First of all, apologies I haven’t posted for a while. I am back in work and the twins are as boisterous as ever and attempting to walk. I am not prepared for walking twins. As a result I have been absolutely knackered and have had no time to do anything. I am a mess.
Anyway, this is a guest review done by my much better, and much more patient half Steven, of The Ste Review (have a look he’s very good). I have been a bit apprehensive about posting this because he is a better writer than me!
I hope you enjoy it. x
So, forgive me if I’m being presumptuous, but my guess is that if you’re reading a blog about places to take your children in Manchester you’ve probably heard of, and visited, the Trafford Centre. Now, I grew up in Urmston. If you don’t know it, it’s the place you get to if you turn the other way when you come off the M60 at junction 10. I can’t claim to speak for all Urmstonians, if that’s the right word for us, but I know a lot of us had our Saturday jobs, or even full time jobs at the Trafford Centre. We’ve seen behind the faux marble, the oddly naked statues (especially in the newer bit with the home shops and the sea life centre – full of statue boobs), and the glitzy blue dome. We’ve been behind the scenes. A lot of us from Urmston – and this will shock some of you I’m sure – don’t like the Trafford Centre.
Personally, I’ve always preferred town, or should I say Manchester City Centre. It’s more vibrant, it’s got more character, there’s more going on. But nothing changes your perspective quite like parenthood, eh? The part of me that still thinks I’m eighteen sighs at the thought, but when it comes down to it, the Trafford Centre is a good place to go with your children.
For starters, there’s free parking. Bloody loads of it. Considering the sheer amount of parking spaces, parent/child spaces are a bit lacking, and I swear one day I’m going to see some people come to blows over them, but it would be a stretch to argue that parking’s a problem.
Then, of course, it’s all weatherproof because it’s indoors (except for the booby statue sea life centre bit). I mean we’ve all gone to bed planning an idyllic walk around Dunham Massey with our young cherubs, feeding grass to the young deer, getting back to nature; and then woken up the next day to pissing rain and said, “F*ck it, we’re going the Trafford Centre.”
And then, I don’t know about your kids, but our boys just seem to like it in there. I don’t know if the lights, the general hustle and bustle, or that frigging water fountain that shoots up to the ceiling (and grown human beings go “Ooooh!”), but as long as it’s not too busy something about the place just puts them in a good mood.
So, when one day I was looking after the boys on my own and my plans for the afternoon were to visit Grandma and Granddad in Urmston, since I was heading that way anyway, where else was I going to spend the morning?
Now, on this particular day, the boys were about 7 or 8 months old and were loving a bit of not-quite-crawling about the place, you know when it’s mainly dragging themselves using the arms and looking like commandos. They were a bit less happy to just be pushed around in a pram than they used to be so I decided to give the play area a try to let them have a play. If you don’t know, it’s in the Orient on the ground floor, next to Nandos. As if you don’t know where Nandos is.
When you look at the price list, it’s not encouraging. When your first two choices are half an hour and 45 minutes, you have to wonder if it’s really worth it, but as the boys were under 1 they got in free, and because it was quiet the staff were happy for us to stay as long as we wanted. In the end I spent about an hour in there and I’ll explain why I didn’t hang on any longer.
One major drawback, at least as a parent with twins, is that you can’t take your pram inside. They have an area where you have to chain it up before you go in the door, and because our double pram is such a big ‘un they made me fold it up. So, I had a member of staff holding Luke, and an unsuspecting but helpful mum holding Thomas while I sorted the pram out.
I took Thomas back and the staff member let me in to the play area via a door with a combination lock – at least you know it’s pretty secure if the child catcher ever decides to make an appearance. They showed me around to the infant and toddler area and pointed out the toilets and changing facilities, and the problem was immediately obvious: without the pram, what was I supposed to do if one of them needed changing? I can’t leave one out in the play area to play on his own, and I can’t really take him in and leave him to drag himself around the floor of the toilets while I deal with god-knows-what’s come out of his brother. So I stuck it out for an hour, because sometimes I like to live dangerously, but then I got out of there before I had to deal with that particular riddle. (although Jenny has just told me that she just scoops them both up and leaves one on the toilet floor!)
For that one reason, I can’t recommend it for someone on their own with two young babies. The set up just isn’t designed to accommodate that. Apart from that drawback, I have to say it wasn’t a bad play area. They’ve made the most of a relatively small space, and there was a lot more in there than I expected, especially in the bigger kid bit. The smaller kids get quite a small area but there’s plenty of toys in there (mainly with dead batteries it has to be said) and a little climbing course and slide for those that are starting to toddle. I don’t know if Jenny’s mentioned it but the boys are happy if they’ve got something to spin, and there was plenty of that to be done.
Overall, if you’re out in the Trafford Centre and your kids are of an age that they won’t tolerate a day in the pram or get bored shopping, then a quick trip to the play area might be just the ticket to get you through the day. Not suitable for one parent with twins though – and that’s what this blog’s all about.
Pssst – one last Trafford Centre tip: sack off that baby change by the Orient – that place is hellish. Our advice is try the baby change in John Lewis. It’s probably the most luxurious baby change I’ve ever dealt with. It feels like when you treat yourself and pay the extra tenner to sit in first class on the train.
Oh and one last thing while I’m here – can people just get over pooping in the pub? I’m sick of waiting outside the disabled loos to change one of the boys, only for the door to unlock and some red-faced man or woman sheepishly walk out leaving an almighty stink behind. Everyone poops. It smells, get over it. Do it in the standard bogs because the stink from the nappies is bad enough without having to work around your stink too.
The crèche and play area is open Monday – Friday 10am-7.30pm, Saturday 9am-7pm and Sunday 11am-5pm.
|Up to half an hour
|Up to 45 mins
|Up to 1 hour
|Up to 1.5 hours