Believe it or not, but toddlers are people (which I personally struggle with, as my own toddler sometimes seems to be more of an alien from another Galaxy). And being people, they are as susceptible to the charm of the coolest city in the world – London.
If you are planning to visit London with a toddler in your party if you are looking for places to take toddlers in London, here is my list of the best things to do in London with toddlers. Trust me, you can actually enjoy your trip to London if you are willing to drop some sights and prepare to open your mind to some toddler activities London has.
I have a general tip: in my experience, there is a way to trick a toddler into liking something – you must like it yourself. But not just like quietly, but love it passionately and outspokenly, half measures won’t do. Nor will the acting, so prepare to put all your heart into it and start sharing your enthusiasm on taking a tube during the rush hour at Oxford street. It’s best if the rest of the family joins in.
Table of Contents
- 1 So, what are the best things to do in London with toddlers?
- 2 1. Best Playgrounds in London
- 3 2. Food Shopping in London
- 4 3. Kid-Friendly Restaurants London
- 5 4. Museums for Toddlers
- 6 5. Shopping in London
- 7 6. Animals in London
- 8 7. Parks for Toddlers in London
- 9 8. Sightseeing in London with Toddlers
- 10 General Tips:
So, what are the best things to do in London with toddlers?
Here is my little guide to London for toddlers and their parents.
1. Best Playgrounds in London
If the weather is good, you can actually just read this part and skip the rest of the post. Because after all the activity toddlers need is free play, and the playgrounds of London can offer that. At the same time the high health and safety standards ensure that your little one will not kill himself, while you blink for a second – as it might be an issue in my home Eastern Europe (our playgrounds are Darwin’s partner in natural selection). So when I thought of things to do in London with a 2-year-old, playgrounds was one of the first things to come to my mind.
One of the things I liked most about toddler playgrounds in London is how democratic they are. You can go to the ones which are considered “the best toddler playgrounds in London” and will be the first to appear in Google search, for example, the one in St James’ Park or Coram’s Fields. But wherever you are staying, you will find one nearby, and it can turn out even better.
Remember what I said about the toddler being more of an alien? This is why I keep saying that – because the logic of my son is completely different from my own. In my experience, Mark loved the one right next to our accommodation the most. It was a very simple one with two swings, one slide and a little hanging bridge. But because of its size, it was very manageable for him, so he could play without any help – and if you are a parent, you will know the feeling when you have to lift your child on a slide 152 times in one half of an hour.
Here is the list of especially awesome playgrounds in Central London:
As I said, just make sure you explore what is local and convenient for you. Remember also that the central ones tend to get extremely crowded on sunny weekends and Bank Holidays.
Hyde Park Pirate Ship – the most awesome kids’ playground London has, with a huge pirate ship, little water stream, sand, benches and picnic area. Oh, they serve good coffee right next to it, so it’s a win-win!
St James’ Park – heard some great reviews of it, but did not like it. Almost impossible for the toddler to fully use it without the help of an adult. Plus there are zones, where you can’t see your little one from the bench.
Holland Park – Playground with sand surface, pretty good slides and swings and the best of all: a little digger, which a child can operate on his or her own. I think this actually was Mark’s favourite one.
2. Food Shopping in London
Yes, there are so many talks about English food being the worst. But I find that this is not true for the supermarkets. The selection of organic food, fruits and vegetables is one of the best I have encountered, and the prices for some products are even lower than in my home Eastern Europe (which is supposed to be cheap).
Usually, you will have a good choice of berries and exotic fruits and vegetables of decent quality even off-season. If you find eating in the restaurants with a toddler too pricey or too much hassle, then I’m sure that you will find pretty much anything in most of the London supermarkets. When I lived in London, I was rather poor, so here is a tip I learnt: at the end of the day you can find a lot of good quality food reduced up to 90%. And if not, there is Whole Foods – the healthy+tasty eating paradise, although a rather expensive one.
You can use your time to introduce your toddler to the new tastes and senses, making it one of the most fun activities in London during your stay. It was there Mark has tasted ripe mangoes, coconut flour cake and litchi. Until we go somewhere, where those things grow naturally, this is our best place to get them in Europe.
There is one more food-related idea. If you come from a place, where ice-cream cars do not exist, remember that they do very much exist in London. When Mark first saw one passing, he thought it was an ambulance. When I explained the concept, his eyes widened: a car and an ice-cream (two best things!) in one? You should have seen him paying the ice-cream seller and getting his classic Flake99 – it was the happiest toddler in the whole world. And I could tick it off as a cultural experience.
3. Kid-Friendly Restaurants London
On our family hike in Northern Italy, we enjoyed some amazing pizza and pasta. In Crete Mark tasted fresh juicy oranges and yoghurt. In Israel, he loved hummus and falafel. But London has it all! And in addition to “it all”, London also has great restaurants, where your toddler is not frown at, but treated with respect as a full-righted customer.
Just choose the style of food you like and check, if there is any place available, which serves kids menu. Toddlers can be very picky eaters, but being served a menu to chose from, and then being brought the food to them by the waiter can be pretty exciting for a little one. And importantly, it might give you a chance to enjoy your own meal in peace.
On one of my visits we went out to an Italian restaurant and I was alone with Mark. I was dreading a table covered in pasta, turned chairs and angry customers, plus staying hungry myself. But Mark was enjoying himself, occupied by his starter of olives, nibbling on the second, and dipping his nose in his own (finally!) babyccino.
On other days we also tasted some perfect Greek yoghurt, falafels, curry and kebabs. And there is such thing as gastronomic tourism, after all. Or just one of those fun activities to do in London.
Here are some restaurants, which are particularly good for toddlers (and pretty awesome for their parents too):
Giraffe – Kids-friendly world food experience.
Nando’s – Comfort food, tortillas, fried chicken and other guilty pleasures.
Ask Italian – Well, Italian. Pizza and pasta, great ice-creams and coffee. Special baby three-course menu. What more do you need?
Leon – I needed to add it. It’s my favourite restaurant of all times and just pure awesomeness. Vegetarian and non-vegetarian home-style food and amazing cakes.
4. Museums for Toddlers
On a rainy day in London (which are in abundance) try one of the so many museums. Most of the biggest museums in London are amazing and most of them are free. And many of those museums can be very interesting for both toddlers and grown-ups, making it probably the best of the indoor activities London has to offer.
If your child is into space rockets and other means of transport you don’t know much about yourself (that’s my case!) try the Science Museum. In addition to the permanent exhibition, in the Science Museum London toddlers will also find special “scientific” play areas with magnets, space games and other activities, IMAX cinema and many more. The museum also has special apps to help your little one (and you!) to explore.
Are there any toddlers who are not into the dinosaurs? If there are, I haven’t met any. The Natural History Museum has a special Dinosaur Trail, as well as butterflies section, educational garden with live flowers, earthquake and volcanoes tour and Creepy Crawlies gallery with insects, bugs and spiders – ok, the last one does not sound appealing at all.
Other than that, there are amazing art galleries and history museums, which also offer interactive activities to do with toddlers, so you can actually catch some glimpses of the expositions you would like to see yourself. For me, visiting museums is one of the best things to do in London with toddlers.
Best museums for toddlers London:
Science Museum – One of the best places to visit in London with toddlers
Natural History Museum – Another idea to add to your list of indoor activities for toddlers in London
National Gallery – Your toddler can try painting, playing quizzes and other fun art-oriented activities.
British Museum – Visit their website for the list of activities and downloadable materials.
I’m leaving out the Imperial War Museum and Army Museum on purpose because I think there is nothing more stupid and absurd than children (or adults) playing with or admiring guns.
5. Shopping in London
For many people, London is the capital of shopping. Should you stop with this after you had a baby? Or after your baby turned into an always-run-in-the-opposite-direction toddler? I think there are ways to make sure both parents and kids stay happy. And also this can be another of those London indoor activities for toddlers to use on a rainy day.
Of course, I cannot take my toddler to my favourite small local ceramics, unless he is asleep in his buggy. But Mark actually likes choosing his clothes, so I can continue taking him to shops like Uniqlo, Matalan, Gap and others, as long as it’s not Saturday afternoon on Oxford Street.
Many shops in London are actually very child-friendly and would have some play zones and toilets. And if you are into shopping for some unique designs or vintage, try visiting Spitafields Market, Portobello Market or Covent Garden.
6. Animals in London
Funnily enough, Mark saw more animals in Central London, than in the village-like district of Vilnius, where we live. Around our house, we have ducks in the pond, and once in a while, a hedgehog strolls by. In London, we felt surrounded by animals.
In almost any park you will meet some brave squirrels, who do not mind crawling on your arm as long as you offer them some nuts. In any park with a little pond (which again is practically any park in London), you will find geese, ducks and swans. If you are willing to go further to a bigger park-like Richmond or Hampstead Heath, then you can watch the deer grazing right in front of you. And if you happen to walk by a trash container at night, there is a chance to see some dumpster-diving foxes.
In addition to all of these, you have also numerous city farms, petting zoos and bigger zoos.
Here is just a little list of them to give you some ideas.
London Zoo – probably the most known of the London attractions for toddlers
Battersea Park Children’s Zoo – although pricey, but one of the best family activities London can offer.
Hackney City Farm – one of the fun things for toddlers to do in London.
7. Parks for Toddlers in London
London is the only city, where I kept Mark on the leash (like this Little Life Disney Mickey Mouse Backpack – Red) on many of our tours, as creepy as it may look. And I actually thanked the inventor almost every minute, because London traffic (and I’m speaking of both human and transport) can be much busy and unpredictable. But with so many parks there is plenty of opportunities for your toddler to run wild (which they love doing).
London parks provide perfect locations for using a scooter, a bike or just running around. If you are there on a sunny day, then you can also consider having a picnic. Either bring your own food and a picnic blanket, or pop into the nearest store, which will have a choice of salads, sandwiches and pre-cut vegetables and dips, and rent a deck chair in the park to picnic in style.
I especially love London parks in spring, but they can be beautiful at any season.
Best parks in London for toddlers:
St James’ Park
Regent’s Park (a little note: this is one of the most beautiful parks, but unfortunately it doesn’t have any playground for toddlers)
8. Sightseeing in London with Toddlers
Unbelievable as it may sound, you can actually squeeze some sightseeing into your trip. The cheat strategy is to do the main part, while your toddler is asleep after all the running and exploring, but there are also things which can be interesting for toddlers. In Mark’s case these are fountains, tractors and bell towers.
You know your toddler best, so plan the trip accordingly. I could do some two-hours tour with Mark, making sure we see a fountain or a bell tower in equal (and rather short intervals) of time. We both pretty much enjoyed it, and it made me think that sightseeing can actually be another idea of where to take toddlers in London. If you dare to try, here is a good example of an itinerary for 3 days in London.
I will not be able to help you with a list here, as the list of sights in London is endless. Some of the most toddler-friendly ones are for sure The London Eye, Sea Life or Tower of London. Alternatively, there is always an option to jump on a Hop On Hop Off bus and enjoy the view.
I’m sure by the end of this post you are already full of knowledge and courage, and will for sure know how to make your trip to London with a toddler a blast! And I also hope that although you came to this guide to the toddler-friendly London with a question: “What to do with toddlers in London?”, you left with some ideas of some fun things you can do there too.
Using a buggy in London:
London is a rather buggy-friendly city. You have ramps in most locations. Despite this, you will want to keep your buggy light, especially if you want to use the tube, as on many stations there are no lifts. If you are looking for a good travel buggy for your child, have a look at my guide here.
Backpack for your toddler:
And of course, remember to get a backpack for your toddler (with or without the leash!).
Toddler-friendly guided tours in London:
What about a boat trip? While toddlers are not the best walkers, most of them would really have fun on a boat. And in the meantime, you get to relax AND see some more of the city. Win-win!
Toddler-friendly accommodation in London:
If you are looking for a place to stay in London, here are some tips on getting the best deals from Booking.com.
Budget: Royal London Hotel By Saba offers great facilities and relatively good location in Hammersmith for a decent price. Check out the room prices on Booking.com.
Mid-range: The Ampersand Hotel has a play-room, library and a full-size ping-pong table! What more can kids (and their parents) want?
High-end: Because after running around all the city of London catching your toddler, you deserve a good rest. Check out the prices for The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences (voted the best child-friendly hotel in London) here on Booking.com.
Or check some other deals here: