Tag Archives: playground

London calling

The unschooling diaries: week thirty-seven

I love our life in Devon, the sea swimming and beach exploring and cliff walking, but sometimes it is pretty awesome to switch our scenery around and hang out in the city.

The big smoke seems to be calling us a lot at the moment, and last week I had to make the trip up on my own with Arthur. It was a whistlestop visit, and I admit I was dreading it a little bit. But turning what could have been a chore into a bit of an adventure definitely helped.

He’s getting to be quite a seasoned little traveller, and insisted on picking up a magazine for the journey before we boarded the train. Not to read, you understand – but those little plastic toys are just so alluring…


It was actually a really chilled out journey once we’d got comfy. We had a breakfast picnic, and Arthur was very happy to snuggle up with a movie whilst I caught up on some writing.


When we got to town, we had a whole afternoon at our disposal before my appointment the next morning. I had in mind a very specific quest: to visit Kings Cross Pond before it closed forever. We missioned it across the city and set off into the forest of cranes and tower blocks – a highly unlikely setting for a natural swimming experience!


But nestled between the building sites there was a little oasis of calm, and I relished the opportunity to have a dip – even if Arthur did decide it was a bit too cold.



After our swim we set off to meet a friend – no particular mission this time, just a couple of hours to meander and soak up what the city had to offer. Arthur was drawn to the fountains in Granary Square, made particularly alluring by the sound installation that accompanied them. He stood completely mesmerised before creeping closer until his head was almost up against one of the speakers.


Unexpected public art was definitely a theme of this trip, and Arthur especially liked the swing we came across in the middle of the street. I’m sure the grown-ups love it too, but there was something pleasingly incongruous about watching Arthur going about the very serious business of swinging whilst everyone continued on their way around him.


I’m pretty sure Arthur decided that the whole city was a playground to be honest – from random swings to balancing along water features whilst he raced leaf boats over the little waterfalls.


And then, as if that wasn’t enough excitement for one day, I realised that we were just around the corner from The Railway Children at the Kings Cross theatre and couldn’t resist some last-minute discount tickets.


It was already past Arthur’s bedtime, and as soon as we sat down he curled up on my knee for a power nap. Fifteen minutes later though he was woken by the sounds of steam trains and singing and sat completely rapt as the story played out in front of him. It was his first proper theatre experience and he was quite blown away by it all – especially when a real-life steam train pulled onto the stage!

The next day was a bit less exciting as I had a meeting to attend, leaving Arthur playing patiently with his hot wheels cars and chatting away to his toy dog, Merlin who he had insisted on bringing with him in a special doggy sling.


We did manage to fit in a visit to one of his favourite actual playgrounds – we very rarely visit them in Devon, so it always feels like a bit of a treat. He’s been to this one on trips up to London before, but not since he was much smaller. As soon as we arrived he set his sights on the biggest of the three slides on offer, and circumnavigated it several times, trying unsuccessfully to clamber up the ropes to get to it. Then, though, he watched as a boy not much older than him approached it from a whole other angle – and of course he had to follow.




After all of this adventuring Arthur was well and truly knackered by the time we began our long journey home – we both were!


It was well worth the effort though. I am already looking forward to the corners of the city we will discover on our next trip…

Letting off steam in Coram’s Fields


Arthur was a little superstar during our trip to London last week. There was lots about it that I think he enjoyed: he loved hanging out with new people in unusual places, and was totally captivated by the huge array of vehicles. But there was also lots that was rather testing for a toddler. Sitting still, mainly – on buses and tubes whilst we crossed the capital and in restaurants and cafés whilst mummy talked too much. He just wanted to explore, to run around – ‘walk and play!’ was his increasingly frustrated refrain.

And on Friday we found the perfect place for him to do just that. After a stroll around the not terribly toddler friendly British Museum and a very long wait for lunch at Strada, my friend suggested we go to Coram’s Fields. It hadn’t really been on my radar when I lived in London. I mean, I knew it was there – but you can’t even go in unless you’ve got a kid, and it really is focused towards the needs of the city’s littlest residents. And Arthur absolutely loved it.


He rode on the little spring-mounted animals first, crossing between the duck and the horsey several times. Then he saw the slide, making his way up the perfectly proportioned steps to show off the skills he’s learning in gymnastics – hanging off the bar and swinging himself onto the slide whilst I tried not to leap prematurely to his aid.




He had a go at climbing up the rope ladder too, and very nearly managed that on his own.


There were lots of little ‘baby houses’ for Arthur to explore, and he loved running between them without needing me to hold his hand every step of the way.



It was wonderful to see his increasing confidence, even if deep inside there was a pang of something else as I realised my little baby boy is growing up before my eyes.


It was definitely a much-needed pitstop – it’s always great to find new playgrounds, and this is one I’d heartily recommend if you find yourself in central London with an energetic toddler in tow!
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

A playground by the sea


Another day, another playground. This time we went to the Geoplay Park in Paignton which I’ve been meaning to check out for ages. It’d been a busy day already – in the morning we’d had baby gym and mummy trampolining, followed by lunch with friends and a swim. But then in the afternoon the sun came out and, impatiently waiting for a bus to take us back to Brixham, I figured it’d be a shame not to make the most of it.

We started with a snack, Arthur perusing the playground whilst he munched on a banana overlooked by a caveman and a woolly mammoth. The park is inspired by the English Riviera’s geological history, with separate areas from toddlers to teens representing different periods in time. There were lots of new things to explore, and it wasn’t long before Arthur went diving in.

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The slide was of course familiar, and Arthur enjoyed climbing through the little house to get to it. Well, the first time anyway – after that he decided walking back up the slide itself would be much more efficient!

He toyed with the idea of going through the tunnel to the massive geodesic climbing frames on the other side but decided against it. I was quite glad actually as I’m not sure I’d’ve been able to follow…


Instead he went over to the trampoline. He wasn’t quite sure what to make of it when I lifted him on, and was soon holding his hands out to be saved. I resisted though, pretty sure he’d manage to clamber off himself. He’s really into climbing at the moment and very nearly made it, but I did have to help him out at the final hurdle.

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Then he noticed the sand and water play area and got properly excited. He was a little bit little to make the most of it really, beyond the obvious attraction of getting covered in both. But I think as he gets older the dams and balances and diggers will be fantastic for teaching him all sorts of physics in action as well as being good, messy fun.

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As if the day hadn’t been exciting enough, just as Arthur was beginning to get tired his dada turned up having stopped by to pick us up on his way home from work. He was over the moon to see him, and settled in for some serious daddy cuddles whilst we took a stroll along the seafront and had a drink overlooking the bay before heading home.


It’s days like this that make me love where we live, and I love our new playground too. We will definitely be heading back soon – and we might even make it onto the beach next time!


Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

A Secret Playground

I seem to be developing a bit of a talent for leaving Devon just when the weather picks up and the thought of being by the sea holds particular allure. However we haven’t done a bad job of making the most of the weather here in London, and over the weekend we discovered an awesome little playground in Hyde Park where Arthur had a brilliant time hanging out with his cousins.

The playground they introduced us to was crafted in oak by sculptor Dan Cordell. It is beautiful to look at, hidden away by some tennis courts near the Albert Memorial. More importantly though it has been built in the perfect scale for little people to explore independently. Arthur loved the little slides with their wide, rounded steps, and though Leigh and I hovered over him we were impressed at how confident he was at navigating them all by himself.

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Most of all though it was great for Arthur to be able to hang out with his cousins. They were so excited to see him, and even though Arthur was still struggling with his teeth and a bit of a bug they did a very impressive job of distracting him for a while at least. At the groups we go to back home he’s started to become quite fascinated with the older kids, though the feeling is rarely reciprocated. It was lovely to watch him play with older children who were just as interested in him as he was in them, and to watch the beginnings of what will hopefully be lifelong friendships with his London cousins.