Yes you read that right, a climbing playgroup. I almost don’t want to review this one as it is so amazing and I’d hate for it to get too busy for us to get a place!
Held at a proper climbing centre, The Warehouse in Gloucester, this playgroup is one of the best I’ve found. Having a very energetic young boy who started climbing at around 9 months, (the tv stand, yes I almost had a heart attack when I found him!*), this group is beyond perfection. Downstairs there is whole room full of climbing walls with different ability levels, overhangs, a slide you need to climb to get onto, and loads of teddies placed around the walls to give them something to aim for. The whole floor is crash matted too. Upstairs is a huge room full of active toys and a different craft each week, there is also a light up climbing wall that they can play games on and an automatic belay room for the more adventurous.
There are instructors there to keep an eye out and offer advice and support but they are equally relaxed and allow you to do whatever your child is enjoying at the time with no enforced structure. There are no raised eyebrows or glares if any of the littlies get a bit over excited, noisy or exuberant, but generally, this is at a minimum anyway as they can do what comes naturally and climb, swing, bounce, hop or roll around to their heart’s content. That being said, there is more then enough space for all this to happen without anyone getting injured so the anxiety that usually accompanies a playgroup visit isn’t there so maybe I’m not as hyper aware of things.
In the 4 times we’ve been, there has been a huge improvement, from needing guidance on every step, and literally a leg up at times, to having confidence going up but needing a lift back down, small boy is now flying up and down, planning his route to get to his toy of choice and even got to try out the automatic belay room. He is getting braver by the week and is definitely much more controlled, plus his need to climb everyhting away from the group has been curbed somewhat, making life much more relaxing for me!
Sessions are called Mini Mice and run on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday term time 10.00 – 12.00 and cost £3.50. On your first visit you need to pay £2.00 for membership which lasts a year. There are also lots of things on suitable for older children and events there for all ages that run through the holidays as well.
There is a cafe downstairs where you can get takeaway coffees to take up and sell the most wickedly sinful & amazing flapjack I’ve ever had and maybe best of all, toilets on each floor for those, ‘I needed to go 5 minutes ago and now it’s so desperate I’m having to grasp my crotch to stop it coming out’ moments! (Him not me I must add here!!)
We both look forward to this so much every week, he gets tired very quickly still, so about half an hour of actual climbing interspersed with play breaks, snacks and new this week was watching the big boys doing proper climbing, is enough for him. A massive added bonus is also that there is an enormous building site behind the centre and they can quite happily spend a good ten minutes just watching the machinery whilst my friend and I can take a rare moment to actually start and finish a conversation!
*Just to clarify, I didn’t make a habit of leaving him unattended, well ok, maybe a little bit, he is the second after all, but I’d literally only just popped into the kitchen to make a cup of tea, (that I could let go stone cold and rediscover later), and he was safely contained in this giant donut thing. Or not, as it turned out!