This past weekend, my child was invited to a birthday party at an indoor play center. These centers are great, especially in places like Sweden where we don’t always have the option to play outside weather-wise.
Many parents host parties for their children at these places, and I had to drop my youngest at one of them last Saturday. Upon entering the facility, I lost him in a matter of seconds as he dashed into the sea of screaming children throwing plastic balls, riding tricycles, and bouncing out of trampolines. I went on my way to the adult indoor play center (the local mall) and returned to collect my son after two hours.
Do you know what happens when you load about 200 kids into a play center all hyped up on cake and candy? It’s a tiny war-zone. I waded through crying, limping children fighting over foam pillows and shoving aside the weak in order to be first to the air cannons (which are never aimed at the painted targets, but are constantly focused on other children with slower reaction times). After ten minutes, I found my son at the top of a bouncy slide. There were 4 other children up there as well. I watched one boy shove my son into the side of a wall and then KICK him down the slide. I picked up my stunned child and carried him above the madness as quick as I could to the exit. Sure, I could have climbed up the slide to yell at the offending kid, but as he and I both knew, I would have met the same fate as my son. The best strategy was a quick escape.
My son and I broke through the outer doors into the rainy afternoon and praised our daring escape, following it up with a long nap once we got home. I can only hope that his friends managed to make it out with minimal injuries and psychological trauma. The war of “Captain FunTimes Play Center” will be commemorated in our home each year as we celebrate our narrow escape and remember those who lost their dignity, bravery and possibly their pants to the ball pits and bouncy slides.
Photo: Getty Images
What is the fascination with McDonald’s for children? Growing up in the states, I always assumed it was because they had playgrounds and funny characters. However, in Stockholm, it is rare to find a playground in a McDonald’s (maybe out in the outskirts on the highway) and they don’t seem to use the characters. My kids have no idea who the Hamburglar, Grimace, etc. are. They have also never in their lives seen a commercial for McDonald’s. So what is the draw? They are fascinated with it and it’s their favorite place to go. Apparently, it’s only for the plastic toy in the Happy Meal that they never play with 5 minutes outside of the restaurant.
I gave my kids a choice of two burger restaurants the other day and it was fun to listen to their decision-making process:
Kid 1: Mc Donald’s has toys.
Kid 2: The other place has a play center.
They were actually completely even on this and let a third friend make the decision.
Another idea – it seems to be that if you want to solve the obesity problem in the U.S., you should just give away toys with meals at nutritional places.