Braving central London: three toddler tips

Hamley's shelvesIt was the trip I kept putting off when Scrip was little – the buses, the tube, the noise, the busy pavements – it all seemed a bit overwhelming. I did brave it a few times but I haven’t done in the last few months since she’s reached toddlerdom.

But a bit of colleague cajoling meant that I made the journey into Regent Street this week to let Scrip roam around my office, attempt to say everyone’s names, tip pens all over the floor and also sample some of the delights of central London.

Hamley's booksShe was actually really good – we had a packed day, starting off with getting her hair cut in my local salon (always a bit nerve-racking but it was a success) and then we caught the bus, which is always popular, followed by the ‘choo choo’ train and then a walk through Mayfair. That was particularly surreal – trying to sail elegantly past Chanel but with a toddler waving at the doormen. We popped into the office, into a few shops, had lunch out and then travelled home. A tiring morning but a fun one.

Here are three things I learnt along the way:

Hamley's train setHamley’s doesn’t have to be hell. I actually enjoy going there, but it can be an assault on the senses and I’ve never taken a little one along, too. People looked at me like I was mad when I said I was considering taking Scrip there – but luckily the gamble was worth it. Timing is key. We were there on a Monday morning and swiftly escaped the madness of the ground floor by heading straight up (in the lift) to floor one – Preschool.

It was nice and empty and calm. There were displays to watch, toys to play with and buttons to press. Not to mention a mountain of books to browse. At 19 months, Scrip hasn’t yet grasped pester power and can still be easily distracted – so we could look and interact without her dragging me towards the till with a Peppa Pig sticker book in hand. I’d recommend it.

Tibits toysDo your lunch research and be imaginative. A quick browse online brings up the usual suspects for children’s lunches – the Rainforest Cafe, Sticky Fingers or the diner chains. But wanting to go somewhere a little less crowded and a little more tasty I followed a friend’s advice and headed to Tibits, the vegetarian restaurant.

I’ve been there for lunch on my own before but I didn’t realise how child-friendly it was. The staff helped carry my food downstairs and showed me to the lift for the pushchair. There was also ample room for a highchair, lots of dishes to choose from (there’s a posh canteen-type display) and a play area at the back. So we sat and ate facing each other and after lunch Scrip had a little play.

Thomas Tank EngineDouble check your travel. I’d assumed I could take a completely step-free journey going from Hammersmith to Green Park – but I didn’t realise the lifts weren’t working at the first station. And as no one offered to help, I ended up carrying Scrip plus pushchair down a flight of stairs. Just as I used to when she was very little, I’m now going to do a quick journey check online before setting off. We ended up taking the bus back, which worked well as it was quite quiet and I let her fall asleep after a busy morning.

The other thing to bear in mind is rush hour/s. As a tourist mecca, central London is always busy but transport is particularly crowded until about 10am in the morning and from about 3.15pm after school – and that carries on until about 7pm. Try not to be caught in the madness.

We’re planning a trip to the Transport Museum in a few weeks – let’s hope Scrip is as good then as she was this week.

If anyone has any more central London toddler top tips, I’d love to hear them!

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