The neighbourhood and surrounding area is a great place for babies and children with its fantastic variety of parks, playgrounds and indoor activities, all on the doorstep. There are also some wonderful nurseries and primary schools. Here’s a selection of what’s on locally plus some less well known activities in London to keep those little hands and minds busy.
Playgroup (this is a community playgroup which meets in the church)
A very popular playgroup for under 5’s with toys, songs and most importantly coffee! Just turn up and join in, everybody welcome. Tuesday and Thursday 10-11.30am held in St John’s Church, Hyde Park Crescent, £1 donation.
Micky Star – Sure Start Centre, 58-61 St Michael St
Hosts a variety of activities including drop-in play sessions, baby massage classes, kids healthy eating workshops, parent groups and drop-in baby health clinics.
Marylebone Library – 109-117 Marylebone Rd
Tiny Tots stories and songs on Tuesdays at 10.30am; Stories and Crafts for under 5’s on Fridays at 3.45pm; and Family Fun stories and crafts on Saturdays at 11am.
Also Chatterbooks (8-11yrs), Homework Club (7-13yrs) and Children’s Games Club
Paddington Children’s Library – Clifford Hall, Porchester Road
Baby Rhyme Time on Wednesdays from 10.30-11.30am; Toddler Stories, Songs and Crafts on Fridays from 10.30-11.30am; plus Homework Club and Saturday Reading Club
Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens
The nearest playground is at Buck Hill (by Lancaster Gate), but there is also one on the south side of Hyde Park next to the horse parade. A little further but worth the effort is the unbeatable Princess Diana adventure playground in Kensington Gardens, towards Notting Hill Gate –includes sandpits, a giant pirate ship and sensory activities. For both Buck Hill and the pirate ship playground you may want to take spare clothes – they have water based fun in the warmer months!
There is also a play area suitable for younger children at the Tennis Courts – open to the public, superbly placed next to the cafe’s outdoor benches and tables! Kids can also play on the mini tennis courts for £3 for half an hour or free on weekdays from 3-6pm, rackets available to hire.
The Serpentine Lido (south side of the park) also has a secluded fenced in space with playground, paddling pool, large grass area for picnics and a cafe. Entrance is to the side of the Lido Cafe – £4 for adults, £3 kids, under 3’s free.
On the other side of the Lido cafe is the Princess Diana fountain for some paddling fun, free entry.
For a change from playgrounds you can visit the Allotment, tucked away just north of the road bridge through the park, see the chickens, watch the veggies grow and smell the herbs.
Other parks nearby
Once you’ve explored Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, check out Regents Park (includes London Zoo) or Holland Park with its wooded nature play area, squawking peacocks, stunning Japanese gardens, and outdoor chess board.
The Electric Cinema – 191 Portobello Road, Notting Hill
If you haven’t made it to the cinema since having children, go along with babies under 1 for special screenings – the Electric is currently being refurbished after a fire, due to reopen in November 2012. http://www.electriccinema.co.uk/electric_scream.php
Get your Westminster Rescard for discounts on some Leisure Centre activities.
Seymour Leisure Centre, Seymour Place
Jump about at the Jungle Gym (Westminster Rescard discount on entry price); under 4’s can splash about in Tots Water World (Mondays, women only); take football or multi sports classes with Small Beginnings www.smallbeginningsuk.com; or learn to swim with Swimming Nature www.swimmingnature.com.
Porchester Baths at the bottom of Queensway also hosts swimming lessons through Swimming Nature in its dedicated large training pool.
Just across the park the V&A Museum encourages exploration through a variety of activity packs aimed at 5-12 year olds, as well as Agent Animal packs for under 5’s as well as holiday workshops and activities for all ages, free entry. http://www.vam.ac.uk/whatson/event/5/back-packs-trails-70/
Also just across the park the Science Museum gets kids to get interactive with science in The Garden on the basement level for under 6’s (watch out for water based action – change of clothes advised!) which includes bubble shows in holidays. Check out the Pattern Pod aimed at 5-8 year olds on the ground floor, as well as the ever popular Launch Pad on the third floor where you can experiment with all sorts including magnets, echo’s, mirrors, as well as building bridges. This is aimed at 8-14 year olds but all ages from young to old enjoy getting hands-on, they also do frequent very engaging short shows on subjects such as rockets and explosions.
Free entry, donation requested.
After its refurbishment Kensington Palace is now much more engaging for younger visitors with trails to follow, clothes to try on and replicas of Queen Victoria’s toys to play with. They also have a range of children’s holiday activities to look out for. Buying your tickets online is slightly cheaper.
Along with the well known Regents Park London Zoo there is also the superb Battersea Children’s Zoo with smaller animals including meerkats, lemurs, monkeys and otters and great play areas (much cheaper too!) www.batterseaparkzoo.co.uk
If you and your family would enjoy trips to various attractions in London and further out, check out the Merlin Pass which, once purchased, gives free entry to approximately 30 of them including the Aquarium, Legoland, the London Dungeon and Thorpe Park for a year. Discounts on the pass cost tend to be available after Christmas. Do read the individual conditions – some attractions have holiday date restrictions. www.merlinannualpass.co.uk
Nurseries within the Hyde Park Estate area
Micky Star Community Nursery, St Michael’s St
Takes children from 6months to 5 years, open 51 weeks a year.
See their Ofsted report at: www.ofsted.gov.uk/provider/files/1035163/urn/EY312270.pdf
Paint Pots Montessori Nursery Hyde Park, St John’s Church Hall, Hyde Park Crescent
Takes children from 2½ to 4 years. www.paintpotshouse.com
See their Ofsted report at: www.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provider/CARE/EY369719
Hyde Park Nursery (Bright Horizons Solutions), St James’ Church, Sussex Gardens
Takes children from 3 months to 5 years. www.brighthorizons.co.uk/our-nurseries/hyde-park-nursery-london/about-this-nursery/overview
See their Ofsted Report at: www.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provider/CARE/EY348913
State Primary Schools in the area
St James’ and St Michael’s Church of England Primary School, Craven Terrace
3-11years. For further details and Ofsted Report go to: transact.westminster.gov.uk/schools/school_detail.cfm?id=18
Hampden Gurney Church of England Primary School, Nutford Place
3-11 years, For further details and Ofsted Report go to: www.hampdengurneyschool.org.uk/