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Soft play: What to expect when centres reopen (and will you be there?)

Matthew Jones runs Dizzy Rascals in Laurencekirk.
Matthew Jones runs Dizzy Rascals in Laurencekirk.

The ball pools are most definitely closed at the north and north-east’s soft play centres as they prepare to reopen.

With Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Moray and Highland under level one of the Scottish Government’s coronavirus measures from midnight on Friday they are free to open on Saturday.

Soft plays have been popular for parents to bring their young children along and burn off excess energy by playing on slides, climbing frames and colourfully padded assault courses.

But along with a raft of other businesses last March they had to close their doors.

Now, after more than 400 days, they can reopen – albeit with appropriate safety measures.

The Scottish Government has already published specific advice for the soft play sector.

Big changes include:

  • Staff and customers must wear face coverings
  • Capacity is limited to ensure the two-metre social distancing is adhered to
  • Table service must be offered at cafes
  • Ball pools and other equipment that is hard to clean must be removed.
  • Staff must also regularly clean key touchpoints like gates, play equipment, taps and tables and chairs.

Soft play reopening: ‘Not like it was before’

Dizzy Rascals in Laurencekirk has spent the last few days preparing for their own reopening, which will happen on Monday.

Owner Matthew Jones admits he is “excited” about being able to open up the Market Road venue at the start of the week.

He said: “I’m just excited about it really.

“We are still getting our heads around all the rules but it is not going to be like it was before.

“It is going to be much more structured than it was before and I would just ask customers to be patient.

“We will have timed slots for bookings but will also be open for walk-in customers as well.

“We also have a café which we have extended and there will be QR codes to scan for track and trace.

“All of our staff and customers will wear face coverings and we have got a misting machine for cleaning.”

Matthew Jones is “excited” about being able to reopen.

Wanted more time to prepare to reopen

Matthew admits he would have liked more to get prepared for reopening after first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the council areas moving into level one of coronavirus restrictions on Tuesday.

He said: “Why have they not told us what was happening before Tuesday?

“We’re scrambling for suppliers and even the pubs were given more notice.

“Ideally, we would have liked two weeks notice but I guess it is part of the process.”

Matthew is part of a Save Scottish Indoor Play campaign group and admits his excitement at reopening is not shared with other members who are still in level two areas and cannot open.

He said: “There’s a large number of people from Glasgow in the group and it has been mixed emotions because we are getting to reopen and they are not.”

Dizzy Rascals in Laurencekirk is ready to welcome back children.

Meanwhile, not every soft play in a level one area is going to welcome back children and parents.

The Play Zone in Inverness announced it was going to remained closed to “reduce the risk of transmission between children” and protect schools and nurseries from any potential transmission.

In a statement posted on Facebook they said: “Ewan and I have taken the decision to leave Play Zone closed for the time being to further reduce the risk of transmission between children.

“This, in turn, will reduce the risk of schools, nurseries, parents and other businesses being affected in the event of a positive case.

“Many of our parents work in our wonderful NHS and if the nursery had to close and parents had to isolate this would have a huge impact on the services that so depend on us being able to offer childcare.

“This has been a very difficult decision to make but we believe it to be the right thing to do at the moment.

“We will keep you updated if things change and of course we will be delighted to welcome you all back when it is totally safe to do so.”

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