For most parents the ‘soft play’ area is a chance to sit down and have a cuppa and a natter with other parents whilst their little one/s burn off as much energy as possible. For us and I’m sure for many other parents of physically disabled children the offer of ‘Dandi’s’ or ‘Cheeky Chimps’ is met with a rather different attitude.
Charlie loves the soft play areas; he is fearless and loves flinging himself down slides, however for Lou and/or me soft play means crawling around after him in the hot, sweaty, cramped areas amongst the seemingly hundreds of able-bodied kids running riot. Much as he loves it he does need us to help him climb up or, more importantly, not fall down as he makes his way through the play frames. The multitudes of other children don’t know to be that bit more careful around him or to wait their turn- how does a 2 or 3 year old know that they should wait and not push him out of the way? He often ends up playing quite alone as the group of children with him zoom round and round without him being able to keep up- that said, many still keep coming back to him to ‘check-in’.
We also know how important the ‘soft play’ area is for Charlies’ physical development and him having fun and climbing and tumbling, cruising and crawling is a much more favourable therapeutic effect than our regime- him becoming his own physio is much more helpful. Despite that we still grimace a little when he gets invited to birthday parties at these areas but we do soldier on- actually now Lou is expecting I guess it means Daddy will be sleeping that little bit better that little bit more!
So, to help Charlie get that same benefit but in a slightly more controlled environment without being quite so busy, we decided we should maybe try to do something ourselves at home. At least that way Charlie could get a bit of additional practice and have lots of fun along the way. We decided that there was no time like the present and while the weather was still nice we should crack on…
After lots of looking into playframes and climbing frames we decided on one from the internet- it would take 2 weeks to manufacture and ship so seeing as the garden had ornamental raised beds it meant a good few days of back-breaking labour from me and Grandad!
The frame arrived, typically it was raining but undeterred the shell when up. It chucked it down when Grandad helped cement the legs in place. To make the frame more suited to Charlie we did alter it a little- we changed the orientation of it, added extra hand rails and even added extra rungs on the ladder.
To further increase the safety we decided to use rubberised mats like in public play areas- they were a little more expensive but hopefully will be that little bit more forgiving when the inevitable happens!
Charlie is well chuffed with his frame; he has a steering wheel and telescope and in an instant he is a pirate. He can get around the playframe on his walking frame and can climb up the ladder nicely and slide down the ladder to a bump at the bottom. There is also some rock climbing hand/foot holds on one side for him to progress to and practice with as well as a climbing ladder. Hopefully he should get lots of use out of it and lots of physical exercise whilst he plays- it should be good for the new arrival when she comes too so lets hope Charlie shares…