Parks and Playgrounds
More information coming soon … in the meantime, check individual neighbourhoods for smaller playgrounds
Princess Diana Memorial Playground
First and foremost, “the pirate ship park,” as the locals call it, is just a perfect children’s place. There is a giant, monitored gate around the entire park, you must have a child to enter and children are not allowed to enter unattended. For the very small, there are baby swings, sand areas with structures to cruise along, tiny houses clustered over woodchips and a lovely grass area to put a blanket down. For the bigger kids, there is a giant pirate ship with ropey bridges, ladders, sandy gallows (definitely NOT where you would take two toddlers by yourself). There is a fountain with shallow puddles in the summer, a giant climbing frame with bridges, slides and catwalks. There is a sensory garden with instruments and other tactile areas to explore.
The Memorial Playground has a refreshment stand serving fresh baked flat bread pizza, neighbourhood favourite, along with coffee, tea, juice, fresh fruit and sandwiches.
The toilets are tricky to get a wide buggy into, but are family friendly.
The Sunken Gardens:The gardens surrounding Kensington Palace are a great place to take little ones for a wander. They are somewhat fenced in, free from dogs, cyclists and roller bladders and there are lots of beautiful flower beds and trees to look at. Inside the sunken garden is a fountain.
Buck Hill Playground: Buck Hill, or the Lancaster Gate Playground, is located inside the park, across from the Lancaster Gate Station, and a five minute walk from Paddington Station. This is a basic, fenced in playground with baby and regular swings, a climbing frame, slides, and some balancing apparatus. The neighbourhood parents meet regularly after 3:30 each weekday and are very friendly and helpful.
This playground is located close to the Hyde Park Stables, on Bathhurst Mews off the near end of Clifton Street. You can walk among the mews houses and show your children the horses eating, being groomed and taken out for rides.
There are public toilets located about 300 metres from the playground.
Italian Gardensare very close to the playground. I find them tough work with two toddlers as the fountain walls are so low they could easily tumble into them, but they are great fun. Waterfowl from the Longwater have come to the fountains, oftentimes you see swans, herons, and ducks swimming in the fountains. Children are able to get very close enough to see their feet beneath the water.
The Peter Pan Statue is another lovely area to have a wander. The statue is placed exactly where JM Barry had Peter Pan land in his first story about him, The Little White Bird. The bronze statue of Peter is surrounded with mice, squirrels and fairies – great fun for toddlers to spot and touch. Opposite the statue is a high fence along the Longwater where children can feed the waterfowl. There is a nice guide naming the different species that swim up.
The Flower Walk located between the Royal Albert Memorial and High Street Kensington, this is a charming area for a safe run around. The flower beds are perfectly manicured with plants rotated in and out all year long; trees overhang parts of the walk and there are fences to help keep the little ones in line. This is a good place to go when you have got more than one toddler on your own.
The Lido: Located on the south end of the Serpentine, this is a great little place to take the family on a summer day. The café is open year round and serves nutritious and delicious food. There is a high fence right along the water and outdoor seating so your children can get close to the waterfowl.
The other part of the lido is a family area with a lawn, paddling pool, swings, sandpit and climbing frame. This is a great place to go on a sunny day, when you really want a contained space to play with small children. The biggest drawback: there is little shade on a sunny day. You must pack sun cream. The cost to enter the family area is £4 for adults, children under 3 free. The café will serve your lunch “pool-side” on the upstairs terrace.
The Princess Diana Memorial Fountain: Located just next to the Lido and very close to The Knightsbridge Barracks Playground is the most beautiful idea for a children’s area: a gorgeous fountain of varied depths and currents for children and adults alike to explore. Unfortunately, after it was opened, they discovered that children could get hurt running along the polished stone and some rules that are a bit incongruous with the idea have been implemented and are strictly monitored. Children may put there feet in the water, but they may not walk or stand in the water. They may walk next to the rock to find a new place to sit, but not on the rock. Imagine explaining this to a two year old and you may not want to bring small children here. It is just amazing and worth the wander over, the experience of hearing the water drown out all sounds in the park makes the trip worthwhile for me.
The Knightsbridge Barracks Playground: Located just inside the park, down from Sloane Avenue, near Harvey Nichols, this is a great fenced in playground with good equipment.
If you are in the playground at 10:15, the Queens Household Cavalry may just gallop by on their way to the changing of the guard. Great fun and darling pictures of children grasping the playground fence and pointing at the horses.
The Holocaust Memorial Walk and The Rose Gardens The area east of the eastern tip of the Serpentine is a really nice place to take children for a wander and play. It is not fenced in, but its beautifully landscaped, quiet and feels a bit more secluded than the open spaces of the rest of the park. There are two Monkey Puzzle trees to look at.
St. James’s Park
St. James’s Park is a beautiful, tranquil display of London’s finest green space. The pond is inhabited by exotic waterfowl, there are lovely manicured flower beds and beautiful benches to stop, rest and admire. The pelicans are fed each day at 3 or 4.
Wellington Barracks Playground: Located across from the Wellington Barracks, in St. James’s Park, this is a delightful playground to take children. There is an enormous sand pit with a stone bridge and a smaller separate sand area that might appeal to little ones. Swings, see-saw, climbing frame, slide, short gate, refreshment stand, children’s toilets and an attendant make this a great place to play. Also, the regimental bands warm up in the barracks across the way (please read the changing of the guard for these details as they may change each day).
Dig for Victory:This is a temporary display showing what a Victory Garden might have looked like. The exhibit has been extended, so we shall hope it stays on.
This is a lovely green space lined by amazing stately homes on one side and Piccadilly road on the other. This area is pleasant to walk around, although there are no specific children’s areas.
Located at the western end of Kensington High Street, Holland Park is a giant park filled with different areas to take toddlers to.
If you walk into Holland Park from High Street Kensington, to the left of the sports field is a great children’s area, with large sand pits, climbing frames and swings. Just past the Holland House is a terraced garden that is great to let little ones wander around. It is not fully enclosed, but pedestrian friendly. The Japanese Gardens are next on the path where they have a koi pond and waterfall. I would not take two toddlers alone in this area as it is difficult enough keeping one out of the water. Beyond this area, to the right, is the Holland Park adventure playground. This area is really for older kids, younger ones are not supposed to be in there. Keeping that in mind, it is worth a short wander through just to see the amazing play apparatus and perhaps have a turn on the giant tire swing. Next to the adventure playground is an enclosed play area for little ones. In between all of these areas friendly peacock roam about the park. There is also a youth hostel in the park that hosts different children’s activities as well as the ecology centre.
93 Guilford Street, London WC1N 1DN, 0207 837 6138, www.coramsfields.org
Coram’s Field s is one of the most historically significant playgrounds in London. This former site of London’s first home for abandoned children and simultaneously of London’s first public art gallery, The Foundling Hospital became London’s first public playground, Coram’s Fields, in 1936. Coram’s Field is a seven acre, open access playground in the heart of London. This magnificent haven for children is fenced in, with only one gate, making it the perfect place for mums to let their children run off and really play. The site boasts spacious grassy areas, several climbing frames, sand boxes with climbing apparatus, swings, animals in pens, sports fields and an adventure playground for older children. In the middle of the park is a large paddling pool for hot summer days. If a safe, varied playground were not enough, there is an amazing coffee stand that specialises in Austrian baked goods at a very reasonable price. Adults are only allowed in Coram’s field if they are accompanied by a child. The park opens daily at 9AM. The sports fields are available for hire from 2PM on, during term time.
While Coram’s Fields is a destination in and of itself, the really nice part about it is its proximity to the British Museum. We have been to the British Museum several times with our now three and a half year old over the years, and I do not have much fun bringing her there. Its not that it’s not child-friendly, it’s that it is always packed with tourists and you really do need to keep a very close eye on little ones so they don’t wander off into the crowd or touch the artefacts! You can use the British Museum as back up if it rains when you would like to go to Coram’s field if they playgroup is filled, or you can just go there after for a picnic and a play.
Paddington Recreation Ground
Randolph Avenue, Maida Vale W9 1PD
This is a really lovely leafy park that is an excellent place to go for a long play. The children’s play area is divided into a big and small area, this can be a bit much on a crowded day with two children, but it can also work in your favour.
The cafe next to the playground does a lovely coffee, sandwiches, cakes, pasta and salads, but they are all set up for invasions of children. Loads of high chairs and toys are in this cafe, just the service is a bit slow. You can sneak in your own picnic to have your children eat along with your coffee.
The park also boasts tennis courts, a long running path, hills, a bowling green and gardens. It is a lovely place to take children.
Paddington Street Gardens
Just off Marylebone High Street, on the other side of the parking lot behind Waitrose, just down the street from Ginger Pig and La Formagerie, lies the Paddington Gardens and inside the gardens there is a wonderful playground. The playground is such a delight. There is an amazing canopy of Plain Trees so that even on a warm day, the playground remains cool. Also, if the rain is not too heavy, the playground is protected. There is a very large gazebo, in case it does rain. The playground has really good equipment, the climbing frames are not good for the under two’s to play on unsupervised. For the little ones, they have pretend phones, a pretend shop, tunnels to crawl through, a small rock climbing wall and two sets of swings. Older children can choose from a large tyre swing, climbing rocks, three very different climbing frames and spinning toys. There are two sets of picnic tables to eat at, but they are in high demand. The playground has one gate from which to enter. If parents wanted to take turns and go off shopping, the kids have a really great place to pass the time
St. Luke’s Garden’s Playground
St. Luke’s is an easily undiscovered gem off The King’s Road in Chelsea. Refurbished last summer, the playground has several picnic tables and benches for adults, great climbing frames for both little and bigger children, swings and other interesting play equipment. The playground is completely enclosed with basic toilets for both children and adults. There are two gates to enter and leave the playground at opposite ends. In addition to the playground are the lovely manicured gardens and two football pitches (not sure what the rules are for using the pitches and they usually have organised looking games being played on them. This is the perfect destination after taking the children shopping down The Road.
Causton Street Playground, SW1
I love this playground. During the summer months, there is a small paddling pool that is just so much fun to go to. There is a good-sized sand pit and a climbing frame. This park is tricky with the water if you have two walkers, but from the climbing frame is next to the pool. There are plenty of seats and really nice landscaping. Also, this playground is a short walk to Tate Britain.
Longmoor Playground, SW1
This is a nice, fenced in playground with wonderful equipment a ten minute walk from Victoria Station, located just off Vauxhaul Bridge Road. This is a good place to keep in mind should your travel out of Victoria get delayed