More often than not I get asked by parents for ideas for things to do in the “local” area with the children. That means travelling no more than an hour from Edgware and also places that are good for young children (as most of the children at my Edgware nursery are under 5, many are just babies). I do know of a few hidden gems as well as the popular venues so I have decided to compile my Top Ten venues to take the children over half term, the weekend or just for a day out:
1) The obvious – Willow’s Farm www.willowsactivityfarm.com
This is a great day out and even if the weather is looking a bit “iffy” there’s a huge soft play inside and an indoor petting area. You can often search for cheap ticket deals online, just use Google. During the holidays there are lots of events going on, for example this half term there is a sheep shearing, horse and pony displays which include the miniature Toupe Shetland pony! There is a bouncy castle, some fairground type attractions, mini tractors to drive, the animals plus animal feeding – an outdoor playground and plenty more plus it’s only about 20 minutes from Edgware.
Cons – it’s very hilly so can be strenuous for the little ones, take a buggy!
2) 360 Play in Stevenage www.360play.co.uk
This is my absolute favourite soft play but I wouldn’t recommend it for under 12 months. It is exceptionally clean and well managed. You can’t leave without matching up your photograph at point of exit and all the doors are locked so it is secure (not that I would leave children unsupervised). There is an excellent soft play and even a dodgems area. Plus a “walk on” piano, giant Lego, a dress up section, a pretend high street with a restaurant, supermarket and vet – so the children can indulge their role play. There is a mini soft play for the tiny ones and a great café. You can actually sit down and watch your children quite well. The perfect wet weather place and here’s a tip – it’s quieter from 2pm.
3) Highgate Woods
Nestled in between Highgate, Muswell Hill and East Finchley you will find ancient woodland with a football and cricket pitch as well as an excellent children’s playground and a great café which serves superb food.
4) Jason’s Trip – Canal boat www.jasons.co.uk
This little gem is in Little Venice and departs three times a day over the summer season. The boat is 108 years old and you can take a tour between Little Venice and Camden Lock over a 45 minute period. The tour guide will give you a history of the area dating back to 1800. The children will enjoy being on the water and it’s a great piece of history for adults.
5) The Painted Pot www.thepaintedpot.co.uk
For all our budding young artists (and we have many at Shannon ChildCare) this is an arts & crafts studio based in Barnet where your little one can choose from a number of creative activities. It’s great for all ages from toddlers right the way up. There is pottery painting, paper-mache and wood shape painting, fabric painting, mosaics, glass decorating, canvas painting. Even children aged 2 will enjoy this and mums and dads can get stuck in! Another great wet afternoon thing to do.
6) RAF Museum Hendon, www.rafmuseum.org.uk
Probably better for the older children (4+) but the younger ones can also enjoy this museum, it’s very local and an easy afternoon trip. There is a good interactive zone for the children to try out some aerodynamics and even a reading zone so you can spend time with your younger children with the museum’s selection of story books. The museum boasts a café so you can have a rest from wandering around looking at all the airplanes dating right the way back to the early 20th century through two World Wars and up to the present day – a must for the boys (and men!)
7) Parkside Farm for fruit picking, www.parksidefarmpyo.co.uk
This is great fun for all the family but ideally, your little one should be walking! Based in Enfield, you can pick strawberries from June, redcurrants, broad beans and fruit and vegetables. There is a crop calendar on the website but you can go any time from June right up to October – there should be something to pick over these months. Then maybe take a browse in the shop and pick up some yummy dipping sauce for your berries! It’s such a great way for your child to learn about growth cycles of fruit and vegetables too –where it all comes from, thoroughly recommended!
8) Butterfly World, St Albans, www.butterflyworldproject.com
This is an interesting day out where you can learn all about butterflies, caterpillars and insects. There is a gift shop, insect handling, beautiful gardens, an education zone and even story telling. The butterflies live in tropical houses which are warm, at any one time you can see 500-800 butterflies from up to 20 species. There are also huge colonies of ants and you can see their “city” right here! If you aren’t keen on flying insects then don’t go as it can be a little claustrophobic but nevertheless a good, solid and educational day out for all the family.
9) Knebworth House, www.knebworthhouse.com
You don’t need to go into the historic Hertfordshire house (you aren’t allowed in with buggies) but there is so much for families to do here without visiting the stately home. Check out the maze (don’t get stuck!) and the dinosaur trail which gives you excellent facts about our prehistoric friends with life-size creatures to marvel at! There are stunning gardens, a well-equipped play area, a train ride and you can often find events going on at different times of the year – note, it is not open all year round.
10) Cassiobury Park www.cassioburypark.info
A must for hot days as there is a huge splash zone with paddling pools of various sizes open between 10am and 7pm from April to September. Additionally, there is an excellently equipped playground, a miniature railway and a bouncy castle set inside wonderful parkland. There is also a good café and it’s the perfect place for a sunny picnic.
So there you have it, my top ten places to go with children – I’m sure there is something there for everyone. If you come across anywhere fabulous then please let me know, I am always interested to learn about new, family friendly days out in and around Edgware, North West London and Hertfordshire.