‘They’re changing guards at Buckingham Palace, Christopher Robin went down with Alice …’ as AA Milne, Winnie the Pooh’s creator wrote.
With its enchanting parks, picturesque palaces and quirky pantomimes shows, London has and will always be a magical place for children to explore. If you only have a few days in the capital with toddlers in tow, here is my top five list of things to do with toddlers in London:
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Follow Alice’s lead and coincide your visit to the Palace with the changing of the Guards. It’s on either odd or even days, depending on the month. Click here for the schedule.
The Changing the Guards is a ceremony whereby the new bearskin-hatted guard exchanges duty with the old bearskin-hatted guard. The handover is accompanied by a Guards band, playing music ranging from traditional military marches to songs from films and musicals; and, even familiar pop songs, depending on their mood. When The Queen is in residence, there are four sentries at the front of the building. When she is away there are two. I’d avoid taking your little ones to Buck House when the Queen is at home, however.
I only say this as very occasionally she does do a walk about and you really don’t want your little ones to catch a glimpse of her. Their fairytale dreams of queens being forever draped in floor-length ball gowns, their feet encased in glass slippers and their heads weighted down with diamond-encrusted crowns will be shattered when they discover that our monarch is actually a little old woman in a headscarf.
The world’s oldest Zoo, The Zoological Society of London’s London Zoo has recently been renovated to bring it bang up to date with the latest ecological thinking. The animals are now living in habitats that, as closely as possible, mirror their natural stalking grounds. And it has all been done with every animals biggest fan in mind – little kids.
Don’t dress up, because amongst other things, you will find yourselves crawling through burrows to experience life as a meerkat, feeding sheep and goats in the touch zone, and walking amongst monkeys. It’s a full day out.
Photo courtesy of alecea on Flickr
Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground
Set behind the late Princess’s Kensington Palace home, in the middle of Kensington Gardens, your kids won’t know what to climb, swing or balance on first in this adventure playground inspired by the tales of Peter Pan. Will they take off on the sensory tree trail? Dream up a game amongst the teepees? Dig their toes into the sandy beach or climb aboard the almost life-size pirate ship complete with rigging up into the sky?
The Science Museum
London has so many fantastic museums that encourage kids to touch and explore their exhibits, it’s hard to highlight one above the others, but I think if you have limited time here, the Science Museum is the one not to miss. If you have time left over, you can always pop to the Natural History Museum next door too, for a dose of dinosaurs.
The Science Museum has created The Garden, an interactive gallery dedicated to the under fives, where you can explore construction with a series of bricks and pulleys; water with floats, boats and, yes, water – don’t worry aprons are provided; light with shadows and reflections; and sound, through music. For school-age children there is also the Pattern Pod and the Launch Pad to play around in.
This isn’t an attraction or an activity. It’s an area of London on the borders of the Theatre District. It’s a place to wonder and mooch and even kids can enjoy doing this, if you approach it right. That is you wander and mooch yourselves and don’t get distracted by appealing shop windows urging you to come in and try on a pair of shoes or take a closer look at the price tag on that coat. Being a largely traffic-free area, Covent Garden in particular lends itself to kiddie mooching.
Wander into Eric Snooks or Benjamin Pollock’s traditional toy shops, join the audiences for the street entertainers that change throughout the day and then graze at Jamie’s Italian – Jamie Oliver’s incredibly kiddie friendly Italian restaurant.
Ciao Bambino recommended family hotels London
VisitEngland – official website for English tourism