Thursday, 27 February 2014

London with a little one

A fellow Kennington mum writes the wonderful London With A Toddler blog ( ).  There's no way I can compete with the wealth of information and reviews on her site, but I thought I might jot down here a few aspects of London which the boy and I enjoy.

I always imagined I'd be back in Scotland by the time I had kids.  I never thought London would be an appropriate place to raise a child - this was the city of my twenties, of happy hours, sushi, expensive beer, dodgy Thai food and battling with the Tube.  How on earth could a small child fit into such a place?

Turns out, quite easily.

Turns out, there are even some advantages of raising a child in London:

1) You are never alone.  You are surrounded by other mums and dads and buggies and little people.  There are playgroups, children's centres, crèches, one o'clock clubs, at every turn.  This is a Good Thing.  There is strength in numbers.  Alone, you are two vulnerable parents, battling against a vastly superior and powerful being (your toddler).  Together, you can organise play dates, arrange meet-ups in the park and generally console yourself that other parents have it just as bad, if not worse, than you.

2) Free stuff.  QUALITY free stuff.  Living in London, you can immediately access a treasure trove of galleries, museums and cultural spaces.  On the South Bank, the Royal Festival Hall is a large indoor space for kids to run around in, with frequent free music and entertainment in the ballroom area.  During the summer, the South Bank hosts numerous events - a pop-up beach being one of them.  The "Garden" room in the basement of the Science Museum is a revelation.  Filled with cool stuff for kids: the most elaborate water play area I have ever seen; walls covered with coiled springs, welly boots, rubber spaghetti; drums and echo chambers... You get the idea.  The National Gallery runs a busy programme of events for 0-5 year olds, including a magical "walk and play" though a landscape picture (you have to have been there).  The boy and I have barely scratched the surface of these sort of cultural activities.  We can't wait for our local Imperial War Museum to reopen this summer!

3) The parks.  In a small town, you are lucky to have one decent children's play area.  In London, you can take your pick - small ones tucked away in housing estates, all the way up to the full-on zip wire extravaganza laid on in Battersea Park.  You are never more than fifteen minutes away from the nearest Accident and Emergency.

4) Child-friendly restaurants.  Ok, we are not quite as baby-centric as Italy, but at least in London you can take your child out after dark without too many dirty looks.  We scrimp on the babysitting costs and take the boy with us, whether that's a trendy pop-up experience (4 months' old, slept in car seat under the table), a packed Franco Mancas pizzeria in Brixton Market (one buggy-friendly table if you get in there quick), a Friday night out in the City, a long boozy evening at a bring-your-own-bottle place...  It's surprising which establishments are perfectly happy to accommodate children, you just have to ask - and be considerate of other diners.

5) Transport.  Ok, the Tube is a nightmare to navigate with a buggy (I can only imagine how difficult it is for wheelchair users!), but there are lots of other viable options. A major bonus (especially for nights out) is that black cabs can carry children in pushchairs.  Buses tend to have space for at least 2 buggies (more if you can be bothered to fold yours up), and the growing overground network is also buggy-friendly.

Have fun out there!

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  1. This is so interesting. I met my husband when we were living in London, and we did move back to Scotland before we had kids! I've always loved visiting London though, and would like to take the kids there more, bit tricky at the moment being in the US, but once we move back :) This is a great post, lots of great tips, and a good few that I had no idea about. #PoCoLo

  2. I've never been to London.....It does sound such an amazing place to have children x

  3. I love London and can't wait for N to be old enough for us to spend proper days exploring like my mum used to do with us. At the moment we've got rid of his buggy as he's not used it in months, but then he'd never cope with a whole day in London. Maybe we'll try and do a group visit in the summer with friends, and one or 2 emergency buggies between us #pocolo

  4. What a really good idea for a post - sharing all the positives :) I have to say that I think London is a great place for kids - not that we live there! Thank you for linking to PoCoLo x

  5. Hey everyone, thanks so much for reading and commenting... Sorry I'm rubbish at replying to comments, but I do really appreciate them!

    I feel really lucky to live in such an interesting city. Do let me know whenever you visit and I can give you all further tip-offs!

  6. Ooh, thanks so much for the mention! Am on the 159, enjoying a browse through your blog :)