run out of womb

... learning how to be a mum from scratch

Wednesday 30 October 2019

Ten NW London Places to Take Your Kids .. That You'll Actually Enjoy Too

Soft play is the worst place to be a parent. They're stuffy, stinky, germy holes with no daylight, crappy food and worse coffee. There's only one bearable one (Ally Pally's Little Dinos, where at least you can get a great juice and it's small enough not to lose sight of the offspring you like enough to have bought to soft play). 

But as I jumped reeeally high on a trampoline yesterday whilst watching my kids racing around beaming next to me, inspo struck. Here are ten places to visit in or near NW (ish) London that aren't just about the babes - you AND your kids will enjoy them all. (And if not, tell me where's better. More days out that aren't soft play are always appreciated.)

1. Capel Manor. One for the sunny days - Capel Manor is basically a university for gardeners, 30 acres to explore where they've created loads of different, individual gardens (think the children's garden, Japanese garden, water garden, etc) for you to all saunter round. Once they've been visited, there's a small farm, a maze, a fairy garden plus regular activities for kids, like egg hunts at Easter. Take a picnic or eat at the cafe (it's student-y but does a good baked potato) and you'll have a great day out.

2. Finchley Nurseries - this is a garden centre that's actually a half-day out too. There are the usual plenty of plants, which my kids love looking at and playing guess the fruit/herb/vegetable plant etc, but lots more too: a brand-new jungle gym to clamber over, a fish / aquarium area, a cute cafe, pick-your-own flowers in summer (both an excellent activity AND a cheap way to get a beautiful, majorly-Insta bouquet), and an area selling who-would-want-these china gnomes and animals where my two could stay all day... Easy parking and lots of walks nearby too.

3. Flip Out - the place that inspired this post. I love going to the toddler (Mini Flippers) mornings at the Staples Corner trampolining hub (there are lots of other branches) - there's almost always fewer than 20 people, and given the place is the size of a football pitch, that gives you a LOT of places to jump. Even my youngest, who's under two, can run like a banshee without my fearing he'll be knocked over by big 'uns - meanwhile, I'm getting a ton of exercise by boinging up and down next to them. There's also a ball pit room and laser room. The place is pricey most of the time, but Mini Flippers is about £8 for two hours' bouncing for you and a tot. (You do have to buy their socks the first time you go, about £2/pair.)
4. Ikea. It sounds bonkers, but my kids love playing in their kids' toy bit (despite the fact that we have half the toys at home anyway..), touring the mini rooms, and picking out plants. Plus the kids' meals are pretty decent and a mess-free dinner for you... And if you just happen to have bought more napkins and storage boxes to add to the 8.3 million you have at home, it's not my fault.

5. If your tiny one is half a fan of aeroplanes , or just likes running around in a big space, hit up Hendon's RAF museum. It's free (although parking is £3 but phew the machines take cards), and has been recently revamped, with huge hangars of jets, ride-ons, a dressing-up area, and a really great playground that's full of planes and a mini-museum and is nothing like the identikit playground you find in every park.

6. Kentish Town City farm: it's small but in combo with local cafes, makes a lovely afternoon out: oink at the pigs, see the chickens, horses and more then walk down to Boma Garden Centre for cute babycinnos and seriously, seriously good brownies.

Image result for kentish town city farm

7. Broomfield Park has one of London's biggest adventure playgrounds (and a smaller one that's more tot-friendly), a conservatory with bananas growing, crazy golf (albeit it's not such a crazy course), a lake and model boating pond - and the amazing nearby Baskervilles Tea shop, with delicious cakes, babycinnos, and a room just for baby classes if you time your visit right (usually need to prebook).

8. Local indy cinema, the Phoenix, runs brilliant toddler film sessions on weekends and mid-week; on Tuesday mornings there's a half-hour activity first (toys, playdo etc), then a short film/show - the likes of The Gruffalo, or an episode of Sarah & Duck etc. Tickets are £3, including popcorn and the kids love it. On Saturdays it has kids' film club for older kids, similarly good value but full-length films.

9.  Kenwood - there are ducks in the pond and huge grassy expanses to explore outside, obviously, but don't forget the house - it has a kids' room, huge dolls hours, dress-up clothes and music/art classes dotted throughout the week too.

10. Hit up Ally Pally: there are swan boats and pedaloes (bonus: great work out) on the boating lake (albeit it's not cheap) - and a great playground with sandpit (the addition of sand adds an extra hour to the average playground session, I find, and about 1.5 billion grains of sand to my car). Young kids are free to boat, btw, but babes must be over one to go on a boat. They have tiny lifejackets. Also in the park are incredible views, a nice cafe, ice skating and... OK, if you really want it, that pretty decent soft play too.

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