jungle Party (see below link). His older brother had been playing the dinosaur Buzz game the weekend before and so the controller bit had attracted his attention. He is too young to understand how to play but with my help he was able to hit the colours correctly and have the television tell him he'd got the answer right.
After lunch He went into the under 3's area. He's not much of a bouncy castle kid so walked right past that. The under 3 area was nice. It had a play house and kitchen which he loves and a mini slide and ball pit to play in.
We could have easily spent the entire day there but I did have some chores to get on with and by about 1 o'clock some older nursery age children were arriving and as my little one is just that I felt it might get to crowded and a little rougher with the older ones about.
As we were paying (all this came to just under £12) I noticed tucked in another corner was two single player PlayStation areas. Quite good because older ones might want to run off from the little ones and play quietly by themselves. They had Lego Indiana Jones as the game on the one I looked at which is rather cool. After you pay you are let through the barrier and into the front side of the main desk where they give you the kids shoes back and there is a bench to sit them on whilst you get shoes and coats together.
I have been a few times over the last year. I got a coupon in the post just the other day from the Change 4 Life team which give you 50% off at certain play centres and as luck would have it Big Space is listed on the website so I have plans of visiting again tomorrow with the little one as a treat for him doing so well at pre-school today. I was telling my friend at school who first told me about Big Space and asked if she wanted to join me. She mentioned that the entry charges have changed. They've not gone up a lot but to keep business going and all that stuff the owners had to put the prices up and they are currently as follows:
Babies - Free
Supervising Adults - £1
1 year olds - £4
2 year olds - £5
3year olds - £6
4 year olds - £7
5-12 year olds - £8
In all fairness it's only gone up two pounds and is still cheaper than most of the other play centres. Now getting to the adult charge! It's only £1 so I will get over it but it goes back to my dislike of charging the adults to get it! It's like when you go to some of these attraction places that are made for children and the parent charge is the highest. I'm not going so that I can have a nice day out! I'm going for the children and if you weren't charging me to get it I'd probably spend more in your gift shop! Grrr! Ok rant over as £1 is hardly enough to have rage about but you see my point. Anyway I'll still be there tomorrow morning and will still have a good time for less than other indoor play centres!
Mon 10am - 6pm
Tues 10am - 6pm
Thurs 10am - 6pm
Fri 10am - 6pm
Sat 10am - 6pm
Sun 10am - 4pm
Toddler morning messy play is cleared up by 1pm and the dress up, books and other stuff is cleared away by 2pm.
Well we went today and had a fund morning out. My son made some bunny ears and a few pictures in the toddler room and we had a morning snack and lunch. I'm on a strict diet so I only had a drink. I let him get whatever snacks he wanted which ended up being a sandwich, 2 packs of crisps (he kept one for later), pack of raisins and a juice carton. Our total was on the receipt when we got his snacks which is good because then you can keept track of your spending. Our total for a fun morning out was £9.40 and that's without remembering to use my 50% off voucher! oops!
Southdown Industrial Estate
01582 766 100
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