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  • Gareth Ellis

Review: MK Play Association

Getting the children out and about is sometimes hard as a parent.

No wait, let me rephrase that. Getting them out is easy as you can always go for a walk, it’s varying things that I sometimes struggle with.

It’s also the interaction side of things that I feel is hard, especially at the moment with this bloody pandemic. So, imagine how pleased Jess and I were to get Rupert booked on to a Milton Keynes Play Association event just recently (and even more pleased that the weather only changed for the worse once we were back at home.)

For anyone not aware, the MKPA is a not-for-profit organisation that focusses on the wellbeing, development and enjoyment of children through play. They offer professional play services at events through the year, and we were lucky enough to go to one on Friday.

When we arrived, we were greeted by some really friendly staff who, as you would expect, showed a particularly keen interest in Rupert. Ever the shy one, he gave them a tiny wave before spotting the toys and charging straight for everything.

There’s plenty for children to do, with ride-on toys and scooters for older children as well as a rickshaw, which Rupert absolutely loved being pulled around in.

We then, not for the first time that day, had a brief interlude while we were distracted by the ducks and geese at the lake to the back of Newton Leys. Rupert, of course wanted to go down to the lakeside and tell me that the ‘geese go honk.’

Back to the field and Rupert had his choice of everything from play balls, hula hoops, foam darts and a giant connect four. But he kept getting drawn to something else – an assault course.

Our son loves playing with children of all ages (most of the time) but he seems particularly enthralled with older children. I think it’s because he can see them climbing, running and jumping like he wants to do himself.

For a while I thought he was just going to stand and watch as the older boys and girls took turns crawling under the cargo net, through the tyres, over the obstacles and then jumping off the crate steps at the end.

So I was pleasantly surprised when, after some encouragement from one of the MKPA team, he crawled under the net, made his way round the tyres (he tried one and was a bit too small for it) and then over the obstacles. Then, with Daddy’s help he climbed the crate steps before he jumped off, all with such a huge grin on his face.

His biggest accomplishment of the day though was when he scaled the MKPA van that was parked towards the entrance. One of the team was sat on the top, encouraging little ones to climb up before helping them get down the other side.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t think he’d get anywhere near the top. Not because I don’t believe in him, but I didn’t think he’d physically be able to scale it (the holes in the netting seemed too big for him.) So, imagine my surprise, and pride, when – with the help of one of the MKPA team holding his feet from underneath – he made his way up, to stand proudly on top of the van! His little face! He was so happy with himself.

I think the hardest part of the day was telling him that his session was over and that we had to go home, a true mark that he’d had a great day.

I can’t rate MKPA highly enough. The happiness, fun and laughs they had, and shared, with Rupert was pretty amazing, and they seemed so genuinely happy to be there and encouraged all of the children to have fun and at least try different things.

And it’s all for a donation. The session we went to only asked for a donation and didn’t specify how much, so people are able to be as generous as they like, knowing that their children are having fun and that they’re supporting a wonderful charity too.

Hats off to MKPA, we’ll definitely be coming back to play another day.

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