In the depths of winter when the weather's bad, it can be hard to think of fun things to do with very young children. When the parks are akin to a mud bath and the outdoor play equipment is just too wet, it's tempting to stay at home all weekend. But, there really is no need; there are lots of activities to do in London that are indoors. Here are my top four tried-and-tested rainy day suggestions.
1. The Garden at The Science Museum
The Science Museum has something for all ages, but if you've got pre-schoolers in tow then head down to the basement level and find The Garden - an interactive (indoor) space designed for children aged 3-6. Young kids will love learning through play in this safe environment, which includes giant construction bricks, a hugely popular water-play area, lots of lights, colours, mirrors, sounds, and many different buttons to press.
There is also a fun presenter-led interactive show called Bubbles, Bubbles, Bubbles at set times during the day that youngsters can enjoy and join in. The 20-minute performance includes lots of bubbles big and small, and even a human-sized one that kids can step inside! There is also a cafe at basement level, so you can grab some snacks or lunch and make an afternoon of it. What's more, entrance to the Science Museum is free, which makes it even more appealing as a destination.
It might seem like a strange suggestion to head to a big outdoor garden as a winter-friendly activity, but within the extensive gardens is an indoor kids play area called Climbers & Creepers which will ensure endless fun (well a couple of hours at least) for children aged from around 3 to 9 years old. The interactive botanical play-zone is designed to make plant-life fun and engaging for children. As 'insects', little-ones can climb through plants, slide through stems, have lots of fun and hopefully learn a little bit too.
Next to the play area there are a couple of family-friendly restaurants as well as toilets and a shop. Entrance to Climbers & Creepers is included in the main Kew Gardens ticket price (£15 for adults, children aged 4-16 £3.50), so if the weather's OK you can wrap up warm and enjoy some of the gardens at the same time too.
Snake & Ladders is an indoor adventure playground for under 12s located within Syon Park in Brentford. The bright and spacious area is separated into three distinct play sections: the main area spans three padded climbing levels and has numerous slides and tunnels, a ball pit and even a mini sports pitch. There is also a smaller enclosed padded area for under 5s and a mini village to stimulate imaginary play. There are plenty of tables and chairs for the grown-ups to sit at (if you're not being dragged around the equipment that is), and a cafe for lunch, drinks and snacks.
The entry price varies between peak and off peak: for adults it's either £2.50 or £1.50, for over-fives either £8.90 or £6.40, under-fives £7.90 or £5.40, under-twos £6.90 or £4.40, and babies under one go free. So, it can get pretty pricey if you've more than one child, although this does allow for unlimited play, meaning you can make a whole day of it if you want to (although play might be limited to two hours in particularly busy times).
The London Aquarium is located on the Southbank at Waterloo. The popular attraction is home to hundreds upon hundreds of sea creatures, from tiny fish, to huge sharks and many more species in between, and you can experience them all up close and personal in the aquarium's ginormous tanks. There are even penguins! It's a fantastic place to take little ones, especially if the weather's bad, and kids will marvel in all the colourful creatures swimming by.
Entrance to the Aquarium isn't cheap (£24.50 for adults if you pay at the door), however it's cheaper if you book online, and there are often 2-for-1 ticket deals available if you do an internet search, which will of course make it a lot more affordable.