West Berkshire Family Life

Indoor Play Ideas for Young Children

It is starting to get cooler and the nights are drawing in. On one hand there’s nothing like a cosy snuggle on the sofa and a good film with your family. On the other hand, children still have tonnes of energy and most of us want to get out and about, no matter the season. There are some days when it just isn’t feasible to play and explore outside. It might be freezing cold, especially wet or perhaps you just feel like a change of scenery.

Going out to play is a win-win for parents and children alike. We all get to socialise, move our bodies, try new things and perhaps mum and dad can even get a cup of coffee that someone else has made. For some reason, it always tastes better that way! Let’s have a look at some indoor play options for young families in and around West Berkshire this winter.

The Ugly Duckling Pottery Painting

This pottery painting cafe has become a bit of a staple in Newbury’s town centre. It is a fantastic spot for all ages to try their hand at painting on pre-prepared pottery. There is a huge collection of items and styles to choose from such as plates, mugs and ornaments. The staff are helpful and give you tips and instructions to help you along the way. The team then glaze and fire your creation and have it ready for you to collect at a later date.

Lots of children love to get stuck in and make something unique to take home with them. It’s a lovely calm activity to try with your children and their creations make great Christmas gifts for friends and family too.

West Berkshire Family Life members can enjoy a free drink at The Ugly Duckling when going for a painting session (Monday-Friday), see more details and sign up for your free membership card here.

Opening Times: Mon – Sat 10am – 5.30pm. Sun 10am – 4.30pm.

Cost: Dependent on the pottery you choose. Starts at around £5.

Booking: Booking is recommended but not essential.

Age Range: 3 +

Website: http://www.theuglyducklingpottery.co.uk/

Phone: 01635 523778

Open Play Gym at KD Gymnastics

This is a favourite spot for gymnastics classes and birthday parties in its own right. However, it’s the Open Play Gym sessions that I want to talk about here. The drop-in one hour long sessions are brilliant for keeping everyone busy. The sessions usually take place on weekday mornings in both term time and the school holidays, but there are occasional Sunday slots too.

It’s the ultimate energy burner with the added bonus that your little ones are learning to balance, jump and test their coordination skills. The gym itself is a large space and while it can get busy at times there is always plenty of room for everyone to have lots of fun. Bring your own drinks and snacks because there is no cafe or shop on site.

Opening Times: Varies each day. Check here for the latest information.

Cost: £5 for one child and one adult. Each additional child is £5.

Booking: No, walk in only.

Age Range: 0-5 years

Parking: Yes. Behind the gym.

Website: https://www.kdgymnastics.co.uk

Phone: 01635 45986

Thatcham Garden Centre Soft Play

This soft play area is especially good for toddlers and preschoolers. The play area is fairly small with a slide, some hidey holes and a couple of other sections to explore. You may find that older preschoolers outgrow this one quickly because there is only so much for them to do. Every child is different though and you might find your older ones love it! It’s well worth keeping this soft play in mind for young children who are ready for some independence – they can go off and play by themselves but are never more than a few paces away from you on the side!

There is a cafe next door that’s open whenever the soft play is.

Opening Times: Hour long sessions from 9am – 4pm daily. Check here for the latest times.

Cost: £3.50 per child

Booking: No bookings. Walk-in.

Age Range: 1-5

Parking: Yes

Website: https://britishgardencentres.com/thatcham-garden-centre/

Phone: 01635 953060

Bumpers Backyard at Northcroft Leisure Centre

This is currently the most substantial soft play centre in and around Newbury after some recent closures of others in town. It has enough to keep both toddlers and preschoolers (as well as some of their older siblings) entertained for a while. There are two main sections, one for younger children and one with more challenging equipment for older children. The adult seating area is not up to much but it works.

There is a cafe in the leisure centre but it doesn’t always share the same opening hours as the soft play area. It’s an easy walk from Newbury town centre to the leisure centre.

Opening Times: Daily 10am – 5pm

Cost: Under 1s – £1.55. Over 1s – £3.30

Booking: No bookings. Walk-in only.

Age Range: 0 – 10

Parking: Yes. Up to 3 hours free when using the leisure centre facilities.

Website: https://www.leisurecentre.com/northcroft-leisure-centre

Phone: 01635 31199

Nature Discovery Centre

Now, this one might surprise you! The Nature Discovery Centre site in Thatcham is more commonly known for its outdoor activities, but they do have a lovely learning and play area inside the visitor centre. It’s probably best used to warm up from your outdoor adventures or as a pit stop along the way rather than a destination in its own right. That being said, it is worth a nose around because there are books, puzzles and games for children to get stuck into as well as lots of nature information for older children to read.

Head into the main entrance of the cafe building and turn to the right. Once you are finished exploring there, go upstairs for more fun. The cafe is right next door and then the lake and play areas are just outside.

Opening Times: Wednesday to Sunday 10am – 5pm

Cost: None. A donation is requested for parking.

Booking: No bookings. Walk-in.

Age Range: 2+

Parking: Yes

Website: https://www.bbowt.org.uk/explore/visitor-centres/nature-discovery-centre

Phone: 01635 874381

The Living Rainforest

The Living Rainforest in Hampstead Norreys is popular with families to visit all year round. It’s especially handy in the cooler months to have an indoor attraction like this nearby. There are three glasshouses to explore with plants and animals to spot along the way. It’s well suited to young children with clear walkways for them to wander themselves and discover. Older children will like learning about the rainforest from the informative and interactive displays. The place is not as big as you think when you first enter so be prepared for your visit to last no more than an hour.

There is a cafe in the same building for any drinks and snacks you might like. For an extra pound or two you can upgrade your ticket to an annual pass, which means you can return as much as you want. This is worth doing to make the most of the ticket price.

Opening Times: Daily sessions from 9.30am-12.30pm or 1.30-4.30pm.

Cost: Under 2s – free, 2-14 years – £9 – 12, 15+ years – £12-15 (cost based on whether you choose an annual pass ticket or a one time visit ticket)

Booking: Pre booking is essential

Age Range: All ages

Parking: Yes

Website: https://livingrainforest.org/

Phone: 01635 202444

Finally, here is an honourable mention for the Barn Cafe at the Darling Buds of May Garden Centre in Headley. While it is not strictly a play or activity venue the cafe does have a lovely play section for young children. It’s perfect for them to amuse themselves while the grown ups enjoy a hot drink and a catch up!

It’s likely that some of this information will change so remember to give each place or call or check their website before you go. This way you will know what to expect as well as any changes to opening times and entry prices.

 If there are any great indoor play options missing from this list please let us know.

Written by Anna Bilton

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