Role With It - What are the Trends for Indoor Play in 2017?
It's hard to believe we're already heading into spring 2017 - it's been a great quarter for both us and our customers. Now that the weather is (hopefully) picking up, we spoke to the Indoor Play Magazine about what trends we were seeing in indoor play as we head into the summer season.
If you haven't subscribed to the Indoor Play Magazine and are either looking to set up a play area, or run one already - you should definitely look them up! You can view each issue of the magazine on their website - www.indoorplaymagazine.co.uk and download the app straight to your smartphone.
What big trends do you foresee shaping 2017?
What we are seeing is an increasing emphasis on role-play, interactivity and educational and sensory aspects. Being soft play manufacturers, we have seen that these are all elements that centres are keen to incorporate. The sensory aspect is very important as operators are becoming more conscientious and trying to be as inclusive as possible as well as seeking to appeal to a wider audience.
What exactly do people mean when they talk about sensory soft play?
Generally what operators are after are features with light and sound. Lights and sounds give soft play equipment a 4th dimension, which really takes it to the next level.
Aren’t these kind of features costly to purchase and maintain?
We try and have a cost-effective option for our clients and provide a more affordable solution so that they can still have light and sound aspects to their play offer. It all depends on budget, but if a client wants more of a technical feature that is not the most robust piece of equipment, for example a bubble tube, we would suggest they have a dedicated sensory room. This will protect the life of the equipment. Other operators have opted for sensory sessions and smaller user groups.
Where’s the trend towards role-play coming from?
I think some of the smaller, single site centres are seeing the strength that having a role-play offer is bringing to the larger, multi-site operators and recognise there is an opportunity for them there too.
Also, it fits nicely with the idea of education and learning through play when children are at that age just before they start school. So having the police station or garage and the props there helps them take their imagination a step further.
"For us, it’s all about maximising the play value for our customers, that’s what we want to give them."
So what role can Soft Brick play?
Everyone wants to make their centre as attractive as possible with their set budget and our designers come up with ideas to incorporate as many features as they can. But our work is not just about new builds. Revamps are a big part of our business and we can do refurbishments and extensions even if the original build was not carried out by us. We have a 15-strong maintenance and installation department that travels all over the world to our clients and we can offer maintenance contracts, service level agreements or one-offs.
Every job we do, no matter how big or small the budget is, it feels like the way we put it all together just gets better and I am always excited to see the completed build.
Which soft play installations recently have you been particularly proud of?
We completed a brand new soft play installation – Sloth Play for Fife Zoo in December – based on the Amazonian rain forest. Everything had to be factually correct in terms of the animals that would be found in that environment with giant anteaters, Capuchin monkeys, macaws, giant otters and piranhas as part of the theming.
Little Explorers in Staines is run by a husband-and-wife team who converted a pub into a soft play café. They had a great vision for what they wanted to do and we have installed a main structure and small toddler area in a fairly restricted space with a large pillar to work around and a low ceiling, but we have managed to incorporate lots of different play features and different routes around the main structure. For us, it’s all about maximising the play value for our customers, that’s what we want to give them.
And at My Time Active Beckenham Spa we built a large stilted extension on an existing playframe that hadn’t been supplied by us to increase the capacity without affecting the seating area. We also used the budget to add in extra features such as dizzy discs to
under-used parts of the play structure.
- The Soft Brick Team