Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Family Friendly Performance: Icarus at the Edge of Time

Have a look at the preview for this family friendly performance of Icarus at the Edge of Time, part of "See Further: The Festival of Science + Arts"at the Southbank Centre. It looks fantastic...and sounds even better, thanks to the London Philharmonic Orchestra...

Icarus at the Edge of Time is a futuristic reimagining of the classic Greek myth set in outer space, about a boy who challenges the awesome power of a black hole. A treat for the whole family, this is Peter and the Wolf for the 21st century. Film, music and science collide in these family-friendly performances. Based on the stunning book for children written by world-renowned physicist Brian Greene, featuring a cutting-edge film by Al + Al and a brand new score by Philip Glass performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Marin Alsop. 

Family Friendly Performances:
Sunday 4th July at 2 pm and 4 pm (shows last 1 hour)
 Tickets: £8 - £26. 50% off tickets for under 16s.
Ticket Office: 0844 847 9910
Online booking: See Further Festival Website

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Free family fun at the South London Gallery this summer

The Sunday Spot, 2 - 4pm
26 June – 5 September

This summer take part in free artist-led workshops inspired by the group exhibition Nothing is Forever. The drop-in workshops take place in the brand new Clore Studio and are organised by two local parents with other parents in mind.

Afterwards why not relax in the new cafe and gardens?

Ideal for children aged 3-12. All welcome. For more details contact or 020 7703 6120

Be the first to rate and review the South London Gallery >> 

Monday, 21 June 2010

Paddling Pools and Outdoor Water Fun in Central London

Summer is heavenly in London, until the temperature tops 25 under a strong mid-day sun; at which point I need to cool off.  Fortunately, Central London has some really great places to take children to have some splashing fun. Some you may know of, others you may not have thought of…

Located on the south side of the Serpentine, the Hyde Park Lido is a wonderful place to take children on a warm day.  There is a sun bathing and picnic area near the lido itself and a separate children’s area with a paddling pool, sand pit, climbing frame and bouncy toys.  The children’s area is a bit of a sun trap, but there are shady areas along the bushes if you arrive early, or you can bring your own shade.  June – September and generally has children’s entertainers during school holidays.  The Lido is open 7 days a week, 10:00 – 18:00, £4 per adult, £3 concessions; children 3 – 15 £1 (must be accompanied by an adult); children under 3 are free.
Rate or review Hyde Park >>

This is a perfect place to spend a hot summer’s day.  Take a walk up Parliament Hill and enjoy the enormous outdoor pool or the paddling pool!  You have your choice of deep or shallow; after you can amble around the Heath or play in the playgrounds … you will not want to go home at the end of the day.  Open 7 days in summer months, 10:00 – 18:00, £4.40 per person or £12.80 per family.
Rate or review Hampstead Heath >>

Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, Hyde Park
This is a delightful place to take small children in warm weather.  The fountain is basically a stone river bed holding a moving stream of water that ebbs and flows around in a circle.  There are wide and narrow rushing rapids, tickly bubbles, waterfalls, steps, deep and shallow pools making different kinds of water terrain and a magical place for children to explore. Open 7 days, 10:00 – 20:00, free

Coram’s Field is a seven acre, open access playground in the heart of London.  This magnificent haven for children is fenced in, with only one gate, making it the perfect place for mums to let their children run off and really play.  The site boasts spacious grassy areas, several climbing frames, sand boxes with climbing apparatus, swings, animals in pens, sports fields and an adventure playground for older children.  In the middle of the park is an enormous paddling pool for hot summer days.  If a safe, varied playground were not enough, there is an amazing coffee stand that specialises in Austrian baked goods at a very reasonable price.  Open 7 days, 9:00 – 20:00, free, adults must be accompanied by children.

The Oasis, Holborn
The Oasis is an outdoor swimming pool right in the heart in London.  To be honest, it is not a great place to take small children as it is more of an old-fashioned lap pool.  The water is deep and not that much fun for an adult and child to play in as there is only a small area to mill around in.  However, it is handy if you are near-by and are desperate to cool off. Open 6:30 – 22:00 Mon – Fri, 9:30 – 18:00 Sat & Sun, £4.05 per adult.

This is one great place for any kind of play.  An enormous pirate ship!  Tipis! Musical instruments!  Sand pits filled with boats!  Swings!  A café! In the warm weather, children may pump water from specially designed taps, fill their sand pails and make mud, waterfalls, puddles … whatever their fancy.  The water play area has all kinds of interesting crevices and areas to play with water without any risk of drowning.  Open 7 days, 10:00 – 19:45 during summer months, free, adults must by accompanied by children.

The V & A is secretly an incredibly child-friendly museum.  There are changing facilities in loads of toilets – Gents and Ladies; highest quality crafts activities for Drop-in Design Sundays; and paddling pool in the courtyard that young and old alike are welcome to splash.  Great coffee and snacks to purchase outside or you can bring your own.  Open 7 days, 10:00 – 17:30, free

Causton Street Playground, Pimlico
This very secret playground is perfect on warm sunny mornings, the afternoons it is busy and generally overrun with school kids.  Beautifully landscaped, it is place to enjoy an enormous sand pit, a nice climbing frame and a good sized paddling pool that you will basically have to yourself on a mid-week morning.  Also, this playground is a short walk to Tate Britain.  Open 7 days, free

Kensington Memorial Park
Located off Ladbroke Grove, on St. Mark’s Road, this is an ideal water playground.  There is an entire section dedicated to sprayers, pumps and soakers in addition to a gorgeous sand area and traditional equipment like climbing frames.  There is a café and a 1 O’clock club, too!!  Open 7 days, free

Enjoy Great Fountains: 

Duke of York Square, Chelsea: The fountains in the Duke of York Square are great fun and perfect places to let little ones get really wet.  You can chase your children around the various fountains while enjoying ice creams and coffee from the near-by shops.  Open 7 days, free.

Russell Square, Bloomsbury:  This is a wonderful place to park yourself on a bench and watch the children cool off.  The fountain is located in the centre of Russell Square far from the roads or any other dangers.  Pack a picnic and enjoy the relative peace of the grassy square. Open 7 days, 7:30 – 22:00, free.

Somerset House Fountains: The iconic 55 fountains of the Somerset House Courtyard Admission to the courtyard is free, open 7 days, 10:00 – 23:00.

- Laura 

Check out Laura's own blog at for free and affordable activities for under 5s in London.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Top 3 Things to Do on Fathers Day in London

Still not sure what to do for Father's Day? Here are our top 3 things to do with kids this weekend in London-
  1. Anarchy in the UK... or at Hamleys to be precise. The kids (and dads) can get a punk makeover and try out the awesome new Paper Jamz guitars, and even join legendary punk bass player Glen Matlock from The Sex Pistols on a giant stage. More >>
  2. Celebrate the 180th anniversary of the iconic Apple market in Covent Garden. There will be street performers, fun workshops for adults and children including acrobatics and juggling, and you can never go wrong with a giant birthday cake. If you're feeling flush, let Dad treat himself to some one-off commemorative items (including some rather gorgeous handmade cufflinks) from the local stalls. More >>
  3. Explore sound with "Not Just for Grown-Ups : Xenakis Unbound" at Old Spitalfields Market - suitable for all ages and attention spans. We love the sound of the invisible dance maze, and the opportunity for families to create their own musical instruments out of locally recycled junk. More >>
Have a read of our other Father's Day Ideas too ...

Dadsy Days Out, Football and the Morning Papers: Father's Day in London by Tim
Father's Day Craft Idea: Pebble Bug Paperweights by MADS finalist Mum in the Madhouse

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Cheery children's music from South Africa: Review of Beautiful Creatures

All week long I've been dancing around the house and the garden singing "It's just a Boom! Boom! Boom! to the left...wiggle your tail in the sunlight...a Boom! Boom! Boom! to the right... ". Much to the amusement of fellow customers at my local cafe I have also had an uncontrollable urge to sing it to myself while waiting for my coffee.

Let me explain - I have not actually lost it. Rather, I was recently sent a free download for a South Africa Children's music album, Beautiful Creatures, and was hooked from the first note.

The album features cheery, fun and educational children’s songs from Africa, introducing children to characters like "Invubu the Happiest Hippo", "Lucas the Lazy Lion", and "Wallace the Wondrous Warthog", among others. The idea behind Beautiful Creatures was to bring families together by creating music that children and adults alike would sing along with, dance to, and genuinely enjoy.

Beautiful Creatures songs are performed by some of the finest musicians and singers in South Africa, and the music has a very distinctive South African feel. The first track (Invubu the Happiest Hippo) is evocative of those days enjoying the warmth of Cape Town's sunshine watching some live street music, or the feeling I had when I saw Paul Simon's Graceland Tour on the TV. It's a beautifully written song, full of joy and silliness, and it is simply impossible to listen to it without dancing and singing along. From Hippo wiggling, you're taken on a journey through various musical styles and moods, including a warm song about why it rains, a beautiful African lullabye, and a weird but catchy introduction to lions that conjured up an image of Dr Frank N. Furter performing with The Beautiful South.

Overall I enjoyed the CD but wasn't blown away, so I would give the album as a whole 3.5 stars out of 5. Saying that, there simply aren't enough stars for the brilliant first track (Invubu the Happiest Hippo) so I'll have to settle for a 5 out of 5. Outstanding.

Click here to listen to or download Beautiful Creatures from the iTunes Store

Monday, 14 June 2010

Fathers Day Craft Idea: Pebble Bug Paperweights

This is a really easy idea, which is great for Fathers day.  Now the thing to remember with these is that they are not going to look perfect and they are not supposed to, it is your children's work, so don't push your need for perfection on to them!
This is a great project for younger children who don't have a long attention span as you can start it and then return to it once the paint has dried.
  • Paint - poster or acrylic (depending on the age of your children)
  • PVA Glue
  • Pebbles or stones
  • Googlie eyes
  • Paintbrushes 
  • Felt

  1. The first stage is to prepare your stones or pebbles, I just popped them in the dishwasher and let them dry and cool down.
  2. We then painted a base colour on to the stone and allowed it to dry.
  3. We then added some details on to the bugs, turning them in to bee's, ladybirds and scary black bugs!
  4. One this has dried, then cover with a coat of PVA Glue and again set aside and allow to dry.
  5. You can then add some googlie eyes.  You may still need to glue these even if they are self adhesive.
  6. To finish the paperweight you can glue a piece of felt to the bottom.
Written by MADS finalist Mrs Mad from Mum in the Madhouse
Loved this little craft idea? Show a bit of love for our guest blogger by commenting below!

Friday, 11 June 2010

Elephant Parade London : a great day out with the kids!

It was a gloriously sunny day at half term and I suggested to the kids that we went on an elephant hunt, as you do.  We looked up and printed a map.  Then packed a picnic and set off to Green Park to find our Happy Herd.  It was so magical.  250 life-size elephant statues are on display all around London.  Each has been decorated by a different artist.  This is all to raise awareness to the plight of the Asian elephant.

Children were climbing on the statues and really enjoying the art.  We ticked off the elephants we found on our sheet.  57 in total on our day out.  We started in Green park which is lovely if you have young children as there are loads of elephants there and they can run around freely.  We then walked past Buckingham Palace, down through St James Park to Trafalgar Square.  Then we went through Covent Garden where we found the "roaming" Cloudia.  We finished by walking through Aldwych, over Waterloo Bridge and along the Southbank then home.

A really fun day with a purpose.  We plan to have another expedition to find more elephants near Sloane Square, Knightsbridge, Hyde Park and Mayfair - this time we'll take dad along as he feels he missed out.  Go soon as the elephants all go on display at Royal Hospital Chelsea on the25th, 26th and 28th June.  Free entry, and then they will be auctioned off. 

Review and photos by Becky, South London mum of two.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Father's Day in London

This Father's Day is special and marks something that can only happen every four years, but more of that later. First things first, and the best way to start fathers day. If fellow fathers are anything like me then one of the things I miss most (well apart from the occasional lie in) is having a chance to read the papers undisturbed on a Sunday morning, so (mums) why not get this Father's Day off to a cracking start, rally the kids and make an early trip to the newsagent to pick up the papers, deliver them (with a tea) and then beat a hasty retreat to let the dad in your life enjoy 10 minutes squinting at the sport news and pretending to read the business section.

While the paper reading's going on the kids can be co-opted into helping to prepare breakfast and whilst their involvement will depend on their age, level of skills and attention span you should hopefully be able to cobble together something resembling breakfast in bed, which you can then take upstairs and start to think about the rest of the day.

When choosing a family day out for Father's Day, why not go for something a bit 'dadsy'? There's plenty out there - the RAF museum in Hendon is always a favourite, the Imperial War Museum in Duxford is a bit further afield for anyone fancying a day trip. If cars are more the thing then the Brooklands Museum in Surrey should have enough to keep all the kids (big and small) in your family happy and if you want to add rockets to cars and aeroplanes then the Science Museum is a great (and free) alternative, though do check that the district line is running as it's prone to closures at the weekend (Transport for London website).

Alternatively, if the weather's good then there are lots of great places for a Father's Day picnic - the new outdoor play area at Kew Gardens is a great place for the kids to burn off some energy, the Isabella Plantation at the heart of Richmond Park should be in full bloom, while at Morden Hall Park you might just be lucky enough to catch site of one of the kingfishers that still patrol the river Wandle that runs through the park and for those in North London why not try Cherry Tree Wood which has a playground, a dog free area and a child friendly kiosk (once the picnic's run out!).

And now for the climax of the day! For once Father's Day coincides with the World Cup and to make things better England has even qualified, though they're playing on June 20th. So depending on what you're up to, and how tired the kids are, you can let their dad slump in front of Slovakia vs Paraguay at 1.30pm, Italy vs New Zealand at 4pm or Brazil vs Croatia at 8.30pm - there's a full schedule of games at FIFA's website.

That looks like a great day to me - newspaper and breakfast in bed, followed by a family day out with cars, rockets and maybe a picnic and then all rounded off with the World Cup - Happy Father's Day!

- Tim

As featured on

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Excellent resource for finding local childcare

Summer seems to be on its way at last, but with the excitement of paddling pools and picnics comes an issue that seems to be plaguing many of our friends.... what on earth do you do with the kids once school is out and you've got bills to pay? Many of us work part time, and do our best to fit our jobs around nursery sessions, school hours and naptimes. So what happens when the kids are off school and the nursery is shut?

Thanks to some friends on Twitter, we've discovered this excellent resource - it's called and allows you to do exactly that. But it's not just babysitters - there are nannies, childminders, cleaners, au pairs, midwives, night nannies, and even tutors. In a few clicks, you can specify your requirements right down to whether your nanny needs to have OFSTED registration, CRB checks, driving licence, etc, or experience with special needs or specific age groups.

It's not an agency - if anything it's like a dating site, with nice little profiles about each of the nannies, sitters and childminders, and the opportunity to get in contact and build a relationship before you actually commit to meeting them. Rather than meeting the man of your dreams*, you get to meet someone who will take the kids out to the park while you work to meet your deadline. Result.

We posted a job to help a friend find a part-time nanny and were thoroughly impressed - within a couple of hours we had over 20 replies from well qualified local child carers - not surprising, as there are about 25,000 of them registered at the moment - and could then send private messages back and forth to discuss experience, see references, arrange intereviews, etc. We couldn't quite believe how easy it was, and how little effort it took to find the right people to interview.

There is a subscription fee, but it's only a one-off £25 for unlimited access for 2 months (there are excellent options for as low as £2.99 too). That's it. They don't take a percentage of your nanny's income, or have any ongoing charges - you pay to use the site for as long as you need it, and from there on in the arrangements you make are between you and your nanny. Given how effective the site has proven to be, we'd say your £25 is money well spent!

Try it out for free -

FAB Widget

Search 1000s of nannies, babysitters,
au pairs and more!

I'm looking for childcare in...

How it works?

* presumably many of you have already done that, he got a bit frisky one night, and that is why you need a babysitter in the first place!

Half Term Family Activity: Indian Delights at the National Portrait Gallery

The Indian Portrait is an outstanding exhibition, the first of its kind in the UK, telling the story of the Indian portrait over three centuries. Bringing together 60 stunning works from international collections, the exhibition celebrates the beauty, power and humanity of these works of art. This inspired series of half term activities at the National Portrait Gallery promises to bring to life the Indian Portrait collection and award-winning paintings by internationally acclaimed contemporary British artists Amrit and Rabindra Singh (“The Singh Twins”). Bring the whole family along for a week of dance, storytelling and painting activities.

Throughout the year, there are free “art trails” with drawing activities for children 5+, and on the third Saturday of every month at 10.30 and 13.30, children 3+ and their carers can join the free drop-in storytelling sessions.

Location:          National Portrait Gallery, St Martin's Place, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, London, WC2H 0HE

Dates:               Monday 31 May– Friday 4 June

Admission:      Free

More info:

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Half Term Family Activity: Monkey Encounters at Battersea Zoo

This children’s zoo in Battersea Park has lemurs, donkeys, a mouse house, miniature Shetland ponies and meerkats, and is a great spot to take the kids over the summer. Don’t miss Emperor Tamarin Monkey Days tomorrow, where your little monkeys can meet these amazing little moustachioed creatures.

Monkey feeding time is at 11:30 am and 3 pm, and throughout the day your family can enjoy monkey-themed storytelling, colouring and badge-making. Another date for your diary is Stag Beetle Activity Day (Sunday 27 June).

Location: Battersea Park Children’s Zoo, Battersea, London, SW11 4NJ

Admission: Most activities are free and drop-in, but the usual entrance fee applies (£25 for a family of 4, under 2s go free).

More info: 

Battersea Zoo was rated 3.5* out of 5 - click here to find out why!

Photo credit: Emma Gibbs

Half Term Family Activity: Spies & Secret Agents

Go undercover at the National Army Museum and learn all about espionage in the armed forces with these exciting half term activities. Whether your kids (or you!) are big fans of Harriet the Spy or just love sneaking around looking for clues, they will absolutely love taking part in top secret gallery missions, hunting for clues around the museum and gathering evidence. Throughout the summer, your little ones can also learn about what is to be a soldier, look after the king’s horses and defend their castle against invaders at the Kids Zone, a free interactive learning and play space. Bring all your troups - the Zone is tailored for under 10s and includes climbing frames for toddlers and older children and a great soft play area for babies.

Where: National Army Museum
Dates: until Sun 6 June
Admission: Free (there may be a charge for some elements of this event)
More info:

The National Army Museum was rated 5* - click here to find out why!

Image credit: National Army Museum