London can be a daunting place for parents travelling with children, what with the crowds, the expense and the lack of space for the little ones to run around. But there’s a whole other side to the capital just waiting to be uncovered. So, if you are thinking of visiting the city any time soon, hopefully this insider knowledge will make your visit a little less stressful and a lot more fun.
♦ The Tate Modern is like a giant toddler playground. Tots can toddle around the turbine hall and get hands on with interactive areas in the basement and on level 4. There’s buggy parking and baby change facilities and kids currently eat free in the restaurant and café.
♦ The V&A Museum of Childhood has a baby sensory section, a huge buggy park, exhibits at child height and Montessori family packs available to borrow from the Information Desk for little ones as young as 6 months.
♦ The Imperial War Museum has a secure buggy park and lockers to stash bags and coats so you can look around unencumbered. But don’t forget your £1 coins!
♦ To avoid the crowds at the South Kensington museums, aim to arrive at around 3.30pm, when most people are starting to leave.
♦ Take children to the gruesome Grant Museum of Zoology near Euston to gawk at the jars of preserved animals. It’s free and small enough for short attention spans. Look out for the jar of moles!
♦ The Phoenix Garden in the heart of the West End, with its no alcohol or dogs policy, is the perfect place to stop for a break from shopping to feed the baby, have a picnic and let little ones run around.
♦ Coram’s Fields is a great children’s playground near King’s Cross with an animal corner, sand pit and zip wire. Only adults with children can enter and alcohol and dogs are banned.
♦ The Barbican conservatory is the perfect place to hide on a rainy day. This huge tropical space is home to thousands of species of plant and exotic fish. Kids can compete to spot terrapins and koi carp. Open most Sundays.
♦ The Thames foreshore is a great place to take kids for a spot of mudlarking. They might find some buried treasure, or at least a fun souvenir!
♦ Take intrepid explorers to Crystal Palace to hunt out the Crystal Palace Park Dinosaurs. The full-scale statues have been admired by little Londoners since the Victorian era and they haven’t lost their wow factor. You can even download an audio guide before you go.
♦ Take kids down the Thames Path in Wandsworth to Smugglers Way Recycling Centre to watch the cranes loading the giant containers onto the river barge and see the forklift trucks in action.
♦ Take toddlers to Camden Market as it’s opening, around 10am, when the area is car and crowd free and they can toddle around to their heart’s content. Plus there are plenty of cafés and bookshops to nip into.
♦ Kids will love the swimming pool at Pancras Square Leisure Centre, which has funky music playing, a wall of coloured lights, fountains and loads of floats. It’s free for children and there’s also a kids library and café upstairs so you can make a day of it.
♦ Take a Waterbus across Regent’s Canal to London Zoo from either Little Venice or Camden Lock for a different view of London.
♦ Once at London Zoo, outsmart the crowds by checking the feeding and show schedules and using those times to visit other popular animals.
♦ Avoid the queues, and the price tag, of large aquarium attractions by heading to the smaller aquarium at the Horniman Museum and have a look around the other displays while you’re there. They also run regular activities for kids.
♦ London’s city farms are great for families and are dotted all around London. Many have activities running throughout the year and special events during school holidays. Plus, they’re free!
♦ Kids will love the novelty of having breakfast for lunch at the new cereal café in Shoreditch.
♦ For a novel experience, book in for afternoon tea at Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, London’s first ever cat café, where you can play with cats while drinking tea and eating cake! Over 8’s only.
And one for the big kids…
♦ Take a trip down memory lane and introduce your kids to the toys of your childhood with a visit to the Sylvanian Families Shop in Highbury. They sell several discontinued and hard-to-find items so you may even leave with a new piece for your collection.
First published on Tots100 on 20 March 2015. See original post here.