I have to admit that I’m a new convert to the charms of Owls Play Centre. For a long time I had avoided it due to some friend’s bad experiences there on a wet, Saturday afternoon – too busy, too noisy and all a bit too much. So we had been going regularly to Ashlyn’s play centre and farm which we love but it’s just that little bit further away. But recently I realised that I should be making up my own mind and I’m so glad we went.
The first day we went my 3 year old ran around excitedly for 4 hours straight, barely stopping to sip water and shove in some snacks. Since then he asks me almost every day if we can go to the play centre! Luckily for me, when we first went they were doing a deal on the unlimited annual membership and I signed up there and then. And we’ve been back at least once a week since.
The first thing to say is that I was braced for it to be super busy and I was surprise by how quiet it’s been most times we’ve been. We have been going on weekday afternoons and after a busy period over lunch time it usually empties out by 1.30/2pm, presumably for nap times. And it gets even quieter still around 3pm when parents head off for the school run and although I had expected it to get busy after school it doesn’t ever get super hectic. So that was my first worry resolved.
The other great thing is the sheer size of the place, it’s purpose built and so there is loads of play equipment to stop the Little Ones getting bored. There are some big slides in the middle and lots of other little areas, climbing sections, tunnels and rope bridges.
There’s also a really fun machine like a giant hoover which you feed the play balls into and it goes up to the ceiling, then it releases them all after a few minutes to squeals of delight. One of the other aspects that I really like is that they play areas are sectioned off into three.
A baby area for under threes, a toddler area for under fives and then the main section for under twelves.
There are lots of tables and a cafe so you can sit and have a coffee and some food while the Little Ones wear themselves out. To be honest, the food is not amazing and is mostly the usual beige kids offerings of chips, nuggets, fish fingers etc. It would be nice to see a bit more healthy food and the coffee wasn’t wonderful but let’s be honest no one is really visiting for the food and drink.
There are lots of high chairs, changing stations and mini toilets which makes it easier for pre-schoolers who like to do things on their own! And you can bring buggies in as well.
PARKING & GETTING TO OWLS PLAY CENTRE
As it’s part of Fairlop Waters Country Park there is plenty of parking but the only downside is the cost and the fact you have to have coins. I’m hoping if they have to update the machines for the new pound coins they might install a pay by phone option – especially as half the machines are always out of order. The prices are £1.30 for 1-2 hours but as most sessions are usually a few hours you’re more likely going to be paying the £3 all day charge. The fact that it is right next to Fairlop Waters does mean that you can make a day of it. The lake is lovely to walk around and there are climbing boulders and logs to climb on all around the lake if you need to wear the Little Ones out even more!
If you’re visiting by public transport it’s only a few minutes walk from Fairlop Waters tube and you can get take bus routes 150 167 169 247 275 462 which all stop at Fullwell Cross, stop A.
ADDRESS: Owls Play Centre, Fairlop Waters, Forest Road, Barkingside, Essex, IG6 3HN
£4.20 Toddler (1-3 years)
£6.40 Junior (Over 4 years)
£1.60 Babies Under 1 year or free if accompanying an older sibling
Free Babies under 6 Months
Accompanying adult £1
Annual Membership: £130 Toddler (1-3 years) or £150 Junior (Over 4 years)
FURTHER INFORMATION: Call 020 8500 9669 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org