Covent Garden and Soho

More information coming soon …

Weekly Rota of Baby and Toddler Groups in Soho and Covent Garden: please ring ahead to confirm times and pricing)

lion in trafalgar sq

The West End is an area that can be extremely baby and toddler friendly when you are given some inside guidance. While The National Gallery has a great children’s activity on the weekends, over-all neither it nor the Portrait Gallery are very child friendly.  The Transport Museum is the place to go in case of rain on your day out in the West End, but there are a surprising number of playgrounds and outdoor areas if the weather is fine. Further, there are some really fun family-friendly places to eat that are somewhat well-suited for pushchairs and noisy children.  If you are here mid-week during term-time, check out one of the playgroups  while exploring Covent Garden and Soho.

Monday –

Covent Garden Community Centre (42 Earlham Street, WC2H 9LA)and Seven Dials Under Fives Stay and Play, Mondays from 11 am – 2pm. £1.50

Charing Cross Library, Rhyme Time, Under 5’s, 10 – 11am

Soho Centre for Health, Baby Club with Baby Massage, 0 – 6 months, 1:30 – 3:30

All Souls Primary School, baby and toddler stay and play, under 5’s, 9 – 11 am

YMCA, Great Russell Street, Creche and Exercise, 1 – 5 years for the creche

Tuesday –

Covent Garden Evangelical Church, Tots n Tinies Parent and Toddler Group, 10:30 – 12:30

St. Anne’s Hall Dean Street, Drop in Stay and Play, 0 – 5  years, 9:30 – 11:30, free

YMCA, Great Russell Street, Toddler Gymnastics, 1 – 5 years, 10 – 11am and 11 – noon

YMCA, Great Russell Street, Creche and Exercise, 1 – 5 years for the creche

Wednesday

Soho Family Centre, Parent and Toddler Group, 9:30 – 11:30, free

YMCA, Great Russell Street, Water Babies, 2 – 5 years, 2 – 2:30 and 2:30 – 3pm

YMCA, Great Russell Street, Creche and Exercise, 1 – 5 years for the creche

Thursday –

Dragon Hall, Drop In (0-4), 10 – 4pm, free

All Soul’s Club House, Stay and Play, baby and toddler, 10 – noon

YMCA, Great Russell Street, Creche and Exercise, 1 – 5 years for the creche

Friday-

St. Clement Danes School, Parent and Toddler Group, 9:00 – 11:00, free (at the moment, it is only open to families known to the school)

Charing Cross Library Baby Rhyme Time

Charing Cross Libary, 4 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0HF

Bus: 24, 29, 176

Tube: Leicester Square or Charing Cross

What a hidden gem this rhyme time is … and it is going to get better.  Robin Martin brings her wonderful voice and entertainment talents to the Charing Cross rhyme time in addition to the Wednesday session at the Mayfair library.  Robin definitely adds West End panache to the Under Fives library sessions.

The space is small, but that is part of the charm. The toilets are on the ground floor, with a changing table and enough space to pull a buggy in (keep that in mind if you are ever need a loo in Soho).  There are books and enough props for small children to play with.  Robin brings out a gaggle of puppets and a box of toys for kids to play with after.

Beginning Monday, 1st March, there are going to expand the session to include a bigger play area and some larger toys.  There is a big gala event from 10:30 – noon supported by Starbucks … should be really great fun and I am going to make every effort to be there.

Soho Family Centre

St. James’s Residence,23  Brewer Street

0207-439-1578

The Soho Family Centre is a unique space that holds a special vibe of being in The West End.

You enter the St. James’s Residence through a gated archway off Brewer Street, park you pushchair and descend a flight of stairs to the nursery.  Note that there is only a minimal area of shelter from rain to park the pushchairs, so you may need to bring your rain cover.  The space is so interesting and varied with really friendly mums who love London (not as many nannies) and staff.  There is an outdoor space that is half under the building, half open to the courtyard “well” of the buildings.  When you look up, you know that The West End is buzzing around you as you play in a great space for toddlers and small children.

As it is right next to Chinatown, many of the mums were speaking Mandarin and Cantonese with their children, adding to the charming Soho Vibe.

Dragon Hall Under 4’s Drop-in, Sure Start, 10 – 4pm

17 Stukeley Street, WC2B 5LT, 0207-404-7274

http://www.dragonhall.org.uk/

Really great resource for the West End.  You park and fold you push chair and climb a flight of stairs to enter the playroom.  There are great changing facilities, food preperation area, and a self-contained room of basic toys for the kids.  There is an arts and crafts area, a small climbing frame.

The staff is extremely friendly, supportive and knowledgable.  Lots of mums at this group, too.

The Transport Museum

  •  £10 per adult, children under 16 free (last year we purchased a year-long membership for £30 but we are not sure of this years rate yet)
  • Wonderful museum that works great for the Under 5’s
  • A bit tricky with two toddlers
  • Snack, restaurants and picnic area
  • Great changing facilities and family toilets
  •  Bus: 6, 9, 11, 13, 15, 23,24, 29, 87, 91, 139, 176
  • Tube: Covent Garden          transport museum

The Transport Museum is Mecca for all children.  Spread over three floors, the museum has different models of the various means of transport through the ages for children to climb into and explore.  Especially on a rainy day, it is well-worth the admission cost.

If you take two children here alone, one of them either has to be steady enough to climb around on their own, or the other needs to stay in their push chair or baby carrier at times as there are double-decker busses to explore.

There are two designated children’s play areas, one with dress up with a model bus to drive and the other is for even younger children with life-size model wooden boat, bus, taxi and tube car to play on in addition to a large model city with trains and buses to push along.

It is a treat for boys and girls alike, and a wonderful place to spend a few hours.  Be sure to check out the Royal Opera House next door for coffee after, See Suggested Itineraries for The West End for this and other recommendations near-by

The National Gallery

  • Free
  • Magic Carpet Ride on weekends GREAT for the 3 – 5 year olds
  • Tricky with two toddlers
  • Snack and restaurant, no picnic area
  • Great changing facilities and family toilets
  • Bus: 3, 11, 12, 24, 53, 87, 88, 159, 453
  • Tube: Charing Cross

The National Gallery is more of a grow-ups museum as there are no exhibits in this particularly pitched to little ones.

That said, there is The Magic Carpet Ride for the Under 5’s.  Every Sunday, at 10:30 and 11:30, in the education wing (which is the opposite side of the entrance on Trafalgar Square) a docent gathers families for a prompt start to the activity.  After in introduction and discussion of the rules, the group walks through the galleries and sits in front of a work of art to listen to a story about the picture and sing a song.  It is priceless, literally … its FREE!!

If you are not able to catch The Magic Carpet Ride, the museum is still good to take children to as there is so much to look at and the main galleries have amazing leather sofas to sit on.  There are lifts to get around step-free and wonderful family toilets and changing facilities.

The café is cafeteria style and difficult to get the pushchair next to a table when it is busy.

The National Portrait Gallery

  • Free
  • Story Telling for Families (3 – 5 year olds), 3rd Sunday each month 2 and 3pm
  • Tricky with two toddlers
  • Snack and restaurant, no picnic area
  • Changing facilities and family toilets
  • Bus: 3, 11, 12, 24, 53, 87, 88, 159, 453
  • Tube: Charing Cross

The National Portrait Gallery is not the most push-chair friendly museum.  There are lifts to get you around the museum, but there are foyers where you need to descend three steps or go through an ordeal to avoid them and use the lift.

We have yet to remember when we are on the 3rd Sunday of the month to attend Story Telling for Families, but based on the National Gallery’s program for the Under 5’s, I am eager to check it out.

The Museum is really great if you have time to read all the interesting explanations for the portraits that you are looking at.  This is a great place to go during nap time..

The Portrait Gallery Restaurant has amazing views of Whitehall, but I have not been there since having children.

Suggested itinerary for The West End

The West End Days Out

Museums

  • National Gallery, free
  • The Portrait Gallery, free
  • The Transport Museum, £10 per adult

Attractions

  • Trafalgar Square, free
  • Covent Garden Market, free

Parks and Playgrounds

  • St. James’s Park, free
  • The Phoenix Gardens, free
  • Drury Lane Playground, free

Tube: Charing Cross, Leister Square

Bus:

The National Gallery: There are no exhibits in this museum particularly pitched to little ones, but there is The Magic Carpet Ride for the Under 5’s (really good for children 3 and up, but their siblings may come, too).  Every Sunday, at 10:30 and 11:30, in the education wing (which is the opposite side of the entrance on Trafalgar Square) a docent gathers families for a prompt start to the activity.  After in introduction and discussion of the rules, the group walks through the galleries and sits in front of a work of art to listen to a story about the picture and sing a song.  It is priceless … literally, its free!!   If you are not able to catch The Magic Carpet Ride, the museum is still good to take children to as there is so much to look at and the main galleries have amazing leather sofas to sit on.  There are lifts to get around step-free and wonderful family toilets and changing facilities.  The café is cafeteria style and difficult to get the pushchair next to a table when it is busy.

Portrait Gallery: This museum is less child friendly than the National Gallery.  There are some steps to contend with, but there are lifts to the galleries.  The portraits are fascinating; the most interesting part is not just the beauty, it’s the historical explanations that are given.  For this reason, I suggest doing the Portrait Gallery while the little ones nap or stay in the pushchair.

The Transport Museum: The Mecca for all children in the West End.  You pay £10 per adult to enter.  The museum is spread over there floors and has different models of the various means of transtransport museumport through the ages for children to climb into and explore.  If you take two children here alone, one of them either has to be steady enough to climb around on their own, or the other needs to stay in their push chair at times as there are double-decker busses to explore.  There are two children’s play areas, one with dress up with a model bus to drive and the other is for even younger children.  It is a treat for boys and girls alike, and a wonderful place to spend a few hours.

big bed from trafalgar sq Trafalgar Square:   This wonderful square with its majestic view of the seat of The Empire is a very hectic place for small children. It is great fun pointing out that Lord Nelson is depicted with his missing arm, splashing their hands in the fountains, or going up and down the steps …but the place is generally heaving with people who are not looking at knee level for who may be running around.  The coffee shop is step-free in the square with changing facilities.

Covent Garden Market:  This is a fun place to wander around, and The Transport Museum is located at the end of it.  The Market is filled with street performers and during the holidays opera singers.  There are lots of shops and places to eat and drink.  My favourite is The Royal Opera House, at the end of the market, on the side opposite The Transport Museum. If you go through the entrance there and ask for the coffee shop, you will be escorted to a lift, and then you walk around the upper stalls of the opera house (the doors are closed, but it still feels grand) and you will come upon a large area with a coffee and snack stand that is amazingly affordable!  Further, you have views of the entrance to the Opera House and over the market, with lots of room for toddlers to run about and parked pushchairs (unless they are having an event), but this is my favourite insiders secret to the West End.

St. James’s Park: Just off Trafalgar Square, through the Admiralty Arch is the manicured idyll that is St. James’s Park.  The playground is about a 15 minute brisk walk from Trafalgar Square, at the very opposite end of the park, near the Wellington Barracks.  It is a real treat though.  Inside there are baby and big kid swings, a climbing frame and slide, picnic tables and an enormous sand-pit that has a fun stone bridge going over b and w of vict mem over the waterthe middle.  There are only locked children’s toilets in the playground, if a carer needs to use the toilet, they should remember to bring their child with them.  Right next to the playground is a snack stand serving basic coffee, sweets and sandwiches.

The Phoenix Gardens: 21 Stacey Street, WC2H 8DG.  A basic playground with swings, slides and a roundabout, but it may be the perfect reward after touring The National Gallery on the way to Covent Garden

Drury Lane Playground, WC2.  A basic playground with swings and slides and there are some steps to contend with.

 

My Favourite Child-Friendly Places to Eat in the West End

 

Wagamama, Covent Garden: inexpensive, fairly nutritious, delicious noodle dishes, loads of high chairs and seats.  The place is big and noisy so your kids wont disrupt anyone’s meal.  One draw back, it is located in the basement and the lift is flimsy and temperamental.  It is really difficult to get a pushchair up the stairs as the queue begins for the dinner hour.

Belgo: Great food, moule, fritte and great beer and loads of high chairs, huge space that is really noisy and the place is step-free if the lift is working.  If its not, they will help you out.

 

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