For many East London parents, the quest of filling up half term with excitement for your little sleep thieves is frankly quite exhausting. We find ourselves trekking across London, only for the crowds at the ‘attractions’, testing our resolve faster than an IKEA flat pack.
London Zoo, Natural History Museum, the Aquarium… all school holiday favourites for the entire London population under five. However, instead of running the gauntlet, try these local options to keep your cool whilst the ankle biters are out of school.
Here in east London, we have lots of hotspots often found on every blog going. The Discover Centre and Museum of Childhood are wonderful places but if you like the idea of keeping sane this half-term, you might want to avoid them.
All of these ideas come complete with coffee of varying quality, foods that aren’t allowed on most diets and buggy access since that’s literally how we roll these days.
Museum of London
Included because it’s a massive space and perfect if it is pissing it down. The usual rules apply: get in early, get out with your sanity intact. Nice cafes both upstairs and downstairs. Not hugely interactive but my two love charging around the open spaces.
Top tips: There is a small train play area downstairs and unless your child is the patron saint of sharing, bring some of your own vehicles so they can use the wider space.
Don’t get the 100 bus! It looks like the most logical thing to do but crawling with a buggy and toddler strapped to your back will be quicker. Check out the Museum of London website to plan your route.
Canada Water Library
Coffee, cake, lifts, space for buggies, nappy change. Much like the Ritz really, apart from Pirate ships on the first floor in the children’s reading area. Lovely staff, and a Sainsbury’s next door if you fancy buying some bread to feed the ducks outside.
Top tips: Canada Water Cafe is also a little gem if you fancy something a bit more substantial to eat.
You will need proof of address if your little one would like to open their very own account and borrow books, complete with their own child library card the novelty of which, was not wasted on our eldest.
An old favourite for good reason. Lots of improvements have been made with a little gift shop, a wider variety of animals but most importantly, a cafe with coffee and cake. Space galore for your mini-me’s to go wild. Whilst popular, the open nature of the venue means your need for gin o’ clock can probably wait.
Top Tip: If you get off at Crossharbour there is an Asda. Pop in and buy a mega-bag of carrots to feed to the animals. Literally the best value purchase we have ever made for our boys on a trip. You can then walk across the car park up into the farm.
Museum of Docklands
Not massively original however the clever people at Museum of Docklands now have an online booking system for their play gallery, Mudlarks. There are a limited number of slots to prevent overcrowding. Outside of the contained children’s area there is a museum cafe.
Top tip: Don’t chance it, book online and feel like a pro. Also, watch out for the gift shop as our boys, including the one in buggy seem to be just the right height to to grab goodies from the shelf before guilting you to purchase.
Half Moon Theatre and Husk Cafe Half Moon Theatre is a total local gem. They don’t have a coffee shop but do sell snacks for your little ones. If you need a caffeine hit and wear skinny jeans, then you’ll love Husk next door. East London gentrification in all its glory. I digress… Half Moon do some outstanding work in the community and their shows will captivate even the most stubborn of spawn. Check out what’s on and consider yourself lucky to see their work in action.
Top Tip: A short walk away is a Yurt. Yes, a Yurt coffee shop that also does really reasonably priced soups and hot sandwiches. Worth trying out if only just to tell others you’ve been!
Wapping Gardens and Turks Head
Sometimes half term is just about a change of scenery more than anything else and this, is a solid option. A 5 minute walk from Wapping Overground is probably one of the kindest playgrounds in town. Whilst it’s not Olympic in size, it’s got more than enough to keep your clan busy. The added draw being that you will always meet other exhausted, but chirpy fellow parents. There is no rain cover or loos at the play park but next door, is the newly re-opened Turks Head. It serves everything from coffee to something more substantial. Very family friendly but popular as a result, so consider an early lunch!
Wapping Overground station is not fully step free. Find a sympathetic local to help you up the lower flight. On your way back, pop into Hussey’s butchers and greengrocers on Wapping Lane, or the local bakers and let your little ones pick a treat.
Good luck, and may the force be with you!
Written by Alex Bagguley