I recently had a day to fill while ShireMum was at school dealing with exam results so I decided to take Tilly into London with half a plan of what we’d do. The summer holidays offer much in the way of activities but they can lead to queues at popular destinations. I wasn’t at all sure this would prove a friendly environment for my sensitive three-year-old daughter but she’s always asking me to go into London so I decided to try it out.

Diana Memorial Playground


Fun at the Diana Memorial Playground

My half a plan involved getting to the Diana Memorial Playground in Hyde Park for opening time in expectation of queues and crowds on what was a hot and sunny day in the school summer holidays.

We’d visited the playground last year when Tilly was two when we stuck to a corner of it so I was keen to explore the full playground this time.

The centrepiece is the pirate ship, where children have to walk on tricky looking ropes with hand supports to reach. There’s a mast to scale for older children and areas around the deck to explore for younger ones.

I was surprised that after just a few minutes Tilly wanted to get off the ship although she had another couple more goes.

Our main error was not having been prepared for sand and water play. A swimming costume plus a bucket and spade would definitely allow children to make most of the area.

There are plenty of other areas to explore in the playground with the music area proving popular with us, especially the musical squares that Tilly loved jumping on to make sounds. There are some fun climbing frames although one has a slide that emerges in the adjacent area, needing supervising grown-ups to be eagle-eyed.

There was no sign of crowd management being needed by the time we left, after 11am. I was a little disappointed that Tilly hadn’t wanted to spend longer at the playground but again that may be fixed next time with play in the sand area.

There are a couple of rides outside the playground costing £2.50 each. I indulged Tilly in the carousel, which she was fine on despite the height of the horses and the speed of the ride. There’s a cafe accessible both inside and outside the playground. Pricing is typical for a popular central London location but a coffee and an ice cream don’t break the bank.

Natural History Museum

From the playground I saw that the Natural History Museum and its dinosaurs were but a 20 minute walk away. A realise now what madness it was to consider this. Huge queues along half of Exhibition Road was quite enough to rule out standing around for ages in the heat. Although Tilly played up I knew we could visit again in term-time when all would be quiet. We had also visited the new dinosaur room earlier in the year and Tilly was rather scared of the animatronic T-Rex, so no big loss on balance. Although I suggested neighbouring museums (both the Science Museum and the V&A are adjacent), Tilly was flagging so we hopped on a bus back to the West End.

River trip on the Thames


A typical Tilly pose for one of my photos on the Thames river boat

Despite having lived and worked in London for many years the river boat services are something I’ve seldom used and on arriving at Westminster Pier it was pretty unclear what we had to go to simply get a boat to Bankside, with three kiosks all adorned with masses of different excursions and the like. On checking subsequently, it seems that Oyster can be used and that the MBNA Clipper services is the official one although the other operators stop at the various piers along the river. We paid £6, which is pricey compared to the bus or the tube, but taking the boat is all about the experience for Tilly and she loved it.

For those with more time, summer-time services run to much more distance destinations on the Thames such as Greenwich and Hampton Court.

Tate Modern and South Bank

I decided Bankside would be a good stopping point for our boat trip as we could see some sights and wander back along the South Bank to see what was going on, as there’s always something.

Tate Modern had some children-orientated activities on, so we decided to try them out.


Activities at Tate Modern

The Tate Modern turbine hall may not be an official play space but Tilly had great fun. It is huge!


Tilly is here in the Tate Modern turbine hall

We wrapped up our day with a walk down the South Bank. There’s all manner of food options and probably more activities too but for us it was time to head to Waterloo station and home.

Practical tips

I still take a pushchair with Tilly so I avoid the tube as much as possible, although the TfL journey checker can advise on step free options for travel. Buses are a frequent and cheap way of getting around and there’s much more to see also.

I used the Hoop app for the first time to get an idea of age-appropriate activities nearby. I found it pretty useful and it directed me to the Tate Modern activities.

Blog link ups


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14 thoughts on “A day out in London with a small child

  • 21 August 2016 at 7:55 pm

    So many great ideas! I’ve been to London a few times, but never had the chance to explore it. I want to go back one day and do all the touristy things! Thanks for linking up to the #BinkyLinky

  • 21 August 2016 at 8:52 pm

    Sounds like you had a fab time I would love to go with twins soon Thanks for linking to the #binkylinky come back next week please

  • 23 August 2016 at 6:50 am

    Fab ideas, the furthest I have travelled into London was the V & A Museum of Childhood, mainly because I have 3 and 1 in a pushchair. x


    • 3 September 2016 at 9:56 pm

      That is tricky, although you could perhaps look at destination that’s along bus routes from your arrival point in London, as they’re easier to manage with pushchairs than the tube. Thanks for visiting

  • 23 August 2016 at 9:32 am

    Sounds like you and Tilly had a good day. The Diana Memorial Playground looks amazing – I love the pirate ship. I can well imagine the queues at the Natural History Museum! We’ve done the river boat on the Thames a couple of times – not the cheapest way of getting about but it is fun for the kids. Tilly looks absolutely tiny in the turbine hall at the Tate Modern – I’ve never been there before but am quite tempted to take the kids there at some point. I’m not very good at coping with escalators and the tube with two little ones in tow though so will have to wait for a day when hubby is free too. #twinklytuesday

    • 3 September 2016 at 9:59 pm

      It’s definitely worth planning routes around London. I tend to rely on accessible Jubilee Line stations plus the buses, which are all pretty easy with a push chair so long as it’s not a busy time. I agree that the boats are pricey and not the quickest or easiest way of getting around but they’re nice as a different experience.

  • 23 August 2016 at 1:23 pm

    Wow what a fun packed day you had. I can’t wait until my two are old enough to visit the Natural History Museum!


    • 3 September 2016 at 10:00 pm

      You can probably visit the NHM from a relatively early age, it’s more the getting there and crowds that prove tricky. Thanks for stopping by

  • 23 August 2016 at 8:33 pm

    My best friend lives in Balham and I am off to a festival near there on Saturday. I have been debating whether or not to take my 2 year old for a day trip to London, the crowds and tube travel have put me off to be honest. Your post has inspired me to take her! Thanks #TwinklyTuesday

    • 3 September 2016 at 10:01 pm

      I’m really pleased to hear that you’re going to give it a go. It’s not always easy but it can be rewarding. I always recommend using the TfL journey planner as if you’ve got a pushchair it can offer step-free routes

  • 30 August 2016 at 9:21 pm

    Great tips and ideas. I used to be a nanny in London and visited all of these destinations regularly although I have never taken a boat on the Thames! Why didn’t I think of that? Thanks for joining the #weekendblogshare and sorry my comment is so late

  • 2 September 2016 at 2:02 pm

    We love the memorial garden and the memorial fountains! Such a fab day out! I am always so scared taking my little ones to London tho! #weeklyblogshare

  • 3 September 2016 at 5:02 pm

    Some brilliant ideas there. I’ve yet to take mine into London. The crowds & tube with 2 kids terrify me slightly. The Diana memorial park looks lovely & I didn’t even know it existed. #weekendblogshare life in the Mum’s Lane

    • 4 September 2016 at 1:34 pm

      The Diana Memorial Playground does seem to have a relatively low profile – it tends to be in preschool-friendly London lists where it crops up. London can be tricky with children and pushchairs but the TfL journey planner with it’s accessibility options can be a great help. I’d also recommend looking at buses as you can get to many places in central London from many of the main rail stations.


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