London with children
My youngest and I spent our first mother and daughter weekend in London. She was three years old at the time and many people asked me whether I did not think she was too small to remember this trip when she was older. Well, she probably will not remember what we did, but hopefully will remember how it made her feel. My reason for taking her on a trip was to spend some time one-on-one with my daughter and show her that our planet is so much bigger than our town Leiden. And so we went. I was surprised – and grateful – to notice on our return that this two night trip to London has tightened our bond. So she might not remember it in a few years, I will always cherish it.
Planning your trip
The key to success on a family city trip is planning ahead, especially when leaving for a metropolis as London. Not only do I make a short list on what I would like to do and where would be fun to have a bite to eat, but I also buy tickets in advance to major attractions and theater shows. Booking via the internet is often cheaper and makes sure you do not have to wait in line for too long.
On this particular trip to London, I also made a full schedule for our days in London. Normally, this is not my style, but when traveling on your own with children, it is a good thing to do. I looked up how to get from our hotel to our activity, which tube to take and where to change. Plus, I already looked up some coffee places and restaurants to have a drink and snack in the vicinity of each activity. I did not want to walk around London desperately looking for a place to have lunch carrying a wailing toddler. And let’s just assume that you agree with me on this one. That is why I posted our complete schedule below. We did not use it in full, but it was there in case I needed it.
Our itinerary for a London weekend with kids
- V & A Museum of Childhood (Bethnal Green, Central line)
The Museum of Childhood came warmly recommended by one of my colleagues, so I added it to our schedule. It actually is a toy museum, but I guess Museum of Childhood sounds much more V&A-esque. I had planned to stay here for an hour or so, but my toddler did not want to leave before she had done everything there was to do. So she played in the sand box, rode the toy horses, enjoyed the doll houses and spent almost an hour coloring. The Museum of Childhood has a nice, little cafe-restaurant in the middle of the ground floor with expensive, but tasty pies. I loved this museum and would definitely recommend it to all families going to London. And of course the perfect pastime on a rainy afternoon… It is located somewhat in the middle of nowhere, so take some time getting there and back. Be sure to check their Events and Activities section before you go.
- Shopping at Covent Garden(Covent Garden, Piccadilly line)
The tourist epicenter of London, true. But I have a soft spot for Covent Garden, especially at Christmas time. We were there early December, there was a large Christmas tree, lights everywhere and heated terraces.
- Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop, an independent toy shop with fantastic toy theaters
- Eric Snooks toy shop, lots and lots of … toys
- Disney store, and of course (I know… I tried to avoid it, being too cliche) this is where we ended up buying something, the most wonderful Tinkerbell dress in. the. world.
- London Eye (Embankment, District & Circle lines)My daughter loves everything that goes up into the air, preferably with her in it. I would have never, ever have gone into the London Eye if it had not been for her. But there I was and I did it. I booked the tickets online from home. I chose the Flexi Fast Track tickets, which allow you to use the fast track (very convenient when traveling with kids) on any time the day of your choice. The flexi tickets are somewhat more expensive than the normal fast track tickets. To me it was definitely worth it so I would not be rushing along London’s high streets worried about being late for our London Eye time slot. She loved every minute of the 30-minute rotation. I tried not to show her how terrified I was, up (too) high in the air in this basket. One time I told her to stay away from the door, other than that I was OK. A second or two I might have actually enjoyed it. My daughter, however, loved it immensely. Especially, the added fun of the blue lights.
- Lunch at Giraffe (Waterloo), located close to the London Eye
- Natural History Museum (South Kensington, District & Circle Lines)
The piece de resistance of our weekend, dinosaur spotting at the Natural History Museum. We got there at opening time, ten in the morning. As in each museum you take your children, there is too much to see and do for one visit. We normally pick one exhibition or department and just ‘do’ the highlights of that section. The Natural History Museum website has a parent survival guide (these people understand…) and lists the highlights for kids. We went to see the dinosaur gallery which took us about forty five minutes. After that we went to look at the ice rink in front of the museum.
- Coram’s Fields play ground (Russel Square, Piccadilly line)
I am sorry we did not get to go here, its website looks very promising. Coram’s Fields is a unique seven acre playground and park for children and young people living in or visiting London, it says. Besides many play areas, there are sand pits, a small farm and a cafe (opening times between 10 am – 5 pm).
- Theatre visit It was my initial plan to take her to the ballet, but sadly enough this proved to be above my budget. I found a cute children’s theatre show at the Ambassadors Theatre called Little Charlie Bear. My three year old could not understand a word the bear said, but she happily cried along with all other kids ‘Are you there, Charlie Bear?!’ Start at Time Out for festivals or theatre shows when you are in London. There is bound to be something affordable and fun available.
- Shopping at Oxford Street (Oxford Circus, Central line)
- Hamley’s toy store extraordinaire (Bond Street)
- Rainforest Café (Piccadilly Circus, Piccadilly & Bakerloo lines)
We visited London early December, the perfect time to get into the winter spirit. Ice rinks could be found on several squares, Christmas markets too. One of the highlights supposedly is Winter wonderland at Hyde Park (Green Park, Victoria & Jubilee & Piccadilly lines).