If you have a family, getting out and about is the key to happiness. Weekends, non-nursery days and/or school holidays stretch out like a blank canvas ready to be covered with exciting ideas and trips out to keep the kids from boredom and to keep you sane. For me, 2017 will be my first year with a toddler. That means, I need to fill the coming year with fresh ideas to entertain this tiny toddling human. So here is my checklist for how to entertain the troops without breaking the bank.
1. Visit The Blue Whale at the Natural History Museum
Dippy the Dinosaur, the Diplodocus skeleton, has long been one of the Natural History Museum's most famous residents. But the dinosaur is going on a tour of the UK. Stepping in to Dippy's shoes by taking centre stage in Hintze Hall is the 83 foot long real skeleton of a blue whale. The whale was found in 1891 beached and injured by whalers in Ireland's Wexford Harbour. It will be suspended and diving from the ceiling. The blue whale was previously the centerpiece of the Mammal Hall but will be moving to its new home this summer.
Richmond Park is the largest of the capital's eight Royal Parks. It is also home to herds of roaming wild deer. A trip out to 'deer spot' is an activity not to be missed and the deer here are a magical part of this wonderful park. If you have time, take a trip to Isabella Plantation too.
The farm is open 9.00am – 5.00pm every day and entry is free. As well as the farm itself, there's a farm kitchen where children can learn to cook using freshly grown ingredients. This is a charity so donations are welcome via their red post box.
4. Feed the Ducks
What better way to entertain the troops than by heading to your local park to feed the ducks? Kneller Gardens sits on the River Crane and is home to a decent sized population of our feathered friends. It's a sure fire way to bring a free smile to those tiny faces.
Kneller Gardens is also home to a well-equipped playground, a community café, a gym area and some quirky wooden sculptures.
Kneller Gardens, Twickenham
5. Regents Park Bird Walk
Regent's Park has something for kids of all ages including a self guided bird walk. The bird walk is a free. Just follow the route here: Bird Walk In Regents Park. As you wander around, you will likely spot Coots, Canada Geese and Swans among many others. The park also has a boating lake, which is a fun way to spend an hour or two. It will cost you, though. It's £8 for adults and £5.50 for children, for half an hour. There is a main boating lake as well as a separate children's lake. The children's lake is open weekends, bank holidays and school holidays.
6. Visit A London Train Station
London has a wealth of impressive train stations from King's Cross to Waterloo to Liverpool Street. And watching a train is a free way to entertain your tiny toddler. There's also the journey there and back to provide yet more amusement. London's big train stations are packed with cafes, restaurants and shops if you want to splash out.
Kew Gardens is geared up for kids. Adults have to pay but if you are visiting with children under 3, they're free. There are countless paths to explore, 14,000 trees to adore, indoor and outdoor play areas plus a child sized badger sett to explore. 'What to do first?' is the only question.
8. Street Performers On The Southbank
London's street performers are often incredibly talented and watching a performance is a great way to pass the time. London's Southbank and Covent Garden are both hot spots to head to. On the Southbank, the performers tend to be near the London Eye. Last visit, I saw a performer making huge bubbles as many captivated kids watched on. Now there's a way to pass some toddler time. If you fancy a bite to eat while you're out, Giraffe on London's Southbank is a great spot for family food. Check out my review here: Giraffe
9. Ride The Pirate Ship at the Diana Memorial Playground
The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground is home to a large wooden pirate ship ready to fuel the imaginations of your little ones. It's located in Kensington Gardens, next to Diana's former Kensington Palace home. There's also a sensory trail, teepees and sculptures to while away the hours.
Coram's Fields is a seven acre playground and park for children in central London. There are grassy areas, a large adventure play area, sand pits and, weather permitting, a paddling pool. It's open all year round from 9am til dusk and is free for children under 16. During the week, there is a drop in session for the under 5's where they run different activities each day. Staff are on hand should you need. Coram's Fields is a charity, so make a donation if you wish.