Dinosaurs in London - your toddler will go wild!

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Dinosaurs Unleashed - 3 stars

The Natural History Museum isn't the only place to take your dinosaur loving toddler at the moment. Take them to the building site opposite Selfridges, now known as "Parklife Oxford Street".

The creators have imagined 'Jurassic Park' and have transf
ormed Parklife into an anamatronic forest full of 24 dinosaurs.

Childrens' favourites have certainly been catered for. T-Rex is
there in all his scary glory, triceratops, diplodocus and more

Now is probably the time to mention that this is NOT a free activity for toddlers in London. BUT... let me continue as it offers a lot more than just wandering around, and tries hard to help you get your money's worth.

Your child can also dig for dinosaur bones, leave their own dino prints on a running track and do loads of activities on touch screens.

Cost: £15.50, concs £13, children (4-14) £11, family £44

When is it open?: Now until Friday 30th April. Tues - Sun, 10am - 6pm. Closed Easter Sunday, 4th April.

More information can be found here: http://www.dinosaursunleashed.co.uk/


Where is it? 455-497 Oxford St, W1K 6DE, London

Closest tube: Marble Arch - terrible for prams. You are better off going by bus. A multitude of buses go to Bond Street. Check www.tfl.gov.uk to get your bus route.

toys from your childhood and toys from theirs...

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London Museum of Childhood - 3.5 stars

the London Museum of Childhood is an amazing place to visit for adults and children alike.

With free admission, it's an easy half day activity for children of all ages.

Located in Bethnal Green (see map below),
the Museum showcases toys from childhood past and present. This is a great place for toddlers in

For the younger children it is enough to have a quick wander through before heading up to the play area where there are sandpits and building areas (not to mention enough running/crawling around space).

Toddlers short attention span is easily satisfied with the sheer range of toys, dolls, pictures and clothes to look at.

For the slightly older child, you'll find that they'll be fascinated with the 'old' dolls and toys that you used to play with. For the adults, you can reminisce at spinning tops, rubix cubes, plus be horrified at some of the clothing that children had to wear in the 1800s!

One of the most difficult things may be explaining to your toddler that the amazing dolls houses are not for playing with!

Facilities: are excellent - food-wise there is a Benugo Cafe (who do half size portions for children) plus an outdoor eating area and a Summer room where you can eat your picnic. For the very young, there is a baby
feeding room (with bottle warming), baby change and a buggy park.

Cost: Free. Another great free activity for toddlers and children in London.

Where is it:
Cambridge Heath Rd,
Bethnal Green, London E2 9PA

How to get there:
Bethnal Green tube (escalator access - no lift unfortunately)
Buses: D6, 106, 254, 309 and 388 stop outside the Museum and 8, 26, 55 and 48 stop nearby
Train: The Museum is less than 10 minutes walk from both Cambridge Heath and Bethnal Green overground stations

The London Museum of Childhood is one of those amazing London museums - it's free, it's fun and it's for all ages.

Need to get out of the house, but stay warm? Your toddler will love this!

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Acton Park Play Centre feels like a bit of an undiscovered gem. Blogging about it, I almost feel disloyal to other parents who know about it.

It's situated at the south east corner of Acton Park, in a relatively new building.

Inside are lots of different toys, including plenty of role play toys - my daughter has spent a ridiculous amount of time playing with a wooden microwave (okay, so we don't have one at home - is she trying to tell me something?). There's a small climbing area, a small soft play area and a big table with glue, paper, pens, scissors... plenty of craft action at the ready.

There are also a couple of easels and pots of paint, with painting smocks at the ready for your child to create their latest masterpiece. See my daughter in the image above, about to create her work of art!

On cold, rainy (or yes even snowy) days, this is a nice warm environment with plenty to amuse your toddler (or baby), or even older child. It's always lovely and warm inside and you can buy a cheap cup of tea or coffee too!

For when the weather isn't quite so unbearable, it's great to spend time just outside of the Play Centre where there is a fantastic playground (to be featured on this blog shortly!!). Last summer the Play Centre put water troughs and cups outside so the children could indulge in some great messy play!

If you can brave the weather to get there, it's a wonderful relief from staying indoors!

Oh - and did I mention it was free?

Facilities:

Baby change
Tea, Coffee

Where is it?

East Acton Lane,
East Acton
London
W3 7LA
+44 (0)20 8743 6133

See it on a map, here:


View Larger Map


Tall, spotty and a sure bet for somewhere to eat with a toddler!

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Originally, when I started this blog, I didn't want to endorse products or brands. But 'getting out with your toddler' often involves food... and let's face it, 'when toddlers go bad' tends to occur when you want them to sit and eat in a public environment.

My favourite place to eat at the moment is Giraffe.

Why? Well, it's really difficult to go past the balloon that they give to the children for starters. They also give crayons and paper to draw on as soon as you arrive. Quite often you'll also receive a cute plastic giraffe. All of these are winners in my books.

On the food front, they have a wide selection of different toddler friendly food. If it's one thing that drives me a bit crazy it's a child menu that simply offers chips three-ways - you know the one: beans and chips, fish and chips, nuggets and chips. Giraffe has a lot of healthy food, and healthy drinks - hey they do chips too - but it does offer more variety. It's well priced - with the mini-mains for under £4.50.

PLUS, the adult food is also great. Their club sandwich is to die for and their burgers are very delish too. It's not cheap, but I usually feel like I get my money's worth (especially if I don't order any alcohol).

The biggest plus for them must be - they actively encourage children to come to their restaurants. This ultimately means that the staff are great with kids. They expect spills and food on the floor, they know to bring the children's food out first and they are, generally, just nice to them. Not snarling or rolling their eyes at the sight of a pram. Or tutting when cutlery/plates/food is dropped.

In my experience they have been willing to bring fistfuls of straws, their cute little plastic giraffe toys and an abundance of serviettes. No questions asked.

Where are they?
They're in 26 locations in the UK, predominantly in London.
I've had great eating out experiences in Chiswick, Kensington, & Brunswick Centre Giraffes. My daughter has also eaten out at the Richmond Giraffe with her grandparents.

Facilities:
All have baby change.

Some restaurants will ask you to fold your pram (dependent on how busy it is), and are happy to help.


who needs the beach when you've got Brentford?

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Swimming at Brentford Fountain Leisure Centre - 3.5 stars

A pool is a pool is a pool? Not to me and my daughter. She had not been exposed to swimming until only a month ago, and on her first experience of a 'hotel pool' was pretty unsure. Let's face it - being taken into somewhere that you can't touch the ground is pretty daunting... and she's a girl who loves a bit of messy play with the water.

When it's awful weather it's always handy to have some indoor toddler activities on hand that you can rely on.

Step up Brentford Leisure Centre! Not only does it not cost a fortune to simply get in (£1.80 off peak on a weekday), but it has a wonderful sloped ramp entrance into the pool that made it incredibly less daunting to enter the pool itself.

There's also a mini paddling pool which is a nice place to sit and have a splash. For the older children there is a twisty 40m slide, plus there's also a 'fitness' pool if you're there on your own (or with another adult!).

Why just 3.5 stars then? It's a little bit tired, and could do with a bit of a facelift... the outside of the building is a wonder of concrete! It cannot be described as luxury, but for £1.80 to swim and parking for 40p I'm not complaining!

Facilities:

The changing rooms have a playpen where your toddler can wait whilst you get changed, or take advantage of the family room with change tables, which makes things a whole lot easier with a little one. Take a 20p piece for the lockers.

There's a little cafe which overlooks the pool, selling tea, coffee and basic snacks.

Where is it, how do I get there, and when is it open:
658 Chiswick High Road
Brentford
TW8 0HJ

As mentioned, there is parking for just 40p (maximum of 3 hours). Some buses run along Chiswick Road. Check out the Transport for London site for more details.

Opening hours:

Mon, Tues and Thurs: 9am to 10pm
Weds and Fri: 9am to midday (excluding pools and health suite)
Midday to 10pm

Sat and Sun: 9am to 6pm


View Larger Map

Looking for more indoor activities?

it's free and right under our noses... london's secret is out!

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Coram's Fields - 4 stars

Who would have thought that right in the centre of London there would be a large enclosed area for children that will keep your children entertained for a good few hours, and that it is FREE.

Coram's Fields is just that. It's a funny mix of enought bits and pieces that put together make it a great experience.

I love the fact that it is a great, safe environment. There's not a lot of places in London where you can let your children roam, and not feel like you have to be no more than reaching distance behind them.

Adults can only enter if they are with children. The whole area is securely gated. So sit down and watch your toddlers go walkabout. The only worry might be that they get a little too excited and friendly with the sheep that are wandering about.

The animal area is great, and feels like a real added bonus. On our visit we saw sheep, goats, hens and ducks. There is also a large grassed area which is great for a picnic, or just fun to run around and play.

There's a good range of playground equipment in different areas, for different age groups/skill levels. There are swings, slides, sandpits, a paddling pool - basically there is a lot to keep your little ones entertained. They regularly have organised activities there too - on one of our visits they were doing singing and movement sessions.

Practicalities -

Pram Access: Excellent. Because of the enclosed surroundings parents tend to leave their prams parked in different areas. There is no offical parking area for them.

Cost: it's FREE. It's open every day except Christmas and Boxing Day. In Summer: 9am - 7pm; Winter: 9am - dusk

Cafes: There's a good little vegetarian cafe, but this place really is made for picnics.

Where is it & how to get there?
93 Guildford Street, London.

It's so close to Russell Square tube - which unfortunately is not step free. BUT, it's central location does mean that there are about 10 buses which stop nearby.


A playground where I nearly had tears when it was time to leave.

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Diana Memorial Playground - 5 stars

This incredible playground in Kensington Gardens was built in the memory of the late Princess Diana, and is quite a tribute to one who loved children.

It has so much to offer. It is free, and open to children up to the age of 12. The policy of adults only allowed if accompanying adults is reassuringly well 'policed'.

The many attractions are dominated by the huge wooden pirate ship. Without stumbling over too many adjectives, the ship isn't just a ship. It offers an amazing climbing frame, a big wheel to turn in the captains cabin, and you can even jump below deck and play in the sand, and peer through the portholes.

The ship is surrounded by a beach (read one BIG sandpit) and provides a good opportunity to play with the little ones whilst watching those slightly older, clamber and climb to their hearts content.

Wander through the playground further and you'll find tepees, wooden playhouses, a sensory trail (jumping on the big pavings that play different notes is lots of fun for all), and so much to climb on, run around and generally discover. Oh - there are slides and swings too.

Nothing is ignored here and it certainly isn't overly kid-gloved. There's a great rocky area that frequently has water in it - don't be surprised if shoes are off for
the majority of your stay. There are some little taps and fountains to play with... so a change of clothes might be advisable too.

Practicalities -

Pram Access: Excellent. Prams are 'parked up' throughout the playground. No secure parking for them or any bags however.

Cost: it's FREE. Park opening times are available at the website here.

Cafes: The Diana Playground cafe serves up sandwiches and hot food for all ages. The food's a little pricey. I'd suggest bringing your own, and indulging in a nice cup of tea or an ice-cream!

Where is it & how to get there?

Queensway, Lancaster Gate, High Street Kensington tubes are all nearby, however none are step free. Many buses run along Bayswater Road and Kensington Road.