I had heard rave reviews of the Diana Memorial Playground in Ken Gardens and with the weather on our side, decided to check it out for a picnic.

The whole design is inspired by J.M. Barrie’s stories of Peter Pan and for an older child it certainly will fire up their imaginations as they navigate their way through a wooden pirate ship moored on a beach, crawl around in real teepees, and explore the sensory trail. The sensory trail appealed enormously to our toddlers as indeed did the specific area given over to under 3s which helps when it was as busy as it was today. The boat was way too big for Joseph to enjoy clambering up the masts of course but he pottered onto it to grab a hold of the wheel nonetheless. It’s on two levels and hard work on board for mums! There’s an excellent long winding wobbling bridge behind the ship which is toddler friendly as it’s at an accessible height and not too wobbly! Plenty of green space to picnic in too. On the down side I think timing is possibly everything. We arrived at 10.20 am just after it opened and missed the queues entirely. However, the provision of loos, nappy-changing facilities and a café mean it’s easy to hang out here for hours on end and as a consequence this gated playground can get very busy during holidays and weekends if the weather’s fine like today, with queues around the corner. Mums can get a little prickly too. One mum told my friend that she had been on the slide for long enough and should “consider leaving now as there was a queue to get into the park”. A very peculiar thing to say given the slide had room for several kids and how long someone has been in the park is really none of her business. We shall chalk it up to this particular west london mummy having a bad morning perhaps. I would love to return during the week, when kids are back at school and it is hopefully less busy. It certainly feels like there was more to go back and explore and we spotted a better picnic area for next time. I also fancy taking Joseph for a splash about in the Diana Fountain memorial which is a pleasant 20 minute stroll away through the glorious parkland. I loved the fact that this beautifully designed and imaginative play area was secured making it completely DOG FREE.  The play elements are definitely inspired. The west London madness though does remind you how lucky we are in East London. We are miles from the tourists who don’t throng to our excellent play areas after west end shopping, making everything feel mobbed. Though minus the fantastic ship and sensory trails, Victoria Park’s facilities are on a par with this one for toddlers - but I can see how this park comes into it’s own as kids get a little older. 

The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is open to the public and what a fantastic park it is for kids. It’s structure and the landscaping are a little unwieldy when you first arrive. It is long and winding, it doesn’t flow like most London parks which are wider (or benefit yet from their mature planting) but in many ways that also makes it feel a little different in a good way. We visited the Tumbling Bay playgrounds last Autumn with some mums, before the park was finished and really enjoyed the play area. It was smaller than I anticipated but I guess we are spoiled with the play areas in Victoria Park. Then again this time around it all felt different. We visited the main play zone last after taking in the dancing water fountains, the areas of climbing walls and the outdoors interactive music rooms in the Riverbank area, collectively known as the Outdoor Rooms. Joseph absolutely loved it all, especially bashing away with all the kids on the working instruments fashioned out of recycled drain tubes, chains, rubber and wood. I loved the different textures incorporated into the make up of the grounds. Because the planting has yet to mature (delighted that they have planted London Plains), these little details make a huge difference to how the place feels especially for kids. There are lush grassy verges along the canals, and wood or stone pathways melt into soft squishy red tarmac shaped into play hills near the stadium area. There’s a sandpit, swings, a shiny wide slide and very low rope bridge to clamber over plus some very daring sparkling red climbing walls all along the nearby canal for older kids. This then leads you to a bridge over the canals and into little fields of wildflower planting. And all of this before you reach the Tumbling playground.  It’s a nice very manageable “journey” with toddlers and kids, each flowing one into the other with a nice stop at the end of it all for mums and dads with the Lodge cafe. There are plenty of beautifully crafted wooden seating areas and places to stop and sit with nearby coffee kiosks if you don’t fancy the cafe. We found snacks generally overpriced inside the Lodge, our lunch destination next to the Bay play area, but sandwiches are reasonably priced and fair to good taste wise. Nothing of the wow factor foodwise yet but it’s early days and to be fair we haven’t tried the Orbit which does look good. The park is full of lush looking areas to picnic in along the canal which we will definitely do next time around. We were blessed with glorious sunshine, warm enough for a bare foot paddle in the purpose built rock pools. Joseph completely loved the big silver tunnel slide and the swinging bridge.

We took the Tube there to Stratford turned right out of the shopping centre and around to the main (south) entrance by the stadium. On the way home we jumped on a 388 bus outside the Copper Box arena which goes to Bethnal Green. You can also access the Park via the Greenway if you are Bow way or by Victoria Park. My husband wants to try out the Velodrome one day and we definitely want to check out the swimming in the family pool area of the amazing Olympic swimming centre, on a rainy morning. It would be a great park to cycle around too.

Duck & Waffle, Heron Tower near Spitalfields

For our wedding anniversary my husband took us to Heron Tower in Liverpool Street. You need a head for heights in this place. Access during the week is via their splendid reception area which houses an absolutely incredible fish tank, worth popping in for this alone. At the weekends it is via a glass lift which whooshes up to the 40th floor of the building at a rate of knots. It is surprisingly family friendly inside, the bar floor was crawling with toddlers and babies when we arrived. And all around you are magnificent views of London from the floor to ceiling glass. I struggled from start to finish with the heights so sat firmly in the middle of the bar area sipping a beautiful and reasonably priced (given the location) martini. My parents, husband and son drank in the views. There is also a restaurant of course, open a mind boggling 24 hours, which has rave reviews. We didn’t stay for lunch, choosing instead to come back down to earth and enjoy Spitalfields market (Joseph was tired).  It does sound good . I think I would prefer to eat there at night to enjoy the panoramic sparkly lights of this wonderful city. Easy access from Bethnal Green and Bow. The number 8 bus drops you right outside.

Some facts for you

The Heron Tower is a commercial skyscraper in the City of London. It is owned by Heron International and stands 230 metres (755 ft) tall[4]including its 28 metres (92 ft) mast (202 metres (663 ft) excluding the mast) making it the tallest building in the City[5] and the third tallest in Greater London, after the Shard in Southwark and One Canada Square at Canary Wharf.

Construction of the building started in 2007 and was completed in 2011. It is located on Bishopsgate and is bordered by Camomile Street, Outwich Street and Houndsditch.

Definitely worth a visit on a Saturday morning around lunchtime before heading into the market below.

Extended through April! Great news as this is a really fun project for toddlers and a great children’s centre all round. Enjoy! High-res

Extended through April! Great news as this is a really fun project for toddlers and a great children’s centre all round. Enjoy!

London Play (the charity for play in the capital) commissioned children’s illustrator Josie Firmin to design a stunning map highlighting 20 adventurous play places across the city. The reverse has details about each location including information on transport, local cafes, baby-changing areas etc. All locations are accessible and free to enter.
All proceeds will go towards London Play’s work to create free play opportunities in parts of the capital where they are most urgently needed. A growing number of London children live in poverty, have bad health predictions and do not have access to a garden or a park. Their work is targeted at these children. Your purchase will directly benefit them. High-res

London Play (the charity for play in the capital) commissioned children’s illustrator Josie Firmin to design a stunning map highlighting 20 adventurous play places across the city. The reverse has details about each location including information on transport, local cafes, baby-changing areas etc. All locations are accessible and free to enter.

All proceeds will go towards London Play’s work to create free play opportunities in parts of the capital where they are most urgently needed. A growing number of London children live in poverty, have bad health predictions and do not have access to a garden or a park. Their work is targeted at these children. Your purchase will directly benefit them.

Toddler Time

Toddler Time at the Stratford East Picture House is especially designed to introduce children to the big screen, featuring 30-minute shows for pre-school children and their parents / carers.

Admission is just £3 per child, accompanying adults free, when they become members of Toddler Time (free to join - please ask at the Box Office or call 0871 902 5747). Otherwise the usual adult matinee and child prices apply. Toddler Time is free for babies under one year old. No adult unaccompanied by a toddler will be admitted.

Wiggly Jigglers

The timing is no good for us but this may of course change…

A reminder that the very popular Wiggly Jigglers at RichMix in Shoreditch runs it’s next class on Monday 10 March from 1pm til 3pm. Free for Tower residents on production of proof of residency such as a library card.

Also joining Jasmine will be Jyoti from Bookbuggy, an online book service for the very young.

Childrens’ language skills develop very rapidly in the first few years of their lives, and Jyoti will be offering general advice about books and language development for your little one.

bookbuggy.co.uk

Age range: 0 - 2

Sporty Tots

Fun football and sport skills starting at age 18 months across London. Our nearest one is in Hackney.

Kiddikicks was created in 2005 after the co-creators had their first child - an energetic ball obsessed toddler!

They were inspired to create a parent and toddler class they would like to go to and meet like-minded parents of active children.

An age specific programme designed for children from 18 months was developed with the main aims of encouraging participation and developing a love of the beautiful game. 

Based on their own sport background experience they whole heartedly agree the aim of Kiddikicks is to help children enjoy sport. 

Meet at

Morland Community Hall
Gayhurst Road
London Fields
Hackney
E8 3EY
View on Map

Spring 2014 [11 Jan - 29 Mar]

Summer 2014 [26 Apr - 26 July]

Saturdays at various times from 9am til midday subject to age. You need to book £ in advance. Toddler sessions start at a civilised 10am for 18months plus and 10.30am for 2.5 years+. 

LIGASOCCER Over 5’s
Nippers 18m - 2.6yrs
Runners 2.6 - 3.6yrs
Racers 3.6 - 5yrs

Classes are INDOORS from Nov - Mar and OUTDOORS from Apr - Oct in London Fields park.

Budding Musicians?

Monkey Music the award winning pre school group for children aged 3 months to 4 years across the UK has opened in South Woodford. Classes are held every Wednesday and Friday morning. They are also offering a complimentary try out class. 

At Monkey Music, we know that music is fundamental to a pre-school aged child’s development. Our progressive and educational four stage curricula are designed to nurture a lifetime of music: from rock ‘n’ roll to ding-dong, classes are a ‘good fit’ for each separate age group. By the time our little monkeys ‘graduate’, they have a sound base from which to build a musical future…. have a look!

South Woodford is a 12 minute train ride from Stratford.

London Aquatics Centre, Stratford Opens March 1

Sitting on the main Gateway into the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the Aquatics Centre boasts two 50m pools and a 25m diving pool providing a lasting aquatic legacy for London. Following transformation the venue will open its doors and will cater for all levels of swimming ability and aquatic disciplines. They are currently developing a fun and exciting community programme which will include:

• A range of casual and fitness themed swimming sessions including your chance to follow in the footsteps of Rebecca Adlington and Michael Phelps
by swimming in the amazing Olympic Competition Pool
• A comprehensive learn to swim programme for both juniors and adults
• Family fun sessions including inflatables, features and slides
• Targeted sessions for community groups
• Community Club and School use
• Crèche and Café facilities

There is a pool in the centre for exclusive use by families with children so definitely one to watch and check out soon!

More details can be found here