Monday, 19 March 2012

Birds and Ball Pits

I try and get out and about as much as possible with Fifi, especially at the weekends, when we always try to at least get to the park a few times. Mr G loves the swings. There are definitely some amazing places and resources in South West London for young children (and over active parents), and I know how hard it is coming up with new ideas, so I thought I’d share some of our favourites.

Wildfowl and Wetland Trust, Barnes. This is a wonderful nature reserve in Barnes, with a huge variety of birds. You can let you little ones feed ducks, go pond dipping, play in the adventure playground or just explore all that this lovely place has to offer. The WWT was founded by the only son of ‘Scott of the Antarctic’ and there are lots of references to his amazing ancestry dotted around (at the moment, there are explorer tents and huts). I am a little biased in favour of this place as I love birds (duck was one of my first words, after biscuit. You can get a pretty good idea of my favourite things from this), and spent lots of childhood holidays at the WWT in Slimbridge, trying to smuggle a duckling into my pocket to take home. I had to settle for a Jemima Puddleduck jumper instead.

Gambardos, Imperial Wharf, Fulham. I can’t lie, I do not love this place. It’s a giant soft play centre for all ages (you have never seen so many grown adults squealing with joy as they whizz down the big slide). My daughter recognises the car park and whimpers with excitement as we get near. However, given my daughter’s diminutive height and age, I have to join in and stay with her. This means I have to climb, play in ball pits and be one of the annoying parents on the slide (and it turns out I’m a bit scared of big slides). We all come home exhausted, and it tends to guarantee a good night’s sleep.

The Army Museum Kids’ Zone, Chelsea. I didn’t really believe it when someone told me I had to take my little girl to an Army Museum. I decided she didn’t have the right skin tone to pull of khaki camouflage print, and that an Army museum was not quite up my street. How wrong I was. This place has an incredible ‘Kids’ Zone’ , which is a soft play area for children from 0-8. Unlike Gambardos, which is quite expensive (check out their website for prices, but it works out at about £10 a visit), this place is free for babies under 1 and then £2.50 for bigger kids. It has themed sections (Arctic, Forest and key events in history) with lots of activities in each area. You do have to queue to buy tickets for a 1 hour slot, but it’s pretty straight forward and well worth it. However, a word of warning… There is a certain section which is designed for those with the smallest of bottoms and active participation has resulted in a rather embarrassing ‘firmly stuck’ sort of situation. Proceed with caution!

Fulham Palace Gardens. This is a great outside space with a lovely cafĂ© in the beautiful grounds of Fulham Palace, just next to Bishops Park on the river. On sunny days it is overrun with children and parent’s as it is safe, big and much nicer than most parks. There is no playground yet (Bishops Park is undergoing a huge development, and will soon boast a brilliant play area and park), but lots of trees, grass and cakes. For a more intrepid trip to the park, we also love Richmond Park, which is wilder and has deer, but no cake, so I stick to Fulham Palace.
Battersea Children’s Zoo, Battersea Park. Another animal place, but a pretty good one, with monkey’s, parrots, lemurs and farm animals which children can get up close to. It’s not quite London Zoo (we are big fans of the zoo!) in terms of the variety of animals, but it is much less hectic and geared up for little ones really well. It’s also much cheaper (it costs £15 for my husband, daughter and I to visit, unlike the Zoo which is more like £45….but they do have lions!).


  1. This is so helpful. I don't have kids myself but living not too far from you, I often have my godchildren stay over (one is 2 and the other is 6) and I don't have a clue where to take them when they stay. It seems that a lot of the child friendly places and things to do in London are hidden away or just way too expensive.

    1. Hi Kelly, glad you found it helpful. I'm yet to meet a kid who doesn't love the park, and it's free and pretty good for them. I think the best in Fulham for swings and slides are Normand Park, Eel Brook Common (gets quite busy) and South Park. Enjoy! Alex x


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