Indoor Play Centers? Nope!

If you’re a mom or know any children, then you’ve heard of indoor playgrounds.  They are the ones with plastic tunnels, giant slides, ball pits,  mesh enclosures, and foam padding everywhere.  Occasionally there may be an arcade for bigger kids and they are home to a buttload of birthday parties.

We’ve never booked a birthday party at a play center ourselves.  We generally favored community center parties.  This one was at Creekside Community Center and still remains a favorite of ours.


Particularly in the early days of parenthood, when you have a rambunctious toddler and you still feel the guilt of not inviting the whole preschool class to a birthday,  these play centers can be a godsend.  You can invite 30 screaming preschoolers to Jack Jr.’s party, stuff them full of pizza, cake, and juice, and nobody cares when they run amok in this padded gymnasium.  Parents chat with each other while the kids are going bonkers and nobody worries that someone will split their head open or break a bone.

On rainy days, which are numerous in our city,  they are a great place to burn off your kid’s energy.  They’re like little hamsters running in a wheel, crawling through tunnels and careening down slides.

But here is why I will NEVER bring my kids to one again.  I have to warn you, the reason is disgusting…..Diarrhea.

If this hasn’t happened to you, I bow down to your immune system of steel.

We generally don’t take the kids to these centers unless we’ve been invited to a birthday party, and there have been quite a few that we’ve been invited to in the thirteen years since we became parents.

Another birthday, another community center. We’ve never gotten diarrhea from a community center. We’ve been so lucky.

I’m telling you,  every single time we go to one of these parties, a wave of diarrhea will pass through our house like the plague.  It starts with one person, then makes it’s way through the rest of the family.  One bout was so severe that I literally broke my washing machine.  My poor front-load washer was so exhausted from washing bedding and clothing soaked in vomit that it passed away in the night, leaving me frantically ordering a washing machine via email from an appliance store the next day.

You may be asking why this happens.  Here’s what I’m wondering.  Who is crawling through those tunnels wiping them down?  Can you imagine how much time it must take to crawl through that thing with some Lysol wipes and rolling around in there to disinfect them from floor to ceiling?  Do you really think they’re doing that on a regular basis?  What about the foam/ball pit?  I’m pretty sure the bottom has got some traces of vomit or excrement that’s hidden by the cheerfully colored balls.  Is anyone really cleaning all of those balls?  Who is getting in there and wiping them down?  What about those bouncy floors or padded walls?  Who is cleaning those?

Indoor rock climbing birthday. Again, no diarrhea.

If you’re convinced that everything gets a thorough cleaning everyday, then think about this.  Kids are freaking gross.  Say they clean the entire place thoroughly top to bottom every night.  The place opens at 10 am and a bunch of runny-nosed, non-potty trained children start coming in waves, wiping their boogers and rubbing their leaky poop butts on everything.  By the time the birthday party starts at 3pm, there is a plethora of germs all over the place.

Why don’t you wash your hands?  Wash your kids’ hands?  Use hand sanitizer?  I didn’t just fall off of the turnip truck on this one.  My husband is even more of a germaphobe than I am.  He religiously makes the kids wash their hands all the time.  The last time we went to a play center party, he actually chased the kids down with hand sanitizer on the regular.  It. Didn’t. Work.  The brown still came to town.

Maybe it’s just the play center you went to.  We’ve been to several play centers within a 30km radius.  All with the same painful results.

Why do I care so much about all of this?  Because small children have weaker immune systems, but not as weak as mine.  I have to inject medication into myself every week that gives me the immune system of an infant.  I have been fully vaccinated multiple times, but I’ve still gotten whooping cough.  I have had hand-foot-mouth disease.  I’ve gotten shingles. Basically I’ve suffered from everything that only small children or really elderly people are supposed to get.  When they give those warnings on the news about things to avoid for people with weakened immune systems, that’s me. But unlike small children or very elderly people, I have stuff to get done, tons of it.  I’m sure most moms can relate to NEVER getting sick days.  I’m either at work, or working at home, so I can’t afford to be sicker than I usually am.  When I do get sick, it takes weeks for me to recover.  I have to skip my medications to help my immune system rebound a bit.  It’s a month-long recovery process and it is the opposite of fun.

We started avoiding birthday parties altogether by taking a birthday trip every year instead. One year we were in Disney World. This year we’ll be in Hawaii.


I totally understand why parents do it though.  It’s so hard to find a birthday venue that caters to large groups of children.  It’s relatively inexpensive.  Most importantly, kids love them!  I’m not judging anyone that has birthday parties there.  I wish I could join in the fun without getting sick. I would love to bring my kids there on a rainy day and just sit back and chill for a precious few minutes. My immune system is just sad.  Really sad.

So in conclusion,  if we turn down your invitation to your child’s party because it’s being held at “Diarrhea-ville,”  it’s not because we don’t want to celebrate with your child.  It’s because diarrhea freaking sucks.  I don’t want it.  I don’t want my kids to have it.  It just sucks. I will happily make time to see you and your child at any other time and place.  I’m so sorry, but I have to say no to diarrhea.


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