Westminster

Weekly Rota of Baby and Toddler Groups in Westminster:

(please ring ahead to confirm times and pricing specific details and reviews to come)

 viv, mark and big ben

Monday

 Emmanuelle Centre, Parents and Toddlers (0 – 5), 10 – noon, £1

The Abbey Centre, Music and Movement (18 mos – 5), , 10am – 10:50, £1

121 Marsham Street, Young Parents Group parents 15 – 22 years old (0 – 5), 10:30 – 1pm, free 

 Queen Mother Sports Centre, Baby and Toddler Swim, noon – 1,

Tuesday

 St. Vincent De Paul Family Project, Parents and Toddlers Drop in, 10 – 3, free

Queen Mother Sports Centre, Baby and Toddler Swim, noon – 1,

Wednesday

121 Marsham Street, Tiny Time (0-2yrs) 2 – 3:30, free

Queen Mother Sports Centre, Baby and Toddler Swim, 9:30 – 10:30

 Thursday

 St. Vincent De Paul Family Project, Parents and Toddlers Drop in, 10 – 3, free

121 Marsham Street, Stay and Play (0-5), 10 – noon, free

121 Marsham Street, Tiny Time (0-2yrs), 3 – 4:30, free

 St. Stephens’ Church Toddler Group (0-preschool) accompanied by parents and carers, 3:00 – 4:30,  in Napier Hall, Hide Place, SW1P 4NJ.  Coffee and tea for carers; stories and play for children.

Queen Mother Sports Centre, Baby and Toddler Swim, 9:30 – 10:30

 Friday

 The Abbey Centre, Music and Movement (18 mos – 5), 10 – 10:30 and 10:40 – 11, £1

St. James Library, Story Group, under 5’s, 11 am, free

Queen Mother Sports Centre, Baby and Toddler Swim, 12:30 – 1:30

St. Vincent’s Family Project

Methodist Central Hall, Storey’s Gate (entrance on Matthew Parker Street), SW1H 9NH, 0207 654 5352, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10 – 3pm, free

  • Really interesting space with lots of good resources
  • Kind, caring, informed staff
  • Good space for two children, but there are a series of small rooms that can get a bit confusing
  • Buggy park at the front door
  • Children familiar with the drop in can move up into the crèche
  • Facilities for making food
  • Tube: Westminster and St. James’s Park
  • Bus: 3, 11, 12, 24, 53, 87, 88, 159, 453

St. Vincent’s Family Project is a wonderful resource for all families who come to London.

Children who come to the Family Project are treated to a wonderful group of friendly, knowledgeable and kind staff and volunteers who facilitate interaction and play.  There is an art table, a literacy area, dressing up, home corner, toys galore … all ready and waiting for children to come and use.  While the Family Project is a destination in and of itself, you could certainly use the drop-in in tandem with a day-trip into Westminster to break up museum visits or other sight-seeing.

Tuesdays and Thursdays are the drop-in sessions.  On Thursdays there is music and movement from 11:30 and Craniosacral therapy from 10 – 12:30.  Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays there is a crèche available for children familiar to the Family Project (i.e. you need to book in advance) from 10 – noon.  On the days where the crèche is offered there are different activities for the parents like yoga and knitting (the knitting circle is supposedly GREAT, really nice mums frequent and lots of good friendships have come from here)

Marsham Street Children’s Centre

121 Marsham Street, SW1P 4LP, 0207 828 4083, Tuesdays, 1:30 – 3pm, free

  •  Good space, bring your buggy right into the room
  • Changing facilities and a nice, clean toilet
  • Tube: Pimlico
  • Bus: 2, 36, 185, 436, 87, 88, C10, 24, 360,

The Marsham Street Children’s Centre is a great place to take small children to.  The space is really good, light-filled, and you are able to bring your push chair right into the room.  The toys are nice and well looked after.

This is the only activity I have attended at the Marsham Street Children’s Centre, but other parents have reported that they are as nicely staffed and resourced as the Baby Cafe.

A further bonus, Marsham Street has one of the most highly regarded day nursery in Westminster.

St. Stephen’s Baby and Toddler Group

Hide Place, SW1P 4NJ

Thursdays 3 – 4:30, donations welcome, tea and coffee 

The group has a few riding toys and slides, an animal table, and is set up perfectly for parents and carers to have a cup of tea and let the little ones have a bit of a play as the room is self-contained with few trouble spots.

 

Queen Mother Sports Centre Crèche

Queen Mother Sports Centre, 223 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V  020 7630 5522

  •  Safe and trusted crèche favourite with neighbourhood mums who fancy a workout, a coffee in the café or a facial at the spa located on the premises.
  • You can leave your children for up to two, one-hour sessions but must remain in the building.
  • £1.50 per hour, per child plus any fees to use the gym.
  • Buggy park on the ground floor entry, £1 deposit to use the automatic buggy lock
  • Lockers .20 p  deposit
  • Tube: Victoria
  • Bus: A1, 16, 52, 211, C10, 2, 24, 73, 9, 11, 36, 38, 82, 185, C1

A basic, open and reasonably priced crèche for deserving mums.  As long as you stay in the building, you are free to leave your children and take some time for yourself.  The times are from 10 – noon, Mondays and Thursdays, term time.

The crèche is held in a large windowed studio on the ground floor of the gym.  They have lots of toys for the children and bourbon cream biscuits if they like.

The crèche is a real favourite with local mums.

 

Queen Mother Sports Centre Baby and Toddler Swim,

 Queen Mother Sports Centre, 223 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V  020 7630 5522

  •  1 metre pool heated to 45 degrees, with steps leading inside – great set up for even the most timid children
  • Buggy park on the ground floor entry, £1 deposit to use the automatic buggy lock
  • Changing rooms in the locker room (the changing process is easier when your toddler is contained in a small room)
  • Lockers .20 p  deposit
  • Tube: Victoria
  • Bus: A1, 16, 52, 211, C10, 2, 24, 73, 9, 11, 36, 38, 82, 185, C1

 This pool is well thought out and especially conducive to talking hesitant toddlers into, it is worth the trip in to use it.  The drawbacks include the horrible chill in the air getting from the pool to the locker room and the convoluted system with the pushchairs.

Upon entering the gym, you leave your pushchair in an area where you can lock with a chain for a £1 deposit.  You then walk up a small flight of stairs and down another before entering the locker room.  There is a lift if you would like to avoid all of this, but ring ahead to see if it is working, otherwise, members of the staff offer help if they see you struggling on the steps.

Another bonus to the Queen Mother Sports Centre pool, across the way in the recreation pool, is a giant waterslide that parents are permitted to use with children of any age.  The covered, water-soaked slide wraps around three corners of the pool and takes a few seconds to descend.  This pool is deeper and much cooler than the teaching pool where the baby and toddler swim is held.  You can only access the recreation pool at certain times and you need to consult the web site for times: http://www.courtneys.co.uk/class-timetable

njoy the playgroups and the staff.

Emmanuel Centre

Great Smith Street, London, SW1   10:30 – 12:30

http://www.emmanuelcentre.com/Mondays

This playgroup is held in a large crypt of a 1920’s grand church.  You must leave your buggy at the top of a long flight of stairs going down into the crypt.    There is a great space to play, including riding toys, slides, tunnels, dressing up and a large art table.   The staff is very kind and attentive, they even offer to hold infants while carers play with their toddlers.

Coffee, tea and biscuits are served.

Below is an outline of information to come in greater detail

Neighbourhood Playgrounds:

 

  • Victoria Gardens
  • St. James Playground
  • Marsham Street Playgrounds
  • Causton Street Playground
  • Vincent Street Playground

Local Playgrounds

 St. James Park Playground

Located just off across from the Wellington Barracks, near Buckingham Palace, is an amazing playground.

The playground is gated with a single entrance gate.  They playground has a basic snack and drinks stand, as well as toilets.  The toilets are monitored by staff that make sure that adults are not using the toilets without their children, so be sure to take your child with you!  There are also picnic tables to have your lunch at.

Aside from the above practicalities, the playground has swings, a slide, see-saw, and a lovely sand box with a gorgeous stone bridge.  Right above the sandbox is a charming, covered children’s picnic table from where you can keep an eye on your children as they run around the playground.

This is a good playground to take two children to as it is a confined space, but there are lots of blind spots and children can easily disappear behind shrubs and other climbing toys.

Points of interest

 

  • Big Ben, Parliament Square
  • Parliament
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Whitehall
  • The Horse Guard Parade
  • The Changing of the Guard
  • The Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace
  • The Cabinet War Rooms

chng guard at wellington barracks

Changing of the Guard

I felt so smug the first time I took my child to see the changing of the Guard.  My toddler sat awe-struck listening to the music; she clapped her hands and shouted “One more time!” after each song.

As the band marched towards the palace, I wondered whether I finessed this love of music in my child’s character.  After speaking to other families and carers, The Queen’s Guard Band has this effect on every child.

If you are in London with your toddler, here are a few tips for making the trip a bit more manageable.

First and foremost, watching the band warm up at the Wellington Barracks is far easier than attempting to see the entire ceremony at the palace gates.  The band warms up between 11 and 11:15 and marches out of the yard just before 11:30.  Even on the busiest tourist days in summer, you can get a spot next to the band and there is plenty of room to move around on the pavement while they play.  My child and I usually play in the playground, which is just a few steps from The Wellington Barracks, until we here the band and then go up to the fence and watch.

The warm-up is usually enough for my two-year old and we head back to the fenced-in playground.  There is a basic snack stand, baby and big kid swings, a climbing frame, slide, see-saw, picnic tables and an enormous sand-pit that has a gorgeous stone bridge going over the middle.  An attendant monitors the children’s toilets, so make sure to take your little one with you.

Occasionally, after a play or lunch, we venture over to Green Park and either stand on the Mall to march with the regimental band as it goes on to St. James Palace.

If you like horses, the changing of the Queen’s life Guard takes place at 10 AM in the Horse Guard Parade at the opposite end of St. James’s Park from the Palace.  The cavalry division leaves Hyde Park Barracks at 9:45 and reaches the Horse Guard Parade by 9:50.  They stand for ten minutes waiting to change at exactly 10 AM.  The only drawback I find to watching the horses is that you are a good 10 minutes away from the playground and are standing on a giant field of pebbles with little to do.

It is really good fun to get an early start, watch the horses, walk to the playground while feeding the ducks along the way, watch the band warm up and later, watch the retreat after eating lunch in the playground.

IMPORTANT: the Guard only changes on every other day August through April with the occasional last minute cancellations while April through July it is held daily.  The guard will not change in wet weather.  It is advised to check online http://www.changing-the-guard.com/sched.htm, and if unsure about the weather or would like to double check the times you can ring Buckingham Palace: 0207 321 2233. After going through an automated menu you will eventually reach a customer service representative you will kindly answer your questions.

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