South Kensington

 

South Kensington does not have a lot of playgroups that I am aware of, so I have put together a rota based on Kensington and Chelsea

 Weekly Rota of Baby and Toddler Groups in South Kensington

(please ring ahead to confirm times and pricing)

albert memorial

 Monday

 Creche (0 – 3 years) Chelsea Leisure Centre, 2 – 2:45 

 Tuesday

Kensington Central Library, Story Time (2 yrs+), Tuesdays 10:30 – 11, free

Gymboree, South Kensington, Bumps and Babies NCT Group, 12:30 – 1:45,  FREE http://www.nct.org.uk/branches/kensington-chelsea/parent-support/bumps-babies-gymboree-sth-kensington

Baby and Toddler Swim (0 – 3 years) Chelsea Leisure Centre, 2 – 2:30

Wednesday

Jigsaw Toddler Group (0 – 3 years) Chelsea Methodist Church, 155 A Kings Road, 11 – 2:30

The Science Museum, NCT Toddler Group, meet in The Garden Playspace 3pm –  4:30pm http://www.nct.org.uk/branches/kensington-chelsea/parent-support/toddler-group

Thursday

Baby Rhyme Time (0 – 2 years), Chelsea Library 11 – 11:30 (need to collect a ticket the preceding Saturday)

Pippa’s Poppets Music and Movement Classes (0-4yrs) Chelsea Theatre, Kings Road 9:45am for babies, 10:30 am for toddlers, 11:15 for small children, fees and more details at www.pippaspoppets.co.uk

The Rainbow Playgroup (0-2), Little St. Luke’s Hall, 2:30 – 4pm (ring ahead as the group may have a waiting list)

 Friday

Kensington Central Library, Baby Rhyme Time, Fridays 10:30 – 11   need to collect a ticket for this on either Saturday or Monday morning 

 Story Time (2 – 5 years), Chelsea Library 11 – 11:30 (need to collect a ticket the preceding Saturday)

 St. Mary Abbots Church Hall, Vicarage Gate Parent and Toddler Group, Friday 10 – noon ring ahead as the group has a waiting list

 

Jigsaw Club

Chelsea Methodist Church, 155a King’s Road, SW3 5TX, 0207 352 9305 ext 27, Wednesdays 11 – 2:30, lunch served, free

  •  Super convenient location
  • Very friendly, supportive staff
  • Buggy park downstairs from the group, two flights walk up
  • Lovely, bright and varied playroom
  • Good changing facilities and toilets
  • Tube: Sloane Sq, South Kensington
  • Bus: 49, 19, 22, 319, 11, 360

http://www.chelseamethodist.org.uk/Children-1.html

This is a wonderful playgroup right in the middle of The King’s Road, excellent if you have shopping to do.

The group has lovely, knowledgeable volunteers who can put you in touch with other activities and resources in the community.

Varied and pleasant, the playroom has a book area, ball pit, sand tray, art area in addition to lots of interesting and nicely looked after toys.  Lunch is prepared and served at 1pm, you can bring your own or enjoy a wholesome meal prepared for you.

The only drawback to this group is the logistics, but a nanny of triplets comes to the group every week and manages just find.  When you enter the church, you leave your buggy in the entryway, but there is a receptionist who monitors who comes and goes, so there are a set of eyes on your buggy.  After you park the buggy, you need to walk up a long flight of stairs to enter the room.

After a play at the Jigsaw Club you can wander through the shops and then to St. Luke’s Playground for a lovely day of shopping and playing.

Kensington Central Library

Kensington Central Library, 12 Phillimore Walk, W8 7SA, 0207 937 2542

  •  Easy buggy access, there is even a secret ramp if you don’t want to bump up the first few steps
  • Amazing, light filled, fun space
  • Really nice space to pass a rainy afternoon
  • Tube: High Street Kensington
  • Bus: 9, 10, 49, 52, 70, 452

http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/libraries/general/

This is a very enjoyable library to take young children to.  The space is just amazing, with cushioned window seats and ceilings that go up and up.  They books are organized in a nice way for both children and adults.  There are stacks children can just grab from.

This is a great place to keep in mind should you get rained out of the Princess Diana Memorial Playground!!

I have yet to attend either of the children’s sessions, but judging from how well the room is organised, I am sure the program is great.

Science Museum

science museum from outsideExhibition Road, South Kensington, London SW7 2DD 0870 870 4868 Open Daily from 10 – 6, except the 24 – 26th December

  •  Best museum in London for the Under Fives
  • Not a great space for two children running in opposite directions
  • Picnic areas, cafes and restaurants
  • Great changing facilities and family toilets
  • stairs free, but you have to park your buggy away from the Pattern Pod and The Garden.  In the case of The Garden, it is kept in a separate, unmonitored room
  • Tube: South Kensington
  • Bus 360, 70, 414, 74, 14, C1, 49, 430, 345

 http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/

 This is one of the best museums to take your toddler to as there are two areas that are specifically toddler focused as well as other parts of the museum that are really fun for toddlers to see.

Toddler focused area include the Pattern Pod and The Garden

The Pattern Pod is located at the very rear of the museum, on the ground floor and offers a wonderful experience for small children.  The exhibit is officially designated as being for 5 – 8 year olds, but there are many interesting, hands-on things for your toddler to investigate. Dress up clothes for children to try on and play around in.  There are tiles that children can insert into a special display that projects different patterns on the ceiling, pattern puzzles and a pattern making art program plus much more.

The Garden is a real treat to take your children to, its well-hidden in the basement so ask about it if you do not find it on your own.  The first thing you notice when you walk in are small children wearing orange protective aprons playing in the most elaborate water table you have every seen.  Filled with small boats that float down a cascading canal, children are able to work different levers and pumps to direct the water and boats.  It is really great fun. science museum

Further along is a play area that suggests a building site, with giant blocks you move around a small climbing frame using wheelbarrows, bag and pulley rope, a chute or any other imaginative ways toddlers can derive.

There is an area soft toys, an amazing multi-sensory room, puppets… I know I am missing some things, but you will have to bring your little ones and see for your self.

The picnic areas are right outside The Garden, or you can go to any of the cafes or restaurants.

 

Natural History Museum natural history museum in front

Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London SW7 5BD 0207 942 5000 Open Daily from 10 – 5:30, except the 24 – 26th December

  • Good museum for the Under Fives
  • Not a great space for two children running in opposite directions
  • Cafes and picnic areas
  • Great changing facilities and family toilets
  • stairs free, if you use the lifts 
  • The buggy friendly entrance is on Exhibition Rd
  • Tube: South Kensington
  • Bus 360, 70, 414, 74, 14, C1, 49, 430, 345 

http://www.nhm.ac.uk/index.html

This museum is a good space for little ones to have a run around on a rainy day. While not especially pitched for young toddlers, but it does have some areas that will be fun for you all to visit.

Some Highlights include:

The dinosaur exhibit is the focal point for the under fives. If you have a buggy, you need to go up a flight of stairs to enter the exhibit, or use a small lift.  You then walk along a cat walk, looking at dinosaur bones while approaching a life sized, mechanical, growling T-Rex!!  This part is great fun, but lots of children do get frightened.

The mini-beast room is by far the best toddler room as many of the buttons and displays are within arms reach for them.  The room only has one entrance, so you can let them have a bit of a wander.

The Investigate room is by far the coolest room for the older toddlers.  This room is booked ahead by schools in the mornings during term time.  The best time to use the Investigate room is after 2:30, weekdays, The Investigate roomduring school hours.

There are dozens of specimen trays holding assortments of insects, bones, shells and animal skins.  These are wonderful treasure trays for the little ones to touch and explore.  The room has microscopes that small children can access by kneeling on the counter and looking through the lenses.  There are trays filled with pond dippings, plastic skulls, a skeleton, large fossils and live insects for children to interact with.  All over the room there are magnifying glasses, pencils and paper to record and amuse busy children.

The bird gallery is really interesting. It’s a long hall with near floor to ceiling cases of different species for birds.  As the cases are accessible for the little ones, they are able to get a close-up view of the stuffed Victorian bird collection.  There is also an amazing humming bird display.  I would not let two toddlers wander around in this room as it is basically a hallway with two directions at each end.

Victoria and Albert Museum

Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London SW7 2RL 0207 942 2000 Open Daily from 10 – 5:45; Fridays until 10pm, select galleries remain open.  Closed the 24 – 26th December

  • While the museum does not have any exhibits specifically designed for the Under Fives, it is toddler friendly  
  • The V and A periodically offers sumptuously resourced and well-staffed workshops for the over 3’s that are amazing.
  • Not a great space for two children running in opposite directions
  • Cafes and outdoor picnic areas
  • Great changing facilities and family toilets
  • There are loads of ramps and lifts, but many galleries have small flights of steps 
  • The buggy friendly entrances on Cromwell and Gloucester Road
  • Tube: South Kensington
  • Bus 360, 70, 414, 74, 14, C1, 49, 430, 345 

http://www.vam.ac.uk/

The V and A is a collection of the decorative arts from around the world.  Walking through the museum, you are surrounded by the finest furnishings mankind has produced.  Even if you are not particularly interested in the subject, it is an amazing collection and worth seeing.

The museum is not a great place to take a highly active toddler.  Many of the galleries are dark and contemplative, not particularly suited for a running child.

Baby break at the V and AWhat does work extremely well at the V and A is the courtyard.  Inside the courtyard, during warm weather, is a large wading pool for children to play.  The water is not very deep, but small children would naturally get completely soaked playing in it.  If the weather is cool, the pool is empty and babies and children of all ages enjoy running around in it.  Further, the courtyard has café for coffees, sandwiches and snacks and you may eat your packed lunch there.

If were coming to the museum alone, I would leave the toddler in the push chair while I enjoyed a particular gallery or exhibit and then go to the courtyard for lunch and a play.  If I had someone with me, they would take the kids over the road to the Science Museum and play in the Garden while I enjoyed a child-free hour to contemplate beautiful craftsmanship, and we would meet up in the courtyard for lunch (if it’s wet, you can eat in the Science Museum).

The V and A does the most amazing workshops for the over three’s during term breaks.  We most recently enjoyed the ceramics workshops over three days in the October 2009 half-term.  My four year old rolled and decorated clay beads, threw a pot on a wheel, and decorated a plate with transfers … FOR FREE!!!  In addition to my four year old and 9 month old, my friend joined us with her four year old and 18 month old toddler and it worked well.  The babies waited patiently while the big kids did their craft and then everyone had a great run around the courtyard and ate lunch.

If you did nothing with your older child on your trip to London but a V and A workshop, you would all be pleased.

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. Pirate ship playground

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.

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.

St.Lukes playground 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.

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