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London with 4 under 4, tips, cheap things to do

(23 Posts)
Bumperlicioso Thu 02-Jun-11 14:19:40

A friend and I have decided to take our kids for a day trip to London (she's American so we are doing the tourist thing). Even though I suggested it I'm starting to think we are a little crazy. We will have 2x3yo and a 1yo and 8mo. It's a little over 2hrs on the train into paddington.

We are intending to have the babies in slings and take one umbrella stroller between us that any of the kids can go into if necessary.

Any tips or cheap/free ideas. I'm thinking nat hist museum, picnic lunch. What else? We are in London between 10.30 and 3.30 due to trains, so not a massive amount of time, but a long day with the journey.

UntamedShrew Thu 02-Jun-11 14:27:51

Next to the natural history museum is the Science Museum. They have a basement area called 'the garden' which has water play, buttons to press, wheelbarrows, giant lego, puppets and funny yellow tubey things - basically lots of fun and all aimed at toddlers, the 3 year olds will love it and we even had a very successful trip there with our twins on their first birthday.
And it is free - phew.

If the weather is nice you could also take them for a picnic and play in the water at the Diana memorial garden, it isn't far.

Hope you have a great time and that the kids love the train journey as well as the fun stuff you will do while you are here.

Bumperlicioso Thu 02-Jun-11 16:13:06

Oh great, thanks. I wondered if the science museum would be a little old for them, but we will check that out. Am quaking at trying to contain 4 kids on a train for 2 hours!

RickGhastley Thu 02-Jun-11 16:31:44

Make sure you take the DC to the special butterfly tent next to the natural history museum. There are thousands of butterflies flying around and landing on you, plus nice stinky things for the kids to smell and touch.

DS (4) thought it was the best thing ever! It's £3.50 pp but age 3 and unders go free.

Naima23 Thu 02-Jun-11 16:46:16

try I just found it today - thought it had some excellent tips (and incidentally was refreshingly funny), Nxx

WizzyBizzy Thu 02-Jun-11 20:41:31

Science museum garden has loads of things that will interest the 3 yos. I took my DS a couple of months ago - he was 15 months max at the time. Had at least 45 minutes running around in there and loved it. And because it's free it really doesn't matter if you don't stay long. Would have got more out of it if he was a bit bigger but I'm sure they'll enjoy it. Definitely time for running around in Hyde Park Diana garden too. Get on the bus to get from Paddington to South Ken - I don't know the number you'll need but the kids will love it for sure! Have fun. I ADORE living in London and doing stuff with the kids.

Abelia Thu 02-Jun-11 20:48:53

um - where are you travelling from? just that 2 hours each way on the train for a few hours in the science museum + picnic and/or visit to the Diana playground, isn't, to my mind, worth it.

It is all great and lovely if you're in London anyway but honestly I wouldn't say it's worth a trip all of its own. You arrive in Paddington, negotiate tube or taxi, you'll be getting into the right bit of the museum at about 11, you'll have to leave by 3 to get back for train. Hour for lunch? so you have 3 hours in total for the Garden, perhaps gp next door for nat history museum which is not as good as science museum and the dinosaur bit isn't great for buggies. If you decide to go to the Diana playground you have to factor in getting up through Hyde Park with kids (quite a long walk esp if the 3yos aren't both in buggies).

I would honestly do something nearer to home. It sounds like a lot of travelling for little reward. I am sure your friend is super keen to go to London but she'll see so little and what she does see will be so child-focussed that it may be disappointing.

Abelia Thu 02-Jun-11 20:51:20

sorry, I don't mean little reward. it's just that there is water play and buttons to press and a massive playground, and it is all lots of fun - but a very long time to travel for it and that's what makes me think it may really not be worth it for you all. There are loads of castles, National Trust properties etc elsewhere to give a great taste of England to a tourist (or resident!)

Reallyusefulengine Thu 02-Jun-11 21:06:14

Abelia, the quickest way to get to the Diana Playground from the Science Museum is to catch the 70 bus from South Kensington to Queensway, which is a 5 minute walk to the playground. I'd allow half an hour museum door to park gate.

WizzyBizzy If it's a lovely sunny day you can happily spend the day in Kensington Gardens. The memorial fountain is fantastic and the 3 year olds will love it. There's also a slightly secret lido which you have to pay for but it's beautiful with views over the serpentine and is child friendly - there's a cafe, a fountain paddling pool and a playground. Have a lovely time!

Bumperlicioso Thu 02-Jun-11 21:26:20

I've bought the bloody train tickets now abelia!

Anyway, the journey is all part of the fun for the kids (I hope). We are looking upon it as an adventure. Thanks for the advice though.

howdidthishappenthen Thu 02-Jun-11 21:28:19

The Army Museum on Royal Hospital Road SW3 (easy taxi ride from Science Museum) has a free castle-based soft play centre. Play sessions are 50mins and ticket-based - you turn up before the session (normally starting at 30mins past the hour) to get your ticket. Enjoy your day :-)

howdidthishappenthen Thu 02-Jun-11 21:28:44

And the Diana playground is BRILLIANT :-)

Abelia Thu 02-Jun-11 21:57:35

blush sorry!

you will have a great time. a tip on the Diana playground if you're visiting in school holidays / weekend - it has a limited capacity, so if you get there after lunch (earlier if it's a stunning day) you will have to queue for aaaaages to get in. so do that first if the above applies!

JustcallmeMummyPig Thu 02-Jun-11 22:02:24

i would aim todoone thing in that time. Ihave a 5yr old & 3yr old and take them toLondon frequently.... everything takes longer than you think. The science museumwould be much better that nat hist for that age,and dianas playground is great but a long walk from science museum for the 3yr olds without a buggy.It also gets busy and you have to q. If weather is nice i would just gofor the park, you can do the statue, fountains and playground and have a picnic x

Bumperlicioso Thu 02-Jun-11 22:25:44

Diana park looks great. We are going on Monday. Is that an onset day for many? So science museum over nat history?

Bumperlicioso Thu 02-Jun-11 22:42:17


DilysPrice Thu 02-Jun-11 22:45:54

Actually I would concentrate on your friend's tourist experience rather than go to stuff for the toddlers which they will enjoy, but not really appreciate or remember. I'd head to the South Bank, do the London
Eye if you can afford it, wander along looking at the buskers and seeing the sights, maybe drop into Tate Modern, or even go as far as Tower Bridge (fun exhibition and great views).

Seriously, it's a terrible waste of your friend's special day to spend it in a basement, even the most toddler friendly basement. The babies will be happy to be wheeled along in their pushchairs and the toddlers will be happy looking at boats and buskers and running along by the river as long as you get them the occasional ice cream.

DilysPrice Thu 02-Jun-11 22:51:12

To add - there's a little playground next to the London Eye, and also a rather nice one in St James Park next to Buckingham Palace, some lovely paddling fountains on the south side of the river next to Tower Bridge and more in the middle of Somerset House (on The Strand) and just outside the Royal Festival Hall. So it's quite easy to find places for the DCs to play for half an hour in the middle of a grown up sightseeing trip without having to make the day entirely revolve around the toddlers.

MilaMae Thu 02-Jun-11 23:02:54

I had 3 under 18 months and we've been doing London since then.Personally I'd avoid the Princess Diana think,it's heaving in there and the way it's set out you will loose 1.

Mine found the dinos in the Nat Hist scary then and it's always heaving too.

The basement Science Museum is fab although heaving again(get there early if you want an apron).

The Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green is lovely and mine adored it when they were 4 and under.It has loads of hands on stuff(Duplo,sand pit with deck chairs,train and dress up clothes etc).Lovely cafe and a picnic area.

Museum of Transport(Covent Garden) also good if they like buses,trains etc.

We just did a walk along Southbank this week and mine(7,7 and 6) loved it.We started at the eye and they loved looking at the boats,the Golden Hind,Big Ben etc.Was a nice walk ,loads of space.You could get the boat from the Tate Modern(1/3 off if you get a travel card).There is a great Pizza Express by the Tate,if you book ahead and ask for an upstairs window seat the kids will love looking at all the boats.

Reallyusefulengine Fri 03-Jun-11 12:31:17

Bumper Monday is an inset day. Personally I find them a bit quieter than the main half term. Agree with mila, South Bank is very good, the website for the boat:

It's a gorgeous boat and small ones love it - it's free for under 5's. As mentioned above the South Bank is really lovely and they all love running about at the Tate Modern. The bank itself is really child friendly and great for toddling down.

When you have a rough idea of what you want to do I'm more than happy to help you work out your train or tube stops.

Naima23 Sat 04-Jun-11 18:35:59

just been to National Gallery (brilliant), check for full details on

myalias Sat 04-Jun-11 18:55:46

Personally I would give the museums a wide berth with the limited amount of time you have.
St James park is lovely - children can have fun in the park and watch the squirrel's scurrying around after scraps of food. Plus the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace - good for grown ups and children. Not far from Trafalgar square and plenty of child friendly restaurants on The Strand.

5NoSleep Mon 06-Jun-11 11:17:25

South Bank's good, as read about on

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