Until today there are two things about England, London in particular, that amaze me: things to do in London with kids and the health system. In this article, I would like to share my experience with childcare, children’s center activities, children libraries, funfairs, leisure centers for babies, and baby activities in London: all for free!
If you’d like to learn more about the childcare system in London, including details on costs, documentation, and super important things that you should consider in advance, please, click here.
There is no place I have seen so much to be offered for newborns, babies, toddlers, and kids but in London. Sadly, not all locals realize how lucky they are. When we first came here, my son was only five months old, so the first thing we did was to visit a Health Visitor. She asked me which children’s center I used to go to socialize with my kid. I got very confused, so she handed to me a booklet of all children’s centers in the Borough, which was literally the size of a book. It contained the full description, contacts, pictures, schedule, and timetables. Since then we started to explore. Trust us, there are so many things to do in London with toddlers.
What to do in London with kids?
Every London Borough has children’s centres and, wait for it…they are free! This is probably the most amazing thing I have ever experienced. After travelling and living in so many countries, I can assure you, there is nothing like London children’s centres.
How to find them?
Wherever you live, just Google the name of your council that is responsible for the Borough you live in, then search children’s centers on its official website. Every Borough has quite a few centers for kids with various activities and classes scheduled. Again, all of them are free; some of them have classes for moms and dads too.
What is so special about them?
In addition, every center provides support for parents. There is a health visitor and GP on-site; a breastfeeding consultant; psychologist and masseur. Also, you can get advice on being a single mom or dad, fostering a child, adopting a child, having a child with disabilities, finding a job, working on your relationship with a partner, improving your family life, fighting with addictions, and much more.
Of course, children’s centers differ from each other. I noticed that in North West of London where we lived, there are many gorgeous parks, but the size of centers are quite small; while in South East of London spaces for kids are absolutely enormous, they are equipped way better and offer fruit snacks and water for kids after sessions, finishing up with a story-time and a bit of singing.
Children’s centre activities have a lot to offer. The most common are stay & play or drop-in sessions. They are more suitable for starting from 12 months. You will be able to see all sorts of games: a little kitchen equipped with all kinds of food, dishes, and trolleys; Lego and different types of vehicles, a huge variety of animals of different textures, shapes, and purposes; various tables for painting, playing with the dough, participating in workshops; books; sandbox; ball games; actual cars that kids can drive (my son’s favourite toy); slides, see-saws, and swings; pools with water, soft play and more, more, more! The list is endless. All I know is that when I come to the centre, my eyes are everywhere as I always end up playing myself. Check our best selection for baby’s toys here.
Apart from stay & play sessions, every centre offers singing classes and baby yoga. Singing sessions are the most popular in the UK. When I first heard of it, I got very confused: “How exactly they will teach my baby son singing”, I thought. But it isn’t about teaching, it is the process where the baby listens to music and parents sing. At the same time, babies are able to touch and play musical instruments and scarves.
Music and singing are critical factors in every child’s development because through the song they learn to understand, gesticulate, repeat and speak. True fact, as I tested it on my child. We always sing on our way somewhere; even if I am the only singer, trust me, my baby hears me; a bit later he started to bounce and dance in a buggy, imitating some sounds that appear in the song or showing some special gestures.
Baby yoga was just great for me and Teo. It is usually made for kids up to 12 months when it is still easy to let them lie down and rest on the floor. We did combined yoga providing some exercises for our babies and ourselves. Later on, we were offered some smoothie with a bagel – living in a dream!
Baby massage sessions are a must-visit. In many countries, it costs you a fortune to give massage to your little nug. Here they teach you tricks for free, and you can choose whatever time suits your baby giving massage in the warm comfy environment.
Mom’s fitness was a blast! It was a special course I have signed up for. We had a theoretical course from a nutritionist and the practical part of doing a combination of different exercises for young moms, including a minute of punching the bag. I mean, at that time it was the best that happened to me. I punched the bag so hard, trying to get rid of all mom’s exhaustion and daily routine issues, that my teacher’s palms hurt.
Children’s Centres are 100% worth of visit. They changed my and my son’s life in terms of socializing and development. We have spent our days so interesting meeting new people. My son was able to develop new skills every time we were there, exploring and interacting with other kids, which made him socially active when he was just a bit over 12 months.
You can find a lot of free baby activities in children libraries. It is a prototype for children’s centres. But I have noticed that almost every area that has a library has activities for kids. To my knowledge, they are all free. Depending on the size of the library, there is also space or even a private room offered for use. We have done singing with Teo, play & stay, and storytimes. It is just as fun and has an amazing impact on the parents’ and baby’s social lives.
Of course, libraries are used as intended too, meaning a lot of families come there to read with their little ones. I personally adore the system of borrowing books from the UK library. It is incredibly easy. All I had to do was to register and get a member card for free, then we chose books together and scanned them with a machine on the way out. Done! Easy-peasy. Besides, every library in London is literally filled with books of all kinds for children of all ages. We had a lot of fun every time we visited the library!
Moms Groups and Meetups
It is another great idea and most of the time a free thing to do. In return, I had a chance to socialize and network with like-minded people, as the parent world is a special caste filled with questions about sleep routines, fussy eaters, the color of poo, etc. I must tell, although I resisted and claimed that really a few things would change after I enter mom’s world, I did talk about my baby and our daily issues a lot after all.
Mom’s meetups are cool because they have flexibility. Usually, it is a coffee meeting or a picnic in the park. We have done toddler swimming lessons with Teo, so after that, we always got to spend some time in the nearby cafeteria chatting with our swim-mates and their moms.
How to find these meetings or moms groups?
Good question! Here is the list of ideas for you, based on my personal experience:
- Facebook moms groups. They exist everywhere and usually, they are separated by country, by area and/or by language. For example, in the Czech Republic, it is one group for all parents; in Mexico, there are English and Russian groups; in London, you will find them split into several languages and parts of the city, such as South East or North London moms.
- WhatsApp Groups. Every FB group will have their own personal WhatsApp group, which is even cooler, because it is more personalized with people who belong to your area, so in time you will get to know most of the parents that live around you. Also, I love Whatsapp groups because I could sell lots of baby things, post some information or get instant advice. There are lots of posts on upcoming concerts and activities too.
- Local kid-friendly cafeterias. It is quite popular in London, and I knew a few in Prague and Mexico City. Actually, this is exactly where I learnt about mom’s FB groups and nearby children’s centres on my second day of arrival in London.
- Happity. It is an app that I used quite a few times, but since there are lots to offer in my area, I didn’t use it too much. Though it is an excellent app and brilliant idea. By setting up your location and preferences, you can find all the nearby activities suitable for your kid. Most of them involve a cost, but there are lots of free trials too. I particularly loved Spanish singing classes and Montessori groups.
Free baby activities in the park
Everywhere I lived I had a chance to enjoy parks with my little nug. This is the best thing to do: fresh air, lots of space to run, playgrounds, forests, fountains, ponds, and lakes – I seriously fell in love with this hobby.
Best parks were offered in Mexico in terms of their size and huge playgrounds for kids; some included theme parks too. But parks in London get to offer a variety of free baby activities. Apart from moms’ meetups and picnics, we played with squirrels and took photos of them; most of the parks have playgrounds for kids with a little pool that is opened in summer and a kids’ play centre.
Funfair is one of the most popular baby activities in London. I constantly find an advertisement in different parks, especially during the holidays. It’s like a theme park for babies and toddlers, plus you have little kiosks with snacks, fruit, and drinks there. In addition, there are parks offering kids’ theatre, magic shows and movies absolutely free of charge, so there are always things to do in London with kids and the entire family. There is a special website that lists all possible activities for the different age groups which I found pretty amazing because it is free too.
Leisure centres for kids
Recently, I have found out one more interesting place called a leisure centre that usually has children’s soft play in it. When we lived in South-East London, we had this centre near library offering a gym, swimming pool for both kids and adults and soft play. The cost of soft play was £2.90 for 50 minutes and was so worth it. My kid was drowning in pools filled with plastic colourful balls, trying numerous slides and things to climb and play with. It was loads of fun! Teo ended up taking me there every time we were passing this centre, and he was only 18 months old.
At last, I was recommended by my friend Gymboree, which is a chain across London offering different activities for little ones. What is the most unique about them is the soft play availability, but the downsides are:
- It is twice more expensive with extra admin fee and minimum sign-up requirement;
- They offer only classes, while we prefer to have some freedom and time flexibility.
Find out the list of sightseeing in London with kids for free, including the best gardens, parks, museums, famous landmarks, and much more.
Enjoy every day with your baby and get socialized now!
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Also, check out:
- All you should know about childcare options in London.
- Twelve Tips for Choosing Childcare: Signs of a Good Day Nursery.
- Benefits of Nursery: Eleven Important Reasons Why You Should Send Your Child To a Nursery Or Playgroup.
- Advantages of Being a Working Mother
- Choosing Childcare: where to find the right one for my child.
- Home Fun For Kids: Indoor Activities For Babies, Toddlers, and Kids.
- 25+ Perfect Indoor Activities For Babies And Toddlers.
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