I try and get out and about as much as possible with my daughter Fifi, especially at the weekends, when we always try to at least get to the park a few times, Mr G loves the swings! There are definitely some amazing places and resources in South West London for young children (and over active parents), and I know how hard it is coming up with new ideas, so I thought I’d share some of our favourites.
Wildfowl and Wetland Trust, Barnes
This is a wonderful nature reserve in Barnes, with a huge variety of birds. You can let you little ones feed ducks, go pond dipping, play in the adventure playground or just explore all that this lovely place has to offer. The WWT was founded by the only son of ‘Scott of the Antarctic’ and there are lots of references to his amazing ancestry dotted around (at the moment, there are explorer tents and huts). I am a little biased in favour of this place as I love birds (duck was one of my first words, after biscuit. You can get a pretty good idea of my favourite things from this), and spent lots of childhood holidays at the WWT in Slimbridge, trying to smuggle a duckling into my pocket to take home. I had to settle for a Jemima Puddleduck jumper instead.
WWT, Queen Elizabeth’s Walk, Barnes, London, SW13 9WT. £10.99 for an adult, under 4’s free
Gambado is a giant soft play centre for all ages (you have never seen so many grown adults squealing with joy as they whizz down the big slide). My daughter recognises the car park and whimpers with excitement as we get near. However, given my daughter’s diminutive height and age, I have to join in and stay with her. This means I have to climb, play in ball pits and be one of the annoying parents on the slide (and it turns out I’m a bit scared of big slides). We all come home exhausted, and it tends to guarantee a good night’s sleep.
Gambado, 7 Station Court, Chelsea, SW6 2PY. Entry prices vary by age and time of entry.
The Army Museum Kids’ Zone, Chelsea
I didn’t really believe it when someone told me I had to take my little girl to an Army Museum. I decided she didn’t have the right skin tone to pull of khaki camouflage print, and that an Army museum was not quite up my street. How wrong I was. This place has an incredible ‘Kids’ Zone’, which is a soft play area for children from 0-8. The price is reasonable as well, (check out their website for prices, but it works out at about £10 a visit), this place is free for babies under 1 and then £2.50 for bigger kids. It has themed sections (Arctic, Forest and key events in history) with lots of activities in each area. You do have to queue to buy tickets for a 1 hour slot, but it’s pretty straight forward and well worth it. However, a word of warning, there is a certain section which is designed for those with the smallest of bottoms and active participation has resulted in a rather embarrassing ‘firmly stuck’ sort of situation. Proceed with caution!
Fulham Palace Gardens and Bishops Park
This is a great outside space with a lovely café in the beautiful grounds of Fulham Palace, just next to Bishops Park on the river. On sunny days it is overrun with children and parent’s as it is safe, big and much nicer than most parks. Bishops Park has just opened a fantastic new children’s playground and beach, so there’s lots to do for all ages. For a more intrepid trip to the park, we also love Richmond Park, which is wilder and has deer, but no cake, so I stick to Fulham Palace.
Fulham Palace and Bishops Park, Fulham Palace Road, SW6. Entry free, cake extra.
Battersea Children’s Zoo, Battersea Park
Another animal place, but a pretty good one, with monkey’s, parrots, lemurs and farm animals which children can get up close to. It’s not quite London Zoo (we are big fans of the zoo!) in terms of the variety of animals, but it is much less hectic and geared up for little ones really well. It’s also much cheaper (it costs £15 for my husband, daughter and myself to visit, unlike the Zoo which is more like £45….but they do have lions!).
Battersea Children’s Zoo, Chelsea Gate Entrance, Battersea Park. Adults £7.95, Children £6.50
This offshoot of the hugely popular Bertie and Boo café opened in early April to huge acclaim by Balham mums. It is a soft play centre, with a pirate theme with a baby section and a area for older children. It has a coffee shop (with a pirate rowing boat for you little ones to eat their lunch in and say ‘Garrrr’ as frequently as possible), which serves cakes and sandwiches. The baby area has toys, a ball pit and all sorts of baby paraphernalia, while the soft play section has everything you would expect, stepping stones, scramble nets, slides, ball pits and even pirate dressing up clothes (great fun for my husband it turned out). The entrance is £3.90 per child, but it is much small and was pretty crowded when we were there.
However, it is great fun for a hour or two, and definitely brought out the swashbuckler in my daughter (and her Dad—I was informed that by not dressing as a pirate meant I would have to walk the plank).
Bertie and Boo Adventure Land, 205 Balham High Road, SW17 7BQ. £3.90 per child to use the soft play area.
The Science Museum
I was a bit slow when it came to finding what this amazing museum had to offer under 5’s, assuming that it was for an older age group. How wrong I was. The Garden is a section dedicated to under 5’s, which introduces young children to basic science concepts, with mirrors, shadows, building blocks, and loads of other fun stuff, which is also educational. For slightly older kids, the Pattern Pod is a step up, designed for 5-8 year olds, with even more exciting things to play with There are also lots of great events, such as storytelling, bubble displays and talks on things like flying, for different age groups. More details are available on their website. The best bit about the science Museum is that it is free!
The Science Museum, Exhibition Road, South Kensington, SW7 2DD. Open Mon-Sun 10-6pm, and is free to enter.
Mumbies Playgroup, Parson’s Green
This is a great playgroup in Parson’s Green, where I spend lots of Tuesday mornings happily watching my little girl run around church pews with a plastic truck, generally having fun, while I sip good coffee and meet other mums. It’s a very relaxed set up, but seems to offer everything you need, without too much fuss. I personally hate playgroups, where activites are laid out that are destined to cause havoc, unmanned paint stations, paddling pools etc. It always seems to end in tears (usually mine, as a blue hand is indelibly printed on a white top). Every session at Mumbies ends with singing and a group effort at tidying the toys away (very good to teach them this young, so I’m told!), and smiles all round.
Mumbies, St Dionis Church Hall, St Dionis Road, SW6 4UH. Tuesday mornings from 10-11.30, admission is free.
This posting was contributed by our Fulham based contributor Alexandra Geddes. Alex writes the sassy blog lashesandlittleones.com, where she showcases life with her one year old daughter and second on the way. She also writes a column for the Hammersmith and Fulham Chronicle. You can tweet her at @lasheslittle