Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Horniman Museum, Forest Hill

I love the Horniman. I grew up living just a short bus ride away, and now my son is too. He’s been there umpteen times already but is showing no signs of getting bored of it. And we invariably head straight to the small aquarium and then our favourite two or three rooms and the cafe, so there is a lot more he has yet to discover.

The museum is just as good for babies as for toddlers – the aquarium is fascinating even for tiny babies, and on the lower ground floor there is a private feeding room with an armchair which feels like a gift from heaven when you have a wriggly, easily distractible baby who needs feeding.

Best bits: the small aquarium, perfect for toddlers, and the musical instrument room where you can press buttons to select and listen to recordings of different instruments. A small interactive room just off this one has some weird and wonderful instruments you can play with. (Only open when not in use by school groups.) There are also some giant musical instruments in the gardens you can play.

Cost: museum free, aquarium £3.00 per adult and £1.10 per child age 3+.

Travel: Forest Hill station (mainline and East London Line) has step free access and is 10-15 minutes walk away, but up a huge hill. Frequent busses go up the hill.

Where to eat: the food in the cafe is fine but not brilliant and it can be a bit hard to find a table at lunch time. But it’s the only option within easy walking distance unless you bring food with you – you can picnic in the gardens or the (unheated) glasshouse next to the museum. Otherwise walk or get a bus towards East Dulwich or Forest Hill for more options.

Note: some weekday mornings they run free and very popular story/craft sessions for toddlers – get there before 10.30 and queue up outside for a ticket. Or avoid those days altogether as the aquarium gets really busy. Check website for details.




Museum of London, City of London

The museum of London – brilliant discovery of my friend Mandy – is one of the most toddler-friendly museums in central London. It’s quite small, a bit hard to find and doesn’t make it on to the tourist must-see lists, so is wonderfully quiet. There are plenty of hands-on displays that toddlers can get involved in and play with, little doors to open and things to do.
They have children’s backpacks to borrow, stuffed full of goodies including a magnifying glass, torch, a puzzle and games involving things to find around the museum. Ask at the main desk and pay £5 deposit per bag. They will also check buggies into a secure storage room and bring them back for you when you’re finished.

Best bits: stirring pretend food over the fire in the Saxon hut, and playing with the mini trains, busses and tube trains in a street scene near the Victorian bit. They have even thoughtfully provided tables and chairs for grown ups here – perfect as you are likely to get stuck for a while.

Cost: free (Deposit for the backpack is returned when you give it back.)

Travel: Farringdon and Blackfriars tube stations both have step-free access and are 10 – 15 minutes walk away.

Where to eat: the cafe on the lower floor doesn’t do lunch food but is perfect for a break – plenty of space for little ones to run about or play with things from the backpack while you have a coffee. Food in the main museum cafe is nice but it’s a small space and is self-service so can be a bit stressful. There is a Pizza Express two minutes walk along London Wall, or a small park just below the museum or tables in the main lobby for picnics.

Note: the entrance from street level is via a lift at the north side of the Aldersgate Street roundabout. The museum doesn’t open till 10.30.