Yesterday we were lucky enough to try out the new 360 Play in Basildon. It officially opens today so the kids were super-excited to try it out early. 360 Play is based at Festival Leisure Park in the building that used to house the Ikon and Diva clubs (for anyone who is unfortunate enough to remember them!). 360 Play already have centres in Leicester, Milton Keynes and Stevenage and espouse the idea of being ‘a revolution in play’ which is an intriguing tag line! The idea behind the centre is that it is not just another indoor play centre but something where the whole family can enjoy a day out all year round and which helps with children’s general health and development.
First impressions were good: the centre is clean and bright, with actual windows. It made me realise that this is unusual in a play centre, usually you are very much indoors without any view to the outside.
Admittedly the Festival Leisure car park isn’t exactly beautiful scenery but it gave the place a much more open feel than is usually the case. It felt very welcoming: carpeted floors mean that the sound quality is good and it isn’t as loud and echoey as play centres often are. That’s not to say it’s quiet, there was still the sound of many children having a good time, but it’s nowhere near as headache inducing as other places we’ve visited. You’re actually able to hear annoucements over the PA system too which is unusual!
360 Play is laid out quite differently to most play centres and takes a bit of exploring to really get a feel for what’s there. When we first walked in we struggled to find a seat as there only appears to be a small seating area. However, once we had a look around, we realised that instead of one central seating area, there are small areas dotted all over the place. Normally I like to find a seat with a good view of the play structure: I have three children aged 8, 6 and 2 and the big two like to go off on their own, understandably. I know they can usually be trusted to play nicely and can manage any climbs etc. and they will usually take their little brother with them, but he’s a little more unpredictable and prone to getting stuck, so it’s useful to be able to keep an eye on him! My first thoughts were that 360 Play makes this difficult but really it’s just a bit different. We found a great spot upstairs which was right next to the play structure and actually gave a pretty good view of much of it, so while we couldn’t see it all, we were able to see enough that our kids whizzed by frequently enough to know they were fine!
Now, the really big thing about 360 Play is that is really isn’t just another soft play centre.The play structure itself is great: my husband was particularly impressed and said that there were lots of features there he hadn’t seen in other soft play centres, and particularly liked the clear perspex floors to walk over (which sound hellish to me!). There’s the usual array of great slides and things to climb, and the kids were certainly happy charging round it. Downstairs there is a ‘dodgems’ race track which was of course very popular, as well as a messy play area and cafe with a decent menu. Upstairs is where the real magic is though. As well as a full sized carousel, climbing wall, and an impressive baby/toddler area, there is an amazing little town: 360 Street.
Here, children have the opportunity to indulge in some fantastic role play: they can shop in the well-stocked supermarket, go to school, become a fire-fighter, bake pizzas, fix a car and loads more, or they can just enjoy dressing up in the boutique. All three of my children loved this area. Felix of course claimed to be bit too old for it, but still had a great time ‘helping’ Dexter… though no-one forced him to wear that fire-fighter’s jacket!
We stayed for more than three hours and the kids really had a whale of a time and raved about how great it was for the rest of the day. At £6.95 for 1-3 year olds and £8.95 for 4-12 year olds (with a £3 charge for adults) it’s not a cheap day out but you do get a lot for that money and could easily spend the best part of the day there. Currently there are no machines dotted around that require more money for sweets/rides/candyfloss/games which I really hope stays that way. Everything is included, which is a massive bonus as there’s no nagging for more money when you get inside.
Definitely worth a visit for something a bit different, I really hope it can maintain the high standards it has set! Good luck on your opening day 360 Play!
For more information, visit www.360play.co.uk/basildon