360 Play, Basildon is a new soft play centre situated in the Festival Leisure Park and we wanted to take a trip whilst it was not peak time to see what all the fuss was about!
My eldest, 9, finishes school early on a Friday so it was the perfect time to take him and his brother, 3, for an afternoon treat and with it being just half an hour away from my door step we couldn’t wait to venture here after hearing great reviews about it.
To begin, parking was easy and free, so one less hassle to worry about unlike local play centres to me where I have to pay for parking.
360 Play is easy to spot with it’s child-friendly logo and its big windows where you can see the merry-go-round from the second floor!
When we got inside, I had to register.  I knew I could do it online beforehand which would have saved me a lot of time!  I felt a little uncomfortable having my photo taken on the spot, as well as my children but as I understand this is for the safety of them so that we all leave together with the right people!
Once I found a table, we were greeted with this colourful apparatus and the go-karts underneath and already I was excited!  My youngest is highly sensitive so having his brother with us was a big help as it meant we could all take it in together.  We had a walk round to get a feel of the place and they were happy to go off together to explore whilst I ordered some food.
The menu is basic with all the things you would expect to eat at a soft play centre, and I ordered the nachos.  Unfortunately, they had run out of guacamole and offered me an alternative but I wasn’t too fussed by this.  It took five minutes before it was ready but it was not very busy in there at this time.
An hour later, and my children were still having fun!  Where I was positioned was easy to see them running about so I could keep an eye on them without having to get up although this may be more difficult at busy periods.
After a while I decided to join them to see what it was like.  Well, all I can say is I had THE MOST FUN TIME!  I usually hate venturing into the play area as I get a bad back, and all sweaty trying to climb the steps and the slides are usually so fast I get scared!!  However, I found the whole experience here an absolute pleasure!  Each department was adult friendly, meaning no climbing through tight spaces, or struggling to crawl through, or worrying how to get back down!  This is key for me to be able to enjoy the time with my children as it means I stay in the area longer and they get to enjoy it with me.
I have to say, it felt like the programme, Fun House, with Pat Sharp!

1 – this area upstairs is great for the older children, you hit the button and get to time how long it takes for you to complete the mini obstacle course and then hit the button when you are done!  My 9 year old loved to compete against himself!2- I found all the climbing and ways of getting around easy especially for my 3 year old who usually struggles to get up the steps and usually needs my help, but he managed to get up everything with ease

3 – The slide!  Always my dreaded fear as when you don’t wear jeans, I feel like they have been doused in oil and I go flying, never knowing if I am going to stop!  This slide had about 4 humps and I went down slowly and easily to a point where I was screaming with joy rather than fear!

4- For something unique, a clear perspex floor featured in certain areas above and the kids were not scared to run across at all!  Whereas I got talking to another parent who said he was not sure how it took  his weight! I think it is a great idea to have!

After spending two hours in this part, my son went on the go karts about 15 times!  We then ventured upstairs where there was even more to explore!!!
A virtual imagination town included a supermarket, vets, fire station, pizza restaurant, lego/playmobil, and soft play area for under 3s.

My youngest was in his element as he has a great imagination and threw himself into the supermarket role where there was plastic food, baskets and a till area.  The only down side to it is that eventually I can see these areas being destroyed by children!  I am sure the plastic food will eventually become dirty or taken home with them!  The fancy dress part is amazing but eventually it may become tacky and ruined which is a shame.  I am just basing this on what happens at other play areas but I am sure staff will be on hand to make sure this doesn’t happen!
The merry-go-round was also very unique and my son chose the Princess carriage to sit in which has a button to press and it played Bibbidy-Bobbidy-Bo!  As he is sensitive, he cried being on there but the staff member said I was allowed to stand on the inside on the carriage to stay with him and he enjoyed it in the end.
The lego section was also ideal for getting stuck into, and a huge fire engine to climb on!

  Back downstairs, and the boys ventured into the ball pit which was so deep, I was a little scared that my 3 year old would get scared as he went right under!  But he found the whole experience really funny and loved to dive off the step and into the balls!
They stayed here for another hour!
Before we left, I ordered them some dinner as it was almost closing time, we had been here for 4 hours in total but could easily have stayed longer if the centre was not closing!  Portions were perfect, and food was fine.
Now, it was not a cheap afternoon out, although £5 to register won’t be the case every trip here, but it is still a lot of money.  However, I cannot complain as you are paying for the whole experience from it being clean and quiet, (although this may change over time!) to ALL the activities being free.  The go-karts,and merry go round were free, and I noticed there was no other extras around like ball machines or ride alongs for my kids to be distracted by. I am very satisfied that I got value for money and there is no time slot to leave like other play centres so next time we will come in the morning and see what time we end up leaving!
There was also a messy play area and table tennis but we did not get a chance to do these.After this whole experience, I definitely think this is the best play centre in Essex.  Why?  Because they have actually thought about how they can be unique and not just another place for the kids to run riot.  360 Play have thought about the experience from a child’s point of view as well as an adults and for this very reason we will definitely be returning.

What My Kids Thought-

My eldest – ‘Out of ten, I would rate it 11!’  Now coming from someone who is not easily pleased, he could not rate it enough!
What was the best bit about the place?  ‘The go-karts’
Would you go again? ‘Yes’
Was there anything about it you didn’t like?  ‘Nope!’

My youngest –
What was your best bit?  ‘Playing with the supermarket and the basket and fire engine’
Would you go again? ‘Yeah, another day!’
Was there anything you didn’t like?  ‘Yes the merry go round!’  I think this is where his sensitivity kicks in!  Next time mummy will get on it with him the first time!

So there you have it, don’t just take my word for it, go and see for yourself and let me know what you thought of it!  We will be going back but like any play centre we won’t be going at busy periods as it just is not for me and I don’t get the best experience with my children.
360 Play is the best play centre I have been to in years and long may it be open for!

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