1. Soak your feet in the pool at the John Madejski Garden
The Victoria and Albert’s Museum (V&A) is a great place to hang out with kids, especially when the weather is hot as they can play in the garden’s shallow pool. The elegant courtyard is a real oasis for families, with a small restaurant offering a wide range of healthy food for all tastes. Parents can take turns to visit the permanent collections, or take the children to the British Design exhibit which is lots of fun and a must-see (until August 12) : architecture, design, fashion but also video clips from the Beatles and David Bowie and a room dedicated to video games. Cromwell Rd, London, SW7 2RL. Some exhibits are free, check http://www.vam.ac.uk
Every year I excitedly await the opening of the Summer Pavilion, a programme involving a sequence of world-class architects transforming the space outside the Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens into a temporary Pavilion. This year’s efforts are by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei. It is the first time the Pavilion has been partly underground and it is a cool, contemplative space dotted with slightly mushroom-shaped cork stools. The design really invites you to plant yourself, linger, and look out and around – as opposed to just admiring the exterior. Our daughter, like all the children there, felt an irresistible urge to turn over the cork stools, line them up and otherwise personalise the space. The architects are interviewed here.
Today we took to the Wapping Project housed in the Wapping Hydraulic Power Station to see This is not a House by Edgar Martins (A series of photographs exploring the collapse of the US housing market and the sub-prime mortgage crisis.) and enjoy lunch in the sunlit industrial space. Wapping is part of London’s Docklands but feels quite the place apart with its maritime atmosphere and sandy river banks, that yet overlooks the highrises of Canary Wharf. If you can’t make it over to see this exhibition, there is also a great book which documents the complete exhibition called none other than, This is Not a House! Available here.
One of the photographs from the exhibition. Photograph © Edgar Martins
(We already blogged about the original Obliteration Room here and now it’s at the Tate!)
The Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green is part museum, part indoor playground, as far as our daughter is concerned. Last year’s Judith Kerr retrospective included a replica of the kitchen in “The Tiger who Came to Tea”, which she found magnetic. Exhibitions aside, there are multiple play stations dotted across the floors – dress up, lego, a wooden fire engine, an old-fashioned play kitchen, rocking horses… There is also a dedicated craft space where children can help themselves to glue and glitter in pursuit of that day’s craft activity. On the day of the royal wedding, they wisely chose crown making and our daughter’s “Princess Kate” crown survives to this day (a bit battered). There is a very sweet museum shop with a small, but well-chosen, collection of books and some great toys, games and exhibition souvenirs. When it’s time to leave, the experience can be partly recaptured through reading “Lost in the Toy Museum” by David Lucas, which sets a toy adventure inside the museum. It seems when the lights go out, the toys wake up.
Current exhibition of Cathie Pilkington’s sculptures in the foyer
Although not as close to our three-year old’s heart as the V&A’s Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green (currently her favourite museum in London), our daughter does enjoy a trip to the V&A in particular tearing around the John Madejski Garden, digging into the children’s Activity Backpack (which you can borrow for free) and admiring selective exhibits. Today she was quite taken with the 1960 Barbie doll wearing a black and white striped swimming costume and cats-eye sunglasses. After a good dash around the garden you can grab refreshments in the V&A Café, which includes the three rooms that formed the first museum restaurant in the world. They make an elaborate backdrop to a sandwich lunch. Here is their website.
This little snuggle of bunnies resides in Spitalfields, London; a vibrant area on the eastern edge of the City that also houses the Spitalfields Markets, St John Bread & Wine, Verde and some other truly scrumptious independent stores. Said bunnies are adored by children and our daughter considers riding them a highlight of any trip to Spitalfields. Every now and then their configuration changes or the bunnies are moved onto the grassy patch behind them. It’s as if they were alive…
I was delighted to come across British label, Caramel Baby & Child at Playtime New York. Designer Eva Karayiannis started off as a lawyer and became a designer when she started Caramel Baby & Child and we’re so glad she did. Their Fall/Winter 2011 collection is exquisite, relaxed, understated, yet chic with little surprises here and there like that intricate little collar and cuffs peeking out from under this rich sapphire pullover. Also, love the yellow dress with the flower sprigs and gold trim and electric blue pullover for the boys. You can purchase Caramel Baby & Child directly from their website, from their adorable shop in London or from outlets all around the world. If you are in New York, Bergdorf Goodman stocks them among others.
This post is from my friend, Michelle in London.
The Tate Modern is one of the most child-friendly places in London. Even getting there is a treat: crossing the Millenium Bridge with St Paul’s behind you, the Thames below you and the Tate just ahead. Children love the main entry into the Turbine Hall – charging down the sloping floor that evens out into that famous cavernous space where some of the Tate’s most popular exhibitions have been held. There is an interactive zone where you’ll see small escapees from exhibitions being minded by their tag-teaming parents. When it’s time for lunch you’ll find the Tate is in tune with today’s foodie parents. Children’s meals include a small sandwich and juice (served in special Tate cups) and allow little ones to add to the meal by selecting a few pots – fresh carrot sticks, grapes, raisins… Of course there will be crayons and colouring sheets for the kids. Breast feeding? You are welcome. Need to change a nappy? Just over there. And you cannot go without spending a serious half hour in the Tate shop, and I am not even referring to the art books. If you’re too energised to leave, you can hop on a Tate to Tate boat which whisks you off to the Tate Britain near Trafalgar Square (which is admittedly a more sober affair for children). If you’re heading home via St. Paul’s tube station, don’t forget to stop at Bea’s of Bloomsbury on Watling Street for some of the best cupcakes in London