The Horniman Museum and Gardens
This museum in Forest Hill is perfect for toddlers. Housed in a beautiful Victorian building with interesting modern additions and set within 16 acres of gardens, the museum houses an eclectic collection that is sure to delight your preschooler. There’s an aquarium, natural history gallery,Britain’s largest display of musical instruments and the African world’s gallery with everything from Egyptian mummies toAfrica’s largest mask. There are also two great displays designed specifically for children where they can get their hands on some of the exhibits including a variety of exotic musical instruments. The gardens are elegantly landscaped with amazing views right across London, ‘animal walk’ housingrabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, ferrets, sheep, goats and alpaca, concerts at the bandstand in the summer and a music garden with giant instruments for little ones to play. The café does a good range of food with plenty of children’s options too. Best of all, entrance to the museum is free with just a small charge of £2 per adult, £1 per child to visit the aquarium.
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The Polka Theatre
Designed specifically for children, this lovely little theatre inWimbledonstages an astounding range of performances for children throughout the year. Recent productions have included the Snow Queen, the Ugly Duckling and Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers and many more. As well as the main theatre, there’s a smaller theatre for toddlers where the children sit on cushions on the floor whilst the actors perform within reach of them. The building is worth a visit even if you aren’t watching a show, with a nice book corner, rocking horses and two storey playhouse in the small garden. The café is also very child friendly. Productions are very popular and often sell out well in advance so it is worth booking ahead.
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Deen City Farm and Morden Hall Park
The River Wandle meanders through this surprisingly tranquil formerdeer parkin suburban Merton, owned by the National Trust. There are 125 acres of parkland including plenty of bridges from which to play ‘Pooh sticks’ and areas where children can paddle in the river or fish with nets. There’s a natural play area for children with large play house, zip wires, wooden beams and tree trunks to climb, former mill with waterwheel and a recently renovated stable yard which now houses a café and craft stalls. Once you’ve finished exploring the park, follow the trail along the side of the Wandle to Deen City Farm. This small urban farm and riding stables houses pigs, sheep, goats, alpacas, horses, poultry and rabbits with regular hands on petting sessions for children. Both are totally free to visit!
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Dulwich Picture Gallery
This Gallery is relatively small meaning a visit won’t last longer than your child’s attention span. Despite this the gallery houses some beautiful art with a focus on European old masters. There are regular activities and workshops for families to join in so your little ones can create their own masterpieces to take home too. The Gallery has a nice gardens o you can bring a picnic in warm weather. Entry is free for under 18s and just £5 per adult.
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Chessington World of Adventures
Just half an hour’s drive from the centre of Wandsworth, Chessington World of Adventures combines both theme park and zoo. It has a good range of rides for all ages from the sedate mono-rail and toddler rides to the exhilarating Rameses Revenge for thrill seekers. It’s the zoo that makes the park perfect for families with young children though as if it all starts to get a bit much, you can calm things down with a wander around the animal enclosures housing everything from lions and tigers to rabbits and guinea pigs. Tickets are cheaper if bought online in advance in which case admission for a family of four comes in at around £85.
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WWT London Wetland Centre
Nature lovers will thrive at the award winning London Wetland Centre which has more than 40 hectares of created wetlands in the heart of a capital city and is the first of its kind in the world. With an interactive discovery centre and cinema, plus beautiful lakes, ponds, meadows and reedbeds, the centre is also home to a wide variety of wildlife including water voles, amphibians, bats, grass snakes, slow butterflies, moths and over 180 species of birds. There’s plenty to do even in bad weather although with a cafe and picnic the centre is definitely at its best in warm weather.
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National Maritime Museum and The Royal Observatory
Dig out the pirate hats and eye patches and bring your little ones along to this fascinating museum full of interesting facts about the importance of the sea, ships, time and the stars and their relationship with people. With exhibitions on The Atlantic, Slavery trade and empire, Britons and the sea, and the High arctic, your little ones will never be able to look at the sea in the same way again! There are lots of family days taking place throughout the year, with storytelling, music, and drop-in workshops to enjoy.
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Hampton Court Palace
Henry VIII’s palace is well worth a visit. As well as centuries of history, stunning architecture, beautiful gardens and an unrivalled location alongside the riverThames, there is also a surprising amount to please children. Actors roam the palace in character as Henry VIII or one of his many wives, you can take a ride around the gardens in a horse drawn carriage, visit the Tudor kitchens and get lost in the maze! There’s even a family room for under 5s with lego, books, dressing up clothes and soft play for when they need to let of some steam. There are some beautiful spots for a picnic and a large café with outdoor seating next to a large open grass area so you can enjoy a leisurely lunch whilst the children play within sight.
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Bockett’s Farm Park
Just half an hour’s drive from Wandsworth in beautiful countryside, this farm is a paradise for preschoolers. It is a working family farm covering 25 acres with a wide range of farm animals, small animals and more exotic animals like llamas, alpacas and peacocks. You can watch a pig race, milk a goat, go for a pony ride, or take a trip around the site on a tractor. What makes the park so popular with children though is the addition of lots of great play areas, both inside and outside, which include such delights as electric ride on tractors, trampolines, a giant ‘jumping pillow’, sand pits, play houses, climbing frames, slides, swings and an indoor soft play barn. There’s a decent café but plenty of places for a picnic too.
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Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Possibly the world’s most famous garden,Kewis definitely worth a visit. There are 300 acres of beautiful gardens running down to the riverThames. The landscape includes formal gardens, ponds, various ‘follies’ such as King William’s temple and the Pagoda and of course the iconic Glass Houses containing plant collections from around the world. Little visitors are not overlooked. They can explore a human sized badger sett, clamber around
‘Tree house towers’ outdoor play area for 3-11 year olds, walk amongst the treetops on the Xsastra Treetop Walkway and play in the botanical themed indoor play zone,‘Climbers and Creepers’.
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