We love Grass Hoppers and have been looking forward to the opening of their new soft play. As such, we were really excited to be invited along to the pre-launch event, to check out the facilities, which are now open.
Grass Hoppers in Tong Garden Centre is an amazing place to take the kids, and we have visited their outdoor area on many occasions. It is a safe play space for families and you’ll find a huge outdoor adventure playground and a large indoor play area, where children up to 10 years old can enjoy proper playtime! You can read about the outdoor area in this blog post.
Keep reading for details of their great grub and award winning (and allergy conscious!) ice cream being served in the new Woody’s Kitchen.
What’s New at Grass Hoppers?
Well, first off there is a brand new entrance. It is accessed through the covered area where you will find the outdoor plants. It’s really easy to find but the staff at Tong Garden Centre are always willing to help if you find yourself a bit lost.
As you walk in there is a brightly painted wall and a wooden desk with a locked gate which you find at all soft play areas. This gives you you real confidence it’s a safe place for your child to run around and explore.
There is ample seating for you to sit down. However, if it is very busy, you’ll likely not be able to see your child if you’re near the back or sat near the ice creams. As such, get there early if they are young and need closer watching.
The Soft Play Area
We love soft play, it’s a brilliant opportunity for the kids to burn off energy and for the parents/carers to have a few minutes peace with a hot cuppa!
The soft play itself was very impressive, as you find they all tend to be the same. However, Grass Hoppers have set the bar high. For the younger kids, there is a brilliant interactive area. This includes a piano to record and play sounds with your feet. They even have nursery rhyme suggestions and tell you which keys to press to play the tune. However, it was still popular with the older kids and parents testing it out.
There is a talking tree and an infinity mirror panel with lights as well. This is an excellent sensory activity for any children on the spectrum. A big “wow” was a screen hiding under the smallest slides. It loops a video of different bugs and animals like ants and snails so you can see the detail of their anatomy and how they move.
What about older children?
For older children, they have a great sports court with cut outs for goal scoring, just like you see at fairgrounds. This was really popular with some of the older children. We also enjoyed some the games throughout the Soft Play frame such as spot the difference.
I also counted at least 5 slides throughout the play frame which was a big hit with us.
Something I’ve never seen in a soft play before but I was very impressed with was the 3 real life play areas including a Shop, Garage and a Coffee Shop. They’re not very big but this stops it getting clogged with too many kids trying to play with the same thing. In the garage, there was a racing car the kids can take apart and re-build as much as they want or just use their imagination to pretend they’re the next Lewis Hamilton!!
In the garage and also in the toddler play area, were wall jigsaws to place soft play shapes/tools. This was a great spin on traditional jigsaws.
What does entry into Grass Hoppers give you?
Your entry gives access to both indoor and outdoor play. If you want to access the outside area, there is a new doorway at the back easily spotted from entering Grasshoppers.
You will find that with the new building the outside feels a little smaller. However, nothing has changed in respect to the facilities or the equipment for children to play on. There is a new area for ride on cars, seesaws and play houses for younger kids. There is so much space both inside and out that it shouldn’t be a problem.
There is a brand new kitchen and ice cream parlour known as Woody’s Kitchen. They offer a great selection for breakfast and lunch such as sandwiches, panini’s and pizzas.
We ordered sausage, chips and beans for the little ons. They were fresh butcher sausages and were ‘yummy’ – which is the official seal of approval from the 3 year old! From the adults menu, we tried the fish finger butty and a bacon roll. Both were delicious and very filling. However, we did manage to save room for cake!
There is so much to choose from such as brownies, flapjacks, scones and cakes. You can eat in or take away. The menu itself highlights suitability from a Vegetarian and Vegan perspective too.
Let me tell you about the ice creams!! I was so impressed at how switched on they are from an allergy perspective. There were 8 sorbets and ice creams to choose from that were dairy free (Vegan friendly) and individually wrapped gluten free cones. This is to prevent any risk of cross contamination or picking the wrong cone. Whilst not ideal from an environment perspective, from a health & safety perspective, it really makes you relax that allergies can be catered for.
There was a microwave not far from the toilets you can use to heat up any baby food etc.
Toilets and Baby Change Facilities
The toilets haven’t changed from before. But what you may not notice is that where you once accessed them outside by the ticket office, they are now just easily accessed from the play area. There are baby change facilities in both the men’s and women’s toilets. There is also a toilet and baby change facility for unisex use. The disabled bathroom does not offer changing facilities.
I did really like that in the main toilets there was 1 much smaller ‘toddler’ toilet which you don’t find in many places.
In a nutshell, we loved it! We will definitely be back though the summer and beyond now that Tong Garden Cebtre is an all-weather spot to take the kids.
For full disclosure, whilst we received free entry for the purposes of this post, no influence has been made to the information or contents.