Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Half-term activities for kids in London

Click here to return to the Capital tots website for more adventures with kids in London...

Half-term is on the horizon and if you’re not planning a well-deserved escape, there’s absolutely loads for kids to do here in London, most of which is free, educational and sounds like a riot. All of the major museums have half-term programmes with events ranging from the National Gallery’s first family festival, to a Samba workshop at the Horniman Museum. These are my top picks:

1) This year’s Imagine Children’s Festival at the Southbank Centre starts the week before half-term and is all about the kids taking over - the Centre will be transformed by children for children, as well as hosting the top names in children’s literature, dance, theatre and art.


2) A cheaper alternative  to the Shard is climbing the Monument in the City of London. It’s a bargain £3 per adult rather than the Shard’s £25 – the catch? You have to climb the 311 steps to the top yourself, but once at the top you will find yourself standing in the open air on a balcony with views across London.

3) At the Museum of London budding archeologists can match real excavated objects from London Parks to their homes using maps, floorplans and other records and explore all things parks from games to songs during half-term. At its sister Museum of London Docklands, you can hear the story of spring-heeled Jack, a weird and wonderful legend that had the whole of Victorian London gripped. Was he a man or beast? Real or imaginary? Only you can decide.  

4) If your child is a young friend of the British Museum, it’s holding its next sleepover during half-term. This one is ice-age themed to go with their latest exhibition and children get to experience a night of story-telling and adventures, before bedding down in the Egyptian or Mesopotamian Hall surrounded by thousands of years of history.

 5) If you have more of an intergalactic explorer on your hands then let them blast off at the Discover Story Centre’s new interactive exhibition for families, Journey to Space. Children and their families are given a vital mission to find missing astronaut Major Tom. Take off in the giant rocket to explore red hot, icy blue and mysterious green planets.

6) For a real treat and if you’re feeling particularly flush with cash then the Mad Hatters Tea Party at The Sanderson Hotel sounds superb. Menus are hidden inside vintage books, napkins wrapped with riddles, teapots are adorned with kings and queens and sandwich plates feature zebras, birdcages, carousels and ticking clocks.

7) And finally there’s loads to do just outside of London: spring is on its way and Bockett’s Farm is expecting 90 new-born lambs; you can perfect circus skills at Leeds Castle in Kent or explore Woburn Abbey in Bedforshire by candlelight – enjoy!

Click here to return to the Capital tots website for more adventures with kids in London...

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Romantic weekend a deux

Just got back from a romantic weekend in Rome - our first time properly away without MLA - to find the drains at home totally blocked and stinking. Tried to unblock them ourselves - hand in a bin bag in the dark and the rain fishing around pulling out goodness knows what - but that failed so we're now awaiting a man with a jet spray...talk about down to earth with a bump!

The weekend away was lovely, we stayed in a gorgeous hotel - Alberto del Senato - which had a view over the Pantheon, and ate some amazing meals - one a complete blow out in a v. posh hotel and then others in little cosy bistros with wine in jugs and free prosecco. But I wonder, when you have children do you ever really really enjoy being away from them? I loved the weekend, but I felt a constant pull home, maybe this fades as you get used to it, but every time we walked past people with children I missed MLA. Still we came home to find that he hadn't missed us one bit but been having a riot with grandpa, grandma, nanny, grandad, cousins, uncles, aunties, great uncles - so maybe next time I go away I'll worry a bit less.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Activities in February

There's absolutely loads going on in London in February for kids - everything from newborn lambs to Chinese New Year...

Here are some suggestions or you can also see them on my website: www.capitaltots.com

We’re heading towards lambing season, and Bocketts Farm, just outside of London  is expecting 90 lambs to be born starting on Valentines day. February is a great time to visit any of the farms in and around London as they’re practically empty during the week so staff have got loads of time to chat and point out different things to your children.

The Rain Room at the Barbican is still on, but the queue makes it almost impossible to visit with young children - why not tick the culture box and book tickets now for the Hayward Gallery’s Light show which brings together sculptures and installations that use light to sculpt and shape space in different ways. It sounds ideal for babies who are transfixed by bright lights and interesting for slightly older children too.

Also at the South Bank, the Imagine Children’s Festival starts on Monday 11th February  and is all about the kids taking over. The Southbank Centre will be transformed by children for children, as well as hosting the top names in children’s literature, dance, theatre and art. Enjoy free activities throughout the festival or just take in the atmosphere as children run the show.

Jump in the car for a day in the countryside and try and spot the first signs of spring- snowdrops. Some of the best places are only about an hour from London including: Nymans, Hever Castle and Gatton Wood. I can personally vouch for Nymans and Hever Castle (which re-opens on 16th Feb) being absolutely gorgeous.

Sticking with the outdoors, why not seek out a naturally-designed outdoor play area which encourages adventurous play. There are several dotted around London including Lloyd Park in Walthamstow, The Bridge in East Greenwich and Highgate Wood.

The Chinese New Year Celebrations around China Town and Trafalgar Square on Sunday 10th February are a sight to behold with displays of martial arts, trapeze artists and -floats. If your children are young enough to be carried, or old enough to walk, it is definitely worth taking them just once to experience the chaos, excitement, music and dancing that is Chinese New Year.

And finally - Pancake Day is on Tuesday 12th February - here’s a tried and tested easy recipe to enjoy.

Saturday, 2 February 2013


So...this really isn't the kind of thing that other people want to read, but I wanted to record for posterity how cute MLA is when he's falling sleep...he always chats to himself and practices words that he's learnt during the day and now phrases - this evening it was "tube again" for some reason he totally loves the tube - maybe the only person in the world who does - and constantly asks to go on it...anyway, it really is the cutest thing :)

Friday, 18 January 2013

Keeping vitamin D levels up!

It can be really hard in winter to keep vitamin D levels up and to make sure little ones get enough exercise in the great outdoors - despite the cold weather my son still needs his twice daily dose of outside time to burn off some of his never-ending energy…here are some ideas of games and activities I’ve gleaned from other parents, the internet and trial and error.

Torchlight catch: just like the classic game, except players catch each other with beams of light, instead of hands – once you get outside in the dark and turn the lights on they’ll probably start playing by themselves and already know the rules - make sure children are in a reasonably confined area like a back-garden so they don’t get lost in the dark.

Make your own ice-rink: if you’ve got some concrete in your garden and it’s really cold you can make your own ice-rink by spraying water on it overnight and leaving it to freeze – when you wake up in the morning, hey presto, you’ve got your own ice-rink!

Make coloured ice balloons: You’ll need balloons; food colouring; water; scissors…Fill balloons with a drop of food colouring and water; tie shut and leave them outside overnight, if it's cold enough, to freeze. When they're frozen solid, cut the balloon off of the frozen ball and there you have it – gorgeous colourful ice sculptures.

Running down hills: OK, so you can do this in the hot weather but running down a frosty hill when the ground is slightly harder underfoot is much easier – my toddler spent all morning today running down a hill only stopping to catch his breath and whoop with joy – it was bliss to watch.

I’m forever blowing bubbles: Blowing bubbles isn’t just a summer activity – get your bottle of bubbles and head outside with the kids. They’ll be amazed as the bubbles firm up mid-air and land without popping.

Have a winter picnic: Not as barmy as it sounds – get a thermos of hot thick soup, some hot chocolate and some tasty biscuits, grab your blanket and warm clothes and find a picturesque spot in the park to enjoy your lunch – I’d recommend running around a bit first to get warm though!

And finally once you’ve home and need warming up – when was the last time you made a den with your children? Grab your duvet and some cushions, put the duvet over the kitchen table and sit with a warm mug of cocoa reading stories to your children with a torch – they’ll be in heaven.

If it really is too cold to get outside - check out my suggestions for the best places to take kids for hot chocolate in London.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Freezing cold...

Wow, to state the obvious, it's freezing - MLA seems completely oblivious mind, so I guess I can't complain too much...he had a lovely day yesterday with grandparents at the National Gallery - apparently he loved looking at the paintings with horses, dogs and hats in them and then came home and slept for 3 hours - what a winner sounding day!

Today we just bumbled around the park, he is managing to walk or rather run much more confidently now and ran all the way from the top to the bottom of the park, only stopping to catch his breath and scream with delight - watching him I felt like this is how I hoped having a child would be like, sometimes I can't believe how much joy he brings just doing such simple things, it's amazing to be a part of it.

Still haven't made it to the Rain Room at the Barbican, am slightly put-off by the queues, I'm not sure how an 18 month old would cope with a 2 hour queue or, more importantly, how everyone else would cope!

We were meant to be seeing great nanny this weekend but snow has stopped play, she is v. disappointed, as am I, but am hoping the snow near her will melt by next week so hopefully we can go then.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Back at work...

So, after a glorious few weeks off - lazy mornings and relaxed afternoons, I'm now back at work. I miss MLA a lot, not in the physical way I did when I went back to work after maternity leave and was still BF-ing, but more that I actually miss his company - it's amazing how the little man can be so much fun with a vocabulary of less than 20 words, but I guess we've just got used to be being back together again, and now it's hard when I have to leave. Still, I can't complain, work is good and interesting and MLA is very much loved by the people who look after him, so I recognise I just have to get on with it and look forward to my time off...

Talking of which, I really want to check out the Rain Room at the Barbican Centre, it looks awesome, someone told me that if you move too fast in it you can get absolutely soaked, which I didn't realise, I thought it was some kind of clever image of rain, not actual water - apparently the queue is crazy though so I'll have to get up super early or have a very grumpy toddler on my hands.

The other thing which is on my list is the National Trust garden - Nymans, near Haywards Heath, apparently it's open every day in winter and they have a new children's trail which sounds fun - someone told me they'd spotted their first snow drop today, so maybe spring is finally on it's way. I definitely feel like I'm over winter now...