Whenever I’m in the car, or (more rarely) walking around, and we pass by a soft play centre or a playground I always feel nostalgic. It’s a strange feeling, as sometimes the sight of it triggers slightly buried memories, like birthday parties at the soft play people use to go to when I was little (I think it might have closed down) and going to the local playground and corner shop every Saturday (actually better than it used to be).
Mostly it’s half-forgotten sensations that it brings up; the scratchy feeling of the rope in your hands when you climb up the net or swing across between platforms, the panicky feeling in your chest when you think you’re stuck between the two giant squishy rollers before falling hard out of them onto the floor, and the slightly burning sensation of being out of breath but knowing you can carry on because of the adrenaline rush.
It’s funny how some of the most pervasive memories are linked to pain or fear, like my memory of getting stuck in one of the structures of tunnels at an indoor play centre and watching people from below through the slightly opaque plastic hole in the side, feeling terrified as I couldn’t see a way to get back down and worrying about being forgotten about (you can see I was a very confident child). Another incident I remember is when I fell off the swing and got a mouthful of gravel, chipping one of my teeth and losing a wobbly one in the process.
As well as the childhood memories, whenever I see kids running around I always feel like I want to recapture the level of energy I had back then. I was never the sportiest or most active person, but I still did P.E, played skipping and running games at school and climbed up stuff in the playground in the park along with everyone else. Nowadays, I barely do anything apart from walking around to get to places and dance.
I am planning to do more exercise in the future, but I also think that children have a distinct kind of energy about them, even compared to more sporty adults. When I think back to the sensation it’s strange, almost like remembering being a different person, which could be said for remembering incidents from your childhood in general, I think.
Nostalgia is interesting, as it takes you back briefly to another time in your life that you might have forgotten, but can also have an impact on your current life, like reminding me to do some exercise. I can definitely understand why adult playgrounds and soft play exists; who wouldn’t want to recapture that feeling of energy and having fun while exercising?
I definitely want to.