The last couple of weeks of the summer holidays are over and I suspect there are sighs of relief to be heard from tired parents everywhere! In the nicest possible way of course! No more daily wondering what on earth you are going to think of to keep them occupied and probably houses that stay tidy for more than five minutes. We shall miss the hustle bustle of the park but were we taking them all home with us I expect we’d be relieved school is back too! It does however mean that all the places we love to go to won’t be as busy as they have been and all the play groups will be back on; meaning for us parents of non school age children that we too don’t have that daily ‘What ARE we going to do today’? Saying that it does signal the very end of summer and probably not even the hope that it might be sunny again this year. Ah well… At least the last week gave us a few days of summer even if the rest of the season neglected to and going forward, looking out the window at the rain today, there’s not much more promise of sun to come? Still there are plenty of things to do in London when the weather’s not great so the weekends needn’t be bleak! Here I’m going to tell you about two things we’ve done recently that we think are absolutely fab and what’s more… They’re FREE!
We decided we were going to take full advantage of this September yet Mediterranean style climate on Friday and pop down to the Princess Diana Memorial Playground in Hyde Park. It was lovely for Florence and my ten year old sister to get into their swimming costumes and run around like we were on holiday and not in Central London but really and truly this place is not just for sunny days, not by a long chalk! The water feature does probably require a bit of sunshine but this is such a small part of the space, that in the winter, the play ground is just as much fun as in the very height of summer. This is such a special playground with so much to see and do, I can’t help but think the late Princess Diana would be immensely proud of it. There is often a small queue to get in but it is managed so well with a twenty people in, twenty people out policy that even on the hottest day of the summer holidays we were in within about half an hour. Often when I have been on week days in term time there hasn’t been a queue at all. Once inside you can pick up some reasonably priced lunch at their on site café but there are many lovely spots for a picnic whether you require a table or not. There are of course the obligatory swings, slides and seesaws but these are eclipsed by everything else in my opinion. For the tiny ones there are little rocking boats they can climb in and out of, small wooden playhouses both on stilts and on the ground, wooden sheep to climb on and off and tunnels to crawl through. Everything is set upon sand which is there to play with so don’t forget your bucket and spade come rain or shine! For the older ones the boat is a little bit bigger; the centre piece of the day being a massive pirate ship which can be climbed on and in and up! It is complete with a crows next which if you dare can be climbed so as you can look out over the rest of the park. And in the rest of the park there is still plenty. Hidden behind every corner, every swirling hidden path there is a gem that all ages will enjoy from giant musical instruments to a section with teepee tents and a stilted walkway. This is, in my opinion one of the very best things London has to offer for free and is easy to access from many stations, the closest being Queensway on the Central Line. It’s also within walking distance from the Science and Natural History Museums.
The second thing we did was on Saturday when we met up with some friends and got stuck in at the V & A owned Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. Florence and I love coming here because it’s so interesting for literally everybody. If your little ones are having a nap then push them round and just devour all the toys from eras gone by, remembering things you played with and reading about the history of others. There’s a lovely café where you can have a coffee and when the little ones wake up let the mayhem begin! There’s an excellent area down stairs where you can go and have a picnic with tables, chairs and high chairs provided and if the weather is nice enough then they have some lovely areas outside too. At the Museum of Childhood they hold daily activities which are free and for children of all ages. The day we were there they were giving out Alice bands and animal ears to decorate, stick on and wear. They provide all the equipment you need and our babies had much fun being artists! There are also lots of toys to play with, old and new along the way of your journey through the museum. There are rocking horses and interactive screens to touch, there’s a special fenced off play area and an indoor sand pit. There is often a specialised exhibition which when we were there was dedicated to the author Judith Kerr and some of her most famous books such as ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’ and ‘Mog the Forgetful Cat’. On the first floor there is a dress up area and a baby sensory zone and yes, all this is absolutely free! There really is so much to do here that you will always leave wanting more and go back time and time again. It’s the perfect retreat for a rainy day and the children will love it!
Both the Princess Diana Memorial Playground and The V & A’s Museum of Childhood are like I say, free of charge, however they operate from donations so if you can afford it don’t forget to drop a few pennies in one of their collection boxes! We need to keep wonderful things like this going in London because we are truly privileged to have them and I for one want to make sure that in years to come they are still there for children to enjoy!
I’ve got lots more to tell you all so do come back soon and read about my next trip to the ‘London Museum of Docklands’ and if you fancy reading up on ‘Peppa Pig World’ then do check out my blog linked at the bottom of this page where there’s reviews, competitions and much more!