By Clementine Wallop
If I have one piece of advice about maternity leave, it’s to do what you would like and what you think the baby might enjoy. As well as baby groups, go to museums and galleries. Rather than crawling around freezing church halls, let your baby have a crawl around some of London’s most spectacular buildings. You have months of maternity leave ahead of you and live in one of the world’s greatest museum cities. You’ll also have years of going to look at dinosaurs and trains, so this is a time to prioritise places that are relaxing, welcoming and the most buggy friendly. Here’s the best of a brilliant bunch of museums for babies in London.
- As well as the twinkly lights and stained-glass windows that make it one of London’s prettiest lunch spots, the café at the Victoria and Albert Museum is super. Big enough you won’t disturb anyone, a lot of outdoor space for chip throwing in the summer, and staff happy to help you to your table with your tray.
- The National Gallery café does delicious sandwiches and salads, cakes and biscuits. Sunny and bright, it has a range of seating allowing for spreading all your baby rubbish out or standing and swaying at a high counter. Nice wine list too, should you feel the need.
BEST IN SUMMER
- The denizens of East Dulwich report many happy afternoons in the sun at the Horniman Museum and Gardens, adding to the attractions of this fascinating Forest Hill hangout, which also has its own butterfly house and an overstuffed walrus. (Read our review of the Horniman here.)
- The garden at the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising, formerly the London Lighthouse, is exquisitely planted. Not one for busy crawlers, but for a slow afternoon while the baby is still sleeping all day, it’s perfect.
BEST FOR BABY SENSORY
- The Horniman does well here too, because what’s trippier and more relaxing than watching jellyfish scooting about an aquarium?
- In West London, the Science Museum’s Pattern Pod is excellent for small babies. Mine spent at least half an hour (ten years in new baby time) whacking a projection of a goldfish pond to make it ripple.
BEST FOR CRAWLERS
- Barbican Barbican Barbican. Barbican. So much space. So many seats to pull up on. So little you can break. Oh, and the gallery is great. Go to Farringdon Tube (lifts) not Barbican (many stairs).
- The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. Take a boat there and enjoy Play Tuesdays for £3.
BEST BUGGY ACCESS
- Opened at its new site in 2016, it’s hard to beat the Design Museum in Kensington for its great…um…design. Everything is easily accessed by lift and there’s plenty of space so you don’t feel like you’re getting in anyone’s way. The only duff note is the small café, so head down the road to Whole Foods or have a picnic in Holland Park.
BEST FEEDING ROOM
- The feeding room in the basement at the Design Museum is clean and simple. Come for the cutting-edge design on show, stay for a chilled-out feed and a look around the shop, which has an original selection of books and toys.
- An honourable mention for scenic feeding to the Cast Courts at the V&A, which are quiet, serene and full of beautiful sculpture. After a poor show on the breastfeeding-support front a while ago, the V&A is doing better.
BEST BABY CHANGE
- The dedicated changing room at the revamped Royal Academy of Arts is big and, because it’s brand new, super clean. If you need the loo, there are extra-large cubicles at the end of each row in the Ladies so you can take the buggy in with you.
- The baby change nearest the Pattern Pod at the Science Museum is spacious and has a loo as well as a changing table.
…AND WHERE TO SWERVE FOR NOW
- The London Transport Museum. Wonderful, yes, but it gets hectic. And navigating to some parts with a buggy on a busy day is tougher than a Bank Holiday on the M25.
- Sadly, sources say they struggled at the British Museum. A non-baby-friendly café and trouble negotiating the lifts.
- Tate Modern, while fun with toddlers, gets rough reports on the pushchair and lifts front too.
- Exhibits wise, not everything at the Wellcome Collection is suitable for sprogs, though you’d be fine while they’re very, very little. If you do go, avoid the crammed café and instead head upstairs to the restaurant.