Discover Children’s Story Centre, London review
In a nutshell
A unique and captivating experience where little ones can immerse themselves in the world of stories. We had a lovely day and after our visit, I was able to see improvements in how my 5-year-old interacts with books, her literacy and use of imagination.
What we tested
- Fun for kids
4.5A star rating of 4.5 out of 5.
- Fun for parents
4.5A star rating of 4.5 out of 5.
- Worth the money
4.5A star rating of 4.5 out of 5.
5.0A star rating of 5.0 out of 5.
- Family friendliness
5.0A star rating of 5.0 out of 5.
- Unique experience for story lovers, great for 5-8 year olds learning to read, good rainy day option.
- Limited parking options, not clear on overall narrative/theme that runs throughout the centre.
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COVID-19 safety update
Some facilities and attractions may be closed or restricted this year, due to COVID-19 – and there may be extra safety rules, pre-booking requirements or one-way systems in place. Please check Discover Childrens Story Centre's Website before travelling or booking.
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When we visited:
On a sunny afternoon in the May 2018 half-term
What's Discover Children’s Story Centre like since Covid-19?
- Limiting visitor numbers and session times to give visitors lots of space to play and avoid any crowding
- Running timed sessions with extra cleaning in between
- Increased ventilation in the centre – doors and windows are kept open wherever possible, and fresh air exchange systems in the basement exhibition space and second floor event and storytelling spaces
- Events and storytelling have been adapted to ensure distancing is possible
- Quick entry systems and additional buggy storage have been created to avoid crowding at the entrance
- Installing screens in busy customer service areas, like the front desk
- Adding additional hand wash and sanitiser stations to keep hands extra clean
- The introduction of ‘wipe stations’ so visitors can clean items before and after playing, if they wish
- The cafe is open with a limited service of hot drinks and snacks
- Visitors must book tickets in advance – there will be no tickets available on the day. This includes Annual Pass holders
- Adults should continue to wear a mask during their visit (this is not required for 0-11 year olds).
- Visitors must wash and/or sanitise your and your childrens’ hands at regular intervals
- Visitors must keep a safe distance from others not in their group
- Visitors must register their visit when they arrive at Discover – either with the NHS app or by filling in their form.
What age is the Discover Children’s Story Centre best for:
- Best for: Children aged 5 to 8
- Still good fun for: Children aged 9 to 12
How much does it cost?
Your ticket includes admission into the indoor play and exploration area Story World, an outside adventure/activity area and Story Garden
- Adults/children £7.50, children aged 2+ £7.50, children aged 1 £2, under 1s free
Are there discounts or cheap tickets available for Discover Children’s Story Centre?
Look out for special offers on Picniq
Any extra charges once I’m there?
For an extra £1.50 per person you can enter the A World Inside A Book exhibition area, and it’s very much worth it. In the basement of the centre, it currently showcases the work of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler – the team behind The Gruffalo.
I typically avoid spending too much money on family days out and hate the feeling of being ripped off on overpriced snacks. This was not the case at Discover Children’s Story Centre. There were so many affordable food options, snacks and treats. They had also made a clear effort to cater for dietary needs.
The gift shop is going to grab the kids’ attention and you must pass by it to enter and exit through the front door. I bought my kids a £1 sugar-free slush puppie and that kept them happy enough not to nag me for anything else. But if you do want to get something for the kids – there were plenty of affordable options and some great books.
How long will we spend at Discover Children’s Story Centre?
Our visit was for roughly 3.5 hours. It could have easily been longer as the kids left reluctantly at closing time. It was a lot calmer toward the end of the day (despite it being half term) so I was glad we headed over in the afternoon. However, I do think it would have been a lovely experience to have bought along a packed lunch instead of eating at home beforehand.
There were also several activities which we could have taken more time to enjoy. I was having particular fun at the craft table making wooden spoon people!
If you want more fun things to do in London, take a look at our roundup of the best family days out in London.
What does Discover Children’s Story Centre offer for families?
Discover Children’s Story Centre is a unique multi-sensory experience centred around children’s experiences with stories. It’s kind of like a very large house where the different floors offer different experiences. There’s a large outdoor play area at the back of the building, and the whole centre is very easy to navigate.
What shouldn’t be missed?
Highlights for us were:
- The big draw for my kids seemed to be the outside area which they kept heading back to – helped by the nice weather that day
- Although it’s clearly an experience for the children, the adults have been catered to as well. I loved the free lockers – where I could plonk my rucksack before we went down to the exhibition
- It’s good value and it was also nice to leave knowing I’d not spent my whole budget for half term. Everything within the centre was very reasonably priced
Is it an easy day out?
Half term is a hectic time for me so it was nice that I immediately felt relaxed in the centre and comfortable letting my 3 and 5 year old roam freely. For them, I’m sure it felt good to be able to explore, touch and climb, without being told not to.
What you need to know before you go Discover Children’s Story Centre:
- Booking the exhibitions or storytelling is a must. We had a 3:15 exhibition booking and were told that the mornings fill up fast. However, I found that visiting later in the day worked well around my kids’ routine and allowed us to hang around when others were heading home
- The night before, we signed up for Smart Parking at Westfield Shopping Centre. It offers savings on parking and your car will be automatically recognised as you enter/exit and the barrier raised. The card on your account is charged instead of having to pay at the machine. We parked for 5 hours for £5 as it was a weekday
- If you’re not familiar with Stratford, it’s worthwhile planning your route from transport to the centre. It’s in a very busy area which could be a little overwhelming without preparing beforehand
- I found the website’s “Social Story” – a series of text and photos that illustrate what to expect on a visit – useful to show to the kids, so they could see where we were going. It also helped to manage their expectations
What to bring:
- I took a change of clothes for the kids and ended up needing it for my 5 year old who got her clothes soaking wet when washing her hands!
- However, on crowded days, or if you just need to keep up with a little one on the move, a sling would be ideal for babies
Did it cater well for different aged children?
My kids are 3 and 5, and it was easiest to see the benefits of our visit on my 5-year-old. Especially with her being in reception and her world currently revolving around phonics, exploring books, reading and writing.
I saw families with young babies in slings while the older siblings ran around. Also a few babies crawling around happily while older kids played around them.
Discover Children’s Story Centre is perfect when you have a young person to keep entertained but also want a manageable experience with new baby tagging along.
I think the centre would cater well for children up to the age of 8. However, all ages will still enjoy many aspects of the centre and I imagine that my 11-year-old niece (who often joins us on days out) would have still had fun but been too big for some of the play equipment.
During the story reading in the exhibition a couple of very young kids struggled with the sitting and listening elements and were taken outside to calm down until we could roam freely.
No one batted an eyelid – but worth considering if your little one is particularly energetic – the story is about 10 minutes and in an enclosed space.
Was it pushchair-friendly?
There are a lot of ramps and a lift if you need to bring the pushchair. We opted to leave our own buggy at home as we’re encouraging our 3 year old to walk more. However, by the end of the day, she was tired – and knew that dad would carry her – so ended up on his shoulders for the walk back to the car. If you’re not up to carrying a tired toddler, then I would recommend a buggy. My 5 year old managed the walk back just fine.
We parked the car in Westfield and I did notice that, on that day, quite a few of the escalators or lifts from the shopping centre to the main road were not working so a challenge if you needed to use them for a heavy buggy or a wheelchair.
What are the food and drink facilities like at Discover Children’s Story Centre:
I thought that the choice of food was great. The prices were extremely reasonable (for London) and there was a very good selection of food and drink to choose from. We had snacks and coffee in the first-floor café, which was a nice respite from all the activity downstairs. It was later in the day so loads of seats available and I liked how the room was flooded with light from the big windows.
There’s no need to leave the centre to find food or feel obligated to spend a lot of money buying food at the café.
Can you take a picnic to Discover Children’s Story Centre?
Yes – there’s limited seating for people who prefer to bring their own food
What are the toilets like?
The toilets were adequate, and like the rest of the centre, they had little people in mind. In fact, 2 of the 3 stalls in the ladies’ toilet I used had smaller child-sized toilets.
The small toilets could also easily be opened and closed from the outside, so I was able to leave my 5 year old in the stall alone.
Pushchair/wheelchair access and special needs:
I saw 2 wheelchair users during my visit and I thought the Discover Children’s Story Centre seemed very inclusive.
- There are plenty of ramps and a lift
- The outside play area has a wood chip surface so could be hard to navigate with a buggy or wheelchair
Opening dates and times:
Discover Children’s Story Centre is open daily 10am – 5pm. However, based around the school holiday schedule, there are extra sessions and more to explore on certain days. It’s worthwhile checking the website for timings.
Best time to visit:
Discover Children’s Story Centre is busiest on Saturday and Sunday (11am-2pm), and quieter on Monday and Tuesday after 2pm. We left home straight after lunch so that our youngest could nap in the car on the way.
How to get to Discover Children’s Story Centre:
Discovery Children’s Story Centre is on Stratford High Street in East London, easily identified by the bright red flags at the front of the building.
- The nearest stations are Stratford High Street (DLR), and Stratford – (Central and Jubilee lines, plus DLR, Overground and main line services to Liverpool Street)
- If you drive, as we did, the postcode for your SatNav is E15 4QZ, but there’s no parking on-site
- We parked in Westfield Shopping Centre (around a 10-min walk from the centre)
- Westfield Shopping Centre is a huge place, so park near to M&S in Car Park B (look out for the signs)
- Once you’ve parked, follow the signs for Stratford Place, the Underground and Bus Station
- Walk over the footbridge and through the bus station to the Discover Children’s Centre
Worth a long car journey?
I’d say yes – but make a day of it exploring all of Stratford. There is so much to do in the local area, which has undergone major regeneration particularly around the 2012 London Olympics.
After our visit to Discover Children’s Story Centre, we continued our family day with a meal in Westfield Shopping Centre. There’s so much choice and food to suit all budgets. I would have liked to have stayed even longer and done some shopping but my 3 year old was tired.
A little further past Westfield is Queen Elizabeth Olympic park, more fun for families in a great outdoor space.
Which hotels or holiday accommodation are near Discover Children’s Story Centre?
The Discover Children’s Story Centre’s location in the centre of redeveloped Stratford means there are plenty of accommodation options nearby, including:
- The trendy MOXY London Stratford is popular with families, and has family rooms a mere 6-minute walk from the centre
- Also close by is the Holiday Inn London – Stratford City and Premier Inn London Stratford
- For a home-away-from-home feel, look for deals on HomeAway.co.uk
- Find family-friendly hotel deals near Discover Children’s Story Centre in Stratford on Booking.com
Nearby attractions for a longer day out:
It’s a 20-minute walk to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, or you can head back into the centre of London for a huge array of attractions such as The Natural History Museum, Madame Tussauds and The Tower of London.
I thought the centre was enjoyable overall, and the World Inside A Book exhibition was excellent. The attention to detail when bringing the books to life was extremely impressive and it literally felt like being inside these books that we’ve read so many times.
I feel that my 5-year-old benefitted the most from our visit to Discover Children’s Story Centre. The experience solidifies everything she’s currently learning at school and our bedtime story that evening was, of course, a Julia Donaldson book.
Visit the Discover Children’s Story Centre website
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Intro to me:
Hubby and I loaded up on caffeine and visited Discover Children’s Story Centre with our two daughters Jasmine, 5 and Roselyn, 3
Janet is mum to two children aged 6 & 9 and a great-Aunt too. She began writing early, penning her first book aged just 7. She has published 2 books