This is my ranked list of the best things to do in London with a toddler. My husband and I brought our daughter to London the week before she turned 3, and while my husband was working, Gwen and I explored the city.
I know that a three year old might not remember this trip. That’s ok! We brought her to London so that she could spend time with family who lives in London. When we weren’t with family, I wanted her to have fun, so I chose activities that she would love. London is one of my favorite cities and I have been many times and I have seen most of the major sites two or three times, so this trip could be all about Gwen.
I am sharing a ranking here in this post, but I will break it into an itinerary in another post. These rankings are based on the fact that my daughter and I actually went to all of these places!
First, a few tips for visiting London with a toddler:
London doesn’t have a children’s museum, but several museums have children’s play areas. Sometimes you need to pre-book a play session.
Depending on the time of year you visit, the museums that are free might be hosting a lot of school field trips. This was the case when we visited in late June (schools in the UK have a longer school year than schools in the US). You will see that I preferred the activities that require an entrance fee since they were less crowded.
Currently, the free museums recommend pre-booking. Do this to avoid waiting in a long ling to get in.
I didn’t go to the cafes at every museum, but some did offer kids meals of a sandwich, piece of fruit, juice box, and chips. This worked really well for us.
We used the London Underground to get from place to place, we just made sure to avoid rush hours. Most London museums and attractions don’t open until 10am, so avoiding the morning rush is easy. We would finish up our outings around 4pm so we could be off the tube by 5pm when it gets crowded. I am working on a separate blog post about taking the tube with a toddler.
The Best Things to Do in London with a Toddler
This is a more major outing since it isn’t in central London and you will likely need to take the train and travel for about an hour. It’s so worth the trip! While Gwen and I went to most places on this list without my husband, I do think that a two adult to one toddler ratio is ideal for this longer trip.
Why is this at the top of the list? Not only is the playground gorgeous, this separate children’s play area has a cafe with seating, bathrooms, and wifi. The play area has some sand and a splash pad, so I recommend bringing a towel and change of clothing for your child.
Once your child is worn out, walk around the stunning gardens. You can also see things like Henry VIII’s apartment inside the castle. The castle itself isn’t very stroller friendly, so we stuck to the outside areas. Horse-drawn carriage rides of the grounds are offered as well.
The Magic Garden is first on this list because it is truly magical. It’s the coolest playground that I have seen and definitely one of the best things to do in London with a toddler. Plus, we love that you can also explore the palace and learn a bit of history while you are there. Check out the palace’s schedule to learn more about family friendly events like jousting, theater events, and more.
Cost: £26.30 – £29.00 for adults, £13.10 – £14.50 for children between 6-17. Kids 5 and under are free.
Open at 11 am through October 29, 2023
First come first serve, there can be a line. There is a time limit on busy days.
Bring: swimsuit and towel
My daughter is in a major Peppa Pig phase, and she loves buses. On this tour, you get to cruise around London going past sites including the Tower of London, the London Eye, and Tower Bridge while enjoying afternoon tea.
Charles and I were impressed with how well done this tour is. When you arrive at your table, tea sandwiches (such as egg salad, cheese, caprese) and sweet treats are set out for you. Once the tour gets going, you receive your choice of tea in a Peppa Pig travel mug. (Kids get milk or juice). Warm scones with clotted cream and jam arrive later.
A guide points out sites, leads a couple of songs (like Wheels on the Bus), and introduces clips from the Peppa Pig show which play on screens at each table.
I would say that the prime ages for this tour are 3-5 years old. Perhaps the best part for me was that Gwen fell asleep 10 minutes before the tour ended and proceeded to take a two hour nap after being transferred to her stroller!
The company is also offering a Paddington themed tour which welcomes children ages 5 and up. The Peppa Pig tour is for kids 2 and older. The Classic Afternoon Tea Bus Tour is for children and adults 5 and older.
Cost: £48.00 – £68.00 for adults, £38.00 – £58.00 for adults
While London doesn’t have a children’s museum, this is close. Located just off the Jubilee Line’s Stratford Station, this indoor/outdoor play space is perfect for children ages 3-5. Officially, the space welcomes kids aged 0-11.
The play areas are meant to inspire the imagination and storytelling. There is a musical forest, a space ship, clouds, a craft area and outdoor story garden. Guests have the option of adding storytelling sessions and visits to an immersive exhibit to their ticket. Gwen played here for 2.5 hours. It was a massive hit.
An onsite cafe offers lunch and snacks. An added bonus is that it’s right by the massive Westfield mall so you can easily add some shopping to this outing.
Cost: £9 per person, storytelling sessions are an additional £2.50 and exhibit entrance is an additional £3.50
This museum has a lot to offer both children and adults. Gwen’s grandfather learned all about the history of the London railway system while she played in the play areas.
Many of the other museums on this list are free, but this one does require adults to buy a ticket. The ticket is actually a yearly membership, but I think it’s worth it. Since the museum is right in Covent Garden, it’s so easy to get to, and it wasn’t as crowded as the free museums (like the Museum of Science and the Museum of Natural History). We ended up going a second time because the weather wasn’t great – and she loved it just as much the second time.
There are some kid-friendly games sprinkled throughout the museum, plus you can go onto some of the vehicles. The big attractions for little ones are a bus that you can sit in and pretend to drive and a play area on the first floor with a play bus and ferry.
When you buy your initial membership, you will get a membership number that you will need to make subsequent bookings. Pre-booking is highly recommended.
Cost: £24 for adults (annual membership), children 17 and under are free
Pre-book your visit online.
Located near the Canary Wharf station, you might not immediately think of bringing a toddler to a museum dedicated to the history of the Thames River, shipping, and ship building, but the Mudlarks play area is excellent. Just remember to pre-book a play session.
Mudlarks has a large soft-play space, costumes to try on, areas where kids can try to load up ships, and a boat themed water play area. You might want to pack a change of clothing.
A lovely cafe next to the play area offers kids meals.
Cost: entrance to this museum is free, but Mudlarks play sessions are £2.50 per person.
Pre-book a Mudlarks play session.
Bring: a change of clothing.
London’s Zoo is located within Regent’s Park. Gwen loved it so much that the next morning she woke up and asked to see more animals. Maybe it was me, but I felt like I was always lost at this zoo. Sadly some of the animals, like the lions, seemed to be hiding when we visited. The zoo would probably be higher up on this list if we didn’t live in Chicago which has an incredible free zoo that we visit often.
Overall, this zoo is large, stroller friendly, and has plenty of meal options. Gwen’s favorite areas were Penguin Beach and the tiger habitat.
Cost: £31.00 – £33.00 per adult, children ages 3-15 £21.70 – £23.10, children 2 and under are free.
The National Maritime Museum’s AHOY Gallery is a soft play area geared towards kids under 7 years old. The nautical themed space has toy cannons, a pirate ship, and a fish market. I think that prime ages for this are 2-5.
We didn’t see much of the museum beyond AHOY, but there are some costumes for kids to play with scattered throughout the museum.
This museum is in Greenwich, and it is a darling area! I wish we had more time to explore, but we needed to get back on the tube to beat rush hour. If you need a quick bite, there is a Gail’s Bakery right next to the museum.
Visiting this museum provides you with a perfect opportunity to take the ferry along the Thames. We paired this with seeing the Museum of the Docklands and used the ferry to get from one to the other!
Cost: the museum is free, admission to AHOY is £3.00 for 1 child and 1 adult
Book a time slot for AHOY in advance.
8. Paddington Recreation Playground
This playground in Maida Vale has different sections for children of different ages. It is easily to get to from the Maida Vale stop on the Bakerloo line.
The different areas include a ship, climbing areas, slides, swings, and a little kid sized row of townhomes.
This playground in Hyde Park is one of the most well known in London. Inspired by the story of Peter Pan, the centerpiece of the playground is a large wooden pirate ship with a tall crows nest that children can climb up.
The playground is very popular and once capacity is reached a line will form. The website warms that the queue can form as early as 10 am and it can last all day. (We got right in on a sunny weekday in June).
There are bathrooms and a picnic area next to the playground. Bring a change of clothing and a towel, this park has both water and sand.
The children’s garden has areas dedicated to the earth’s elements. There is a wooden climbing area, tiny individual trampolines that are sunk into the ground, a mini versions of the treetops found elsewhere in the park, and a large field for picnicking.
I see this as being a nice bonus if you are going to visit Kew Gardens, but I wouldn’t plan a trip to Kew Gardens around seeing the Children’s Garden. Be sure to look online since sometimes the garden closes for dedicated play sessions, and be aware that sometimes inaccurate information is communicated.
Cost: £40.00 for a family ticket (2 adults and 2 children), £17.00 for adults, £5.00 for children 4-15 years old.
The only reason why this museum isn’t higher on the list is that it was very crowded with school field trips, even the young children’s play area was packed! This museum is free, but pre-book a time slot. You don’t need to make a booking to go to the play area, called The Garden.
To get to The Garden, you need to go through the space exhibit and Gwen was very excited to see the exhibit with the astronaut. The Garden has areas for building, climbing, and exploring.
After Gwen had played for an hour, we went to the cafe where she had a kid’s lunch box.
Since this museum is free and just next to the Science Museum, we stopped in to see the dinosaurs. It was very very crowded with both tourists and school trips.
I recommend starting off by seeing the stegosaurus and then going up the escalator through the center of the earth, just behind the stegosaurus. Why? Kid’s love a fun escalator! Before leaving, see the whale skeleton in the stunning great entrance.
By this point, Gwen was asleep in her stroller. Huge parenting win!
13. Sealife Aquarium
When Gwen wanted to see “more animals” I thought it made sense to go to the aquarium. I felt like this aquarium, located right by the London Eye and the Shrek attraction, was both crowded and cheesy. But, she loved getting to see the sharks and penguins.
Book your tickets online in advance to save money.
Cost: £29.50 – £40.00 for adults, £30.00 for children 3-15 years old, children under 3 are free.
The world’s oldest toy store is massive, and crowded. But, it’s a must see for anyone with young children. It’s similar to FAO Schwartz in NYC. There are plenty of Paddington, Peppa Pig, and London themed toys spread across 7 levels.
On Our List for Next Time:
I did lots of research on the best things to do in London with a toddler but we didn’t have time for everything. Here are some of the things that we plan to do next summer.
There are so many theaters offering productions for children in London. Some plays are toddler friendly, while others are geared towards school-aged children.
Speaking of children’s theater, the Puppet Theatre Barge looks amazing! It didn’t fit in our schedule this time, but I want to go next summer.
A City Farm
Did you know that there are city farms scattered throughout London? One of my husband’s colleagues recommended Mudchute, which is just across the river from the Maritime Museum. Mudchute is a 32 acre farm with over 100 animals, and admission is free. Mudchute Kitchen offers onsite dining. I have also heard great things about Kentish Town City Farm.
The Postal Museum has a play space called Sorted! This space was created for children ages 0-8 and it includes a mail counter where children can weigh and stamp letters, a parcel sorting area, and postal themed dress up clothes.
You can visit the play space without visiting the museum. If you choose to visit both, a discount is given. Children might want to visit the museum so that they can ride on the Mail Rail.
Cost: £17 for adults, £10 for children 3-15, and children 2 and under are free. The Postal Play Space requires a ticket which is £5 for children (adults do not need tickets).
Book a 45 minute play session for Sorted! in advance.
Things to Do with Slightly Older Children:
This play space invites children to try their hand at different jobs in a kid sized replica of a city! It’s described as being best for children between 7-11. Children choose between 25 different careers including doctor, firefighter, pilot, and radio host.
Read More About London:
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Have you been to London with a little one? What do you think that the best things to do in London with a toddler are?