What?: The irony of Playworld is that it’s called Playworld, because I think Playbox or Playcell would be more appropriate. It’s basically a small rectangle of garish, filthy plastic with some broken interactive bits, a foot-long slide, and some uncomfortable seating with a few child-imprisonment holes masquerading as a soft play area.
Not only was it total shit but I think it was actually quite dangerous for its intended age group given that none of the rules advertised on the website were actually enforced. Everyone was wearing shoes, there were bits of raisin and chocolate all over the floor and most of the kids there were quite obviously older than the upper age limit.
One child even had the audacity to tell me that it was for “kids only” and “not for babies or adults”. I started trying to explain to him that actually it was for 0-5s, my daughter is one and needs constant, contiguous supervision, and that he was probably old enough to apply for a mortgage, but then I remembered you can’t reason with children and walked away.
Another thing that’s totally ridiculous is that the tunnel is completely inaccessible to adults, rendering it impossible to extract your child should they get injured. Bab crawled in and was immediately cornered by a gang of much older children and subjected to a prolonged barrage of aggressive petting. She was terrified and I couldn’t even rescue her. I just had to sit outside calling her name and trying not to cry until one of the older kids helped her out.
Where?: We went to the one at Westfield White City, which is on the ground floor outside Mothercare. Westfield is right next to Shepherd’s Bush station (Central, Ginger, mainline), but if you’re going to make the trip make sure you’re doing it for the shopping and not this sorry excuse for a play area. If you absolutely must drag the kids to Westfield then the Stratford centre has three Playworlds that look slightly more promising.
Facilities: The centre has a couple of family rooms with baby-changing and bottle-warming facilities, family toilets and private feeding rooms. There is also step-free access throughout, and obviously some shops.
Best Bits: Bab was so traumatised that for once in her life she was perfectly happy to be strapped back into her buggy. This lasted all of 10 minutes before she started wailing and we had to decamp to the M&S kids’ department so I could set her free. By the way, if you have a crawler or toddler who hates their buggy then releasing them in a quiet corner of a department store is a million times less harrowing than most play areas.
Worst Bits: This is such a non-entity I nearly didn’t write about it. Aside from being small, dirty, overcrowded, damaged, badly designed and badly organised there isn’t really anything to actually do, other than run/crawl around crashing into each other and getting covered in filth, which you could literally do in any other part of the centre. It’s so disappointing that a big shopping-centre chain like Westfield is incapable of providing a decent play area for 0-5s. The problem of what the hell to do with your kids when you need to go shopping is a real one and one that needs addressing with something a lot more serviceable and inspiring than this.
Cost: Free, although you will pay with your soul.
Would We Come Back?: No thanks.
Bab crawls to her fate in a tunnel at Playworld Westfield White City