I had the immense pleasure of being treated to a play date like no other at Purple Dragon in Chelsea this winter. Now I never thought I’d say this, but as a parent with two children under five, I’ve become an Indoor Play connoisseur. I’ve endured the madness of frenetic play dates and birthday parties at my local indoor play centres, and survived them relatively unscathed.
Having heard more and more London mums mention Purple Dragon, I made the assumption that this was yet another indoor play centre, but with better coffee than the one up behind Brent Cross. How wrong I was!
Purple Dragon (purpledragonplay.com), a members only club for parents in Chelsea, is laid out as a collection of individual spaces, each with its own purpose and with a friendly young staff member on hand to guide the kids in an activity.
The music room had every instrument you can imagine, and more, and a lively young member of staff singing songs with the younger children.
Tucked in the back was a smaller version of the play areas you find in the average play centre, with soft play climbing structures, plus a few thoughtful additions for older children and their parents – including a virtual golf course where you can practice your swing!
There is also a lovely warm pool where you can go for a swim or arrange swimming lessons for your children, complete with pool toys and a brilliant splash zone with fountains.
The most wonderful space, however, is the large room nearest the lobby. The Imaginarium is a bright, spacious area with oversized dolls houses and fire stations, electric race car tracks, ad hoc story time sessions, dressing up clothes, and plenty of beautiful handpicked toys that will set the children’s imaginations alight.
Just beyond the Imaginarium is a restaurant serving meals which are just about as far from the standard chicken-fingers-and-chips-plus-a-slight-stale-slice-of-cucumber fare. Rather than choosing from the menu, I opted for something from the salad bar… get this… seared tuna with a sesame seed crust, a crisp winter salad with fresh cranberries, and a coriander and lime rice salad. Heavenly.
So far so good, right?
It gets better.
There are friendly, trained staff on hand in each of the rooms, so you are free to either play with your children or leave them to it. There are quiet, comfortable pods where you can have a nap, or get your nails done. If you need to do some work or your online shopping they’ll provide you with an iPad to use during your visit, or help you connect your own laptop to their wifi.
In essence, it’s like a nursery, home office, cookery / art / music school, pool, activity club, members club and indoor play centre all rolled into one. There were in fact so many things to do and places to relax that we stayed for 6 hours and the children didn’t whine or fight even once.
The facilities for parents and children are well thought out, and really really nice. Even the children’s toilets were stylish and just the right height for my little ones to be able to nip off to the loo unassisted. The staff are young, efficient and engaged, and seemed to actually enjoy being there. I was especially impressed by how many male staff there were, and felt it made a really nice change for the children to have some male role models during the day, and in traditionally female roles.
The most incredible element is that the whole place has an air of calm, and that the children were content rather than overexcited.
Purple Dragon ticked all the boxes for me, and if you have any opportunity to visit even once, you really must. They’ve thought about all the little details that make for a genuinely enjoyable day with the kids – including the bit where you need time away from the kids!
Many thanks to the owners for inviting me to spend the day at Purple Dragon as their guest.