Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for the soft play sector

Guidance for soft play centres to help the sector to prepare for re-opening (at level 0 or 1) .

34.1 kB

34.1 kB

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for the soft play sector
Requirements for soft play sector

34.1 kB

Specific requirements for soft play sector


Ensuring good ventilation in the workplace reduces the amount of virus in the air. Small particles (aerosols) are produced when people breathe, speak, shout and sing. They can remain in the air for some time afterwards. By making sure there is a good supply of fresh air entering the room, this will reduce  the risk of transmission.

You should be maximising the fresh air in a space and this can be done by:

  • natural ventilation which relies on passive air flow through windows, doors and air vents that can be fully or partially opened
  • mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts to bring in fresh air from outside, which should be set to maximise fresh air and minimise recirculation , or
  • a combination of natural and mechanical ventilation, for example where mechanical ventilation relies on natural ventilation to maximise fresh air

You should consider ventilation alongside other control measures needed to reduce risks of transmission such as physical distancing, wearing face coverings, keeping your workplace clean and frequent handwashing.

More information can be found at Ventilation and air conditioning during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (  and the Scottish Government COVID-19 ventilation guidance.


Cleaning regimes should be reviewed before reopening. It is expected that an enhanced cleaning routine should be established, documented, trialled and practised to ensure all surfaces can be effectively cleaned before reopening the business, following Health Protection Scotland's guidance for non-healthcare settings. In addition, the following guidelines should be followed, based on the UK industry  BALPPA guidance.

Cleaning of soft play areas and frames

Before opening you will be expected to identify where your high contact surfaces are. You should choose an appropriate cleaning method that is effective at removing the virus. This method should consider which cleaning products should be used, in line with current guidelines, and the frequency at which high contact surfaces should be cleaned. Ensure regular detergent cleaning schedules and procedures are in place using a product which is active against bacteria and viruses. We know that similar viruses are transferred to and by people’s hands. Therefore, along with good hand hygiene, enhanced decontamination of frequently touched environmental and equipment surfaces will help to reduce the risk of infection transmission. As a minimum, these surfaces should be cleaned between booked sessions as well as before opening or after closing,  but your risk assessment may determine it needs to be more frequent. Particular attention must be paid to frequently touched areas and equipment such as slides, monkey bars, enclosed crawl through ‘tunnels’ or tube slides and handholds.

Operators should select cleaning products that are effective and can be used in a way that does not expose people to additional risk. For example, only using certain chemicals when children are not around. Cleaning regimes should be implemented subject to a risk assessment.

Cleaning operators should ensure they follow the instructions for the products they use and pass this information onto the people who will be doing the cleaning. This should include application instructions, for example leaving chemicals applied for a period of time before wiping them off.

In addition to an enhanced cleaning routine, the soft play frame should be treated with a product as described below. There are several products on the market which provide ongoing protection keeping treated areas contamination free between cleaning cycles. These products form an antimicrobial coating on surfaces by forming an environment which makes it difficult for bacteria, viruses, fungi, spores and mould to reproduce. These products should conform with the relevant British standards such as EN1276, EN1650, EN14476.

Any separate areas which include several high-contact surfaces and that may be hard to clean such as ball/soft foam pits should be closed or physically removed from frames before opening.

All cleaning should be carried out in accordance with COVID-19 – guidance for non-healthcare settings and Infection Prevention and Control in Childcare Settings guidance. You should also carry out a COSHH assessment in regards to all cleaning, product selection etc, further information is available COSHH assessment: Identifying hazard and assessing risk (

There should be a suitable system in place for the handling, cleaning and sanitisation of role play and other props. Role play rooms should be cleaned in line with other indoor area frequencies. Role play areas should be restricted to one booked group, to reduce the risk of items being shared between different groups of children and a suitable system must be in place for the handling, cleaning and sanitisation of props to facilitate this.

In addition to the measures above, operators should take extra measures to sanitise the frames, specifically:

  • remove difficult to clean items making it easier to clean the soft play area  
  • any loose soft play items should either be removed or identified in a way that allows them to be included in the enhanced cleaning schedule. Other loose soft play items that can't be included in the cleaning schedule should be removed. The risk of unidentified and mobile items is that they are missed or not included in an enhanced cleaning schedule. Identifying marks could be used, alongside a check sheet to record that each item has been cleaned. Particular attention should be paid to the withdrawal of unnecessary play items that children will put in their mouths or around their faces which are a high transmission hazard

Soft play frame operations

The process for managing soft play frame areas should be a written document and form part of the business COVID-secure opening protocols. Employees will be trained in this process and records of such training will be kept and available to inspectors.

Before anyone is permitted to enter the soft play frame they will need to apply hand sanitiser at the point of entry to the play area. These sanitisation points should be adjacent to each separate play area (not just at the entrance to the building) and supervised by staff to ensure sanitiser is applied. Hand sanitiser is not recommended for children when soap and water is available. Hand sanitiser should not be used by children under 12 months. Additional sinks should be considered for young children.

Operators should have a written policy for dealing with non-compliance. Staff should be trained in the handling of non-compliant persons, bearing in mind the needs of vulnerable groups.

Where customers are required to queue, clear 2 metre physical distancing floor markings are required, so that visitors clearly understand what they are required to do.

The capacity of the soft play frame should be calculated to allow for the current requirements on physical distancing between all persons including the staff (as covered in previous section) - this will allow households to physically distance. Guidance for calculating physical distancing is available. Operators will be expected to demonstrate calculation methods and justification for their capacity numbers. This will need to be monitored when in use as part of the ongoing risk assessment process, to ensure that capacities deliver physical distancing requirements. Evidence should be available for an inspecting officer.

The play frame should be subject to its own capacity. Standards and Guidelines already in place for fully enclosed play equipment are BS EN 1176-10-2017 and BS 8409:2009 (the Facility) – capacity of play areas is calculated using table 1 of EN 1176-10-2017; your manufacturer should be able to provide you with this number.

However, this will need to be adjusted to allow for physical distancing in the frame area. Capacity management and physical distancing should be controlled using management processes and each centre should adopt the process that is suitable for their setting, for example:

  • separate entrance and exit points, which will be staffed, to monitor/regulate numbers to no more than the maximum persons allowed to enter the play structure / zone at any one time
  • control via groups i.e. coloured wrist bands, all-in all-out systems
  • signage displayed at the entrance to the frame
  • the natural one-way flow already built into structures (i.e. hard to climb slides)

The capacity for smaller play areas should be calculated as above. Where there is not sufficient space to facilitate physical distancing only one household per area should be permitted at any one time.

To enforce physical distancing and avoid congestion the following examples may be used:

  • direction arrows or minor alterations to establish a flow system. For example, log ramps to be up only and deck climbs and slides to be down only. Floor pads are typically 1.2m square so additional signage can be erected to remind customers to remain two square floor pads apart from others while playing in the structure unless they are from one family group or bubble
  • risk assessments of pinch points within the frame. Control measures such as temporary closure of confined spaces or areas that encourage users to congregate may be necessary



You should consider using a booking system to monitor and control the number of customers using the premises at any one time.

  • staggered start times for people entering the play frame
  • as part of the booking process, you should not intentionally facilitate gatherings between a greater number of households than is permitted in their local areas
  • informing customers of guidance through signage or notices at the point of booking or on arrival
  • ensuring staff are familiar with the guidance, and if any local restrictions are in place
  • asking customers for verbal confirmation of the number of households in their party at the point of arrival
  • reminding customers not to attend if they have COVID-19 symptoms, they are isolating, have been asked to isolate or are awaiting test results


Guidance for organised parties for children is set out in Coronavirus(COVID19): Organised activities for children.

Face coverings

It is important to note the difference between face masks and face coverings. We have issued guidance on the personal use of face coverings. Where Health Protection Scotland guidance refers to face masks this means surgical or other medical grade masks that are used in certain health and social care situations and are considered to be Personal Protective Equipment. A face covering can be a covering of any type, except a face shield, that covers the mouth and nose.              It is recommended that it be made of cloth or other textiles and should be two, and preferably three layers thick, and through which you can breathe. The Scottish Government also encourages use of re-usable, washable face coverings, rather than single use masks to minimise plastic waste.

A face covering must be worn by all people in indoor communal areas, except where an exemption applies (as defined in the legislation), or where there is a ‘reasonable excuse’ not to wear a face covering such as exercising/ undertaking a physical activity (this would include physical activity in soft play) or eating and drinking in certain hospitality premises with table service such as cafes and restaurants. (This would apply to a café zone within a soft play centre)

There are some exemptions to this requirement, including babies and all children under 5; further information can be found in the Scottish Government guidance. It is important to use face coverings properly and wash hands before putting them on and taking them off.

The guidance relates to use of face coverings by members of the public in specific circumstances. This advice is not intended as an infection prevention and control measure for the workplace where there are other health and safety considerations and measures in place such as physical distancing and hygiene controls. Physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene, are the most important and effective measures we can all adopt to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The wearing of facial coverings must not be used as an alternative to any of these other precautions.

Consult the up to date advice on wearing face coverings. This may change with each review stage.

First published: 30 Oct 2020 Last updated: 28 May 2021 -