We took a trip to London last weekend to meet up with family and friends. It’s a bit of an annual pilgrimage for us, usually taking in a bit of Wimbledon action and various other exciting events. But that’s not really possible with a toddler. So although we did some stuff for us (like a gig, an afternoon tea and Camden Market – all of which she LOVED) this time we found stuff to do with and for the little lady as well. It was her holiday too…
There were a few things I was a bit anxious about beforehand, so I thought I’d share how easy it actually was, and the toddler friendly places we found. You know, just in case any of you decide to brave the Big Smoke with your littles!
This was the main thing I was worried about. We walked and used the underground during our trip. We took the pram and our carrier, both of which she’s happy to sleep in. The carrier is great for busy cities, but if you’re planning on being out for an entire day and you need to bring a lot of toddler related stuff, the pram can be better. Especially if it’s really muggy and sweaty out.
Apart from being roasty toasty, the underground with a carrier is fine. I wasn’t sure how easy the underground was going to be with a pram, but we just went for it on the days we were definitely out for a long time. It was surprisingly easy. Some of the stations have lifts, but there were always at least two of us with her, so getting the pram down or upstairs was fine. As long as you can negotiate the stairs and the escalators you’re grand.
The trains themselves are fine. Apart from being a bit hot and sweaty, sometimes a little bit pungent and very occasionally disgusting (particularly with people getting right in there squeezing spots across from you). Even the busiest trains we were on were easily negotiable with the pram. Folk just automatically got out the way.
And a surprisingly large number of people offered to help with carrying the pram up/downstairs, and offered up their seats. For us it was unnecessary, but it was very kind in a city full to the brim with people in a rush. And still very much appreciated.
Stuff We Brought (that proved really useful)
Pram & Carrier
We took both our pram and carrier. The little lady will happily nap in both, but as I’ve already mentioned, they each have their positives. The carrier (our Boba 4G) is fantastic for times when she’s going to be able to walk a bit and when we don’t have that much we need to carry. And for when she needs a cuddle. It also comes in handy when the pram is just a pain in the bum. The pram is a lifesaver on days when we were out the whole day. We could fit everything we needed in the bottom of it; much better than carrying a heavy little lady AND a heavy rucksack around a whole day, especially when it’s hot out.
Tubbage & a small cool bag
I always have a bunch of snacks in an array of tubs for the little lady whenever we’re out, no matter where we’re going. (It saves me time and money!) The hotel we stayed in had a nice assortment of fruits and pastries and cheese and such like for breakfast. We basically filled our boots (tubs) and had snacks for the day in the process. We also brought some of our own snacks – things she loves like rice cakes, granola bars, yogurt covered raisins etc. Purely so I didn’t have to find anything whilst I was there.
Toys & books
I don’t even think I need a paragraph to explain this. We took some toys and some books. And her two favourite teddies. We took mainly small toys like flashy balls, finger puppets, her little dinosaurs, stickers and crayons; stuff that keeps her occupied for at least 5 minutes! And her toy phone. I also made some travel toys for her. I’m planning a separate post about those. 🙂
For times when a toy, a chopstick, a snack, a book or even Weesa and Teddy won’t suffice. Only Elmo songs will do.
We were in London, not the middle of nowhere. There’s really nothing that different from Glasgow except it’s bigger, busier, hotter and has a good underground system. But the shops (the Tesco metros, the supermarkets and all the other grocery stores) are only allowed to be open for 6 hours on a Sunday. So if you need milk for your baby or a particular cereal for the morning or a banana for a pre-bed snack, make sure you get it before 6pm. Because they all shut up shop on a Sunday.
The little lady has always had a bedtime bottle of milk. She still has one now (I don’t care if you think she’s too old for a bottle, she’s my kid) and she likes it warm. Last year when we were away I had to find a way to heat her milk without having to go get hotel staff to do it, or to take a bottle warmer with you: I call it the Ice Bucket Kettle method. Boil the kettle, put the bottle with milk in the ice bucket and fill ice bucket with the boiled water. Heats it (from the fridge) in about a minute. Job done.
Many of the top museums and galleries are free. This includes the British Museum, Natural History Museum, Science Museum, the V&A, Museum of London, National Maritime Museum (which has a good toddler play area and is right next to Greenwich Park – excellent park), the Tate and the V&A Museum of Childhood. Over the years I think I’ve been to all of them (mostly without a toddler) and they’re all great. (They may have exhibitions that demand a fee, but you should be able to have a wander around for free).
Stuff We Did
A little list of the things we did specifically for the little lady, or the things that we did for ourselves, but that she ended up really enjoying! (All except the afternoon tea and the gig were free.)
The Science Museum
Excellent toddler area in the basement. They’ve got sensory play and an elaborate water play area too. And lots of buttons to press and knobs to twirl throughout the rest of the museum.
Natural History Museum
The natural history museum is vast. We barely had a look around one floor and we there for over 2 hours. There’s a bugs and beasties room (or something like that) and an excellent dinosaur exhibit with the big moving and roaring T-Rex. (I think she’s only there for another few months though). But there loads to look at, although it’s perhaps not as toddler oriented at the Science Museum.
It is the busiest place on the planet and hotter than the sun though. You have been warned.
Diana memorial playground, Kensington Gardens
A huge outdoor play area with a sand and water play area, a big wooden boat to clamber around in and climb the mast, loads of bits dotted around all over the place with tunnels, slides, swings, boys to climb on and stuff I probably didn’t even see. Best outdoor play area I’ve ever seen. You could probably spend a day here, or at least half a day easily. Excellent.
It was really busy though, and they were running a ’20 out, 20 in’ policy when we arrived.
Diana memorial fountain, Hyde Park
A massive walk-in fountain that you can splash around in and walk the whole way round. Probably better for slightly older kids than the little lady, but there were people of all ages there – from 0 to 70. Take a swimsuit. The kids’ll get splashy.
There’s a nice (busy) cafe next to it and it looks onto The Serpentine – a lake with pedalo’s. I went on those with my nephew a few years ago. They’re fun too.
Good for a run around or a wee chill out. There’s a lovely water feature that the kids can splash around in and it’s quite shaded if you need to get out the sun. There’s also a ping pong table. You can rent paddles and a ball from somewhere, but I’m not sure where. There’s always buskers around, many of whom are pretty good (and often funny). Loads of food places all around it too.
Bit of a concrete jungle this one. But there’s fountains and ponds (you aren’t allowed in them) and statues all over the place. Everyone wants to climb up to get their photo with one of the lions; there are very orderly queues to that end. It was a good place to let the little lady run free, this year and last. And there are pigeons everywhere. She loves a pigeon.
In Brixton, this park was suggested by a friend who’s recently moved to London. It’s a pretty big park with a wee cafe up the hill in the middle. There’s a Lido there (we didn’t use it as the little lady had an immense nap that day) which looks nice and they have a great water and sand play area and a separate quite big play area with swings, slides, climbey bits and sandpits. Excellent.
This was way more for us than for her. But she seemed to quite like running around in her determined little way.
Primrose Hill & Park
Just a 10 minute walk from Camden market, Primrose Hill has some swanky cafes and boutique shops (some kids ones). The park has a little play park in it with sandpits, swings, slides and some nice floor chimes. I wouldn’t travel specifically for it, but if you’re in Camden anyway it’s an easy walk to let your little blow off some steam. And it’s right across the road from London Zoo as well.
We all went to Fortnum & Mason for afternoon tea in their lovely tea room. Needless to say she had a wonderful time with scones and jam and cream and cakes and pastries. I think this was probably her favourite part of the entire trip, despite the fact she had to sit in a high chair for longer than usual.
An Ed Sheeran Gig
Yes, we took our toddler to a gig. It’s not something we would ever have normally done, but our sister-in-law had got us all a box at one of the Ed Sheeran gigs in Wembley. We figured if the little lady got really tired and upset one of us would just get a taxi back to the hotel with her. That’s absolutely what we were prepared for. But she was the life and soul of our party. She freaking LOVED it. She was exhausted by the end of it and fell asleep immediately upon leaving the stadium, but she danced and bobbed and waved and clapped and swayed along with the best of us. She had a brilliant time. So yeah, it can be done. 🙂