Posted in baby class, gallery, sensory

Mini Masterpieces, Dulwich Picture Gallery

When Vogue magazine rates a baby class as among the very best in London, you know you’ve got to check it out. So, the wee man and I hot-footed it to Dulwich Picture Gallery for Holly Dabbs’ excellent Mini Masterpieces class, recommended for little ones from 6-24 months.

I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting from the session beyond a bunch of babes getting messy with paint…but it was so much more than that!

For a start, Holly and her small team begin by taking you through the permanent collection – singing as they go – and encouraging you to share, point to and delight in the art around you with your little one. Now, you might think the works of 17th and 18th century European masters is a bit beyond a 10-month-old – and we did swerve past a beheading – but you’d be surprised how many of these greats love a cow, dog or sheep as much as we do. Cue much moo-ing, woof-ing and baa-ing as we made our way round to the total bemusement of the other gallery-goers!

Next came the painting. On giant sheets of paper taped to the floor the babies were let loose with paint brushes, crayons, cornflour and food-colouring and it was – as you might expect – gloriously messy mayhem. True, the wee man seemed more intent on eating the paint-brushes than channelling his inner Jackson Pollock, but he loved it none the less. A magic way to spend the morning.

Cost ⭐️⭐️⭐️

£12 but worth it

Accessibility ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Pram or sling – either fine, no stairs to navigate

Facilities ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Baby changing available (though I just changed the wee man in the private room provided) and a good cafe on site if you fancied lunch after.

Feeding-friendly ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Yeah, with this crowd you’re golden

General vibes ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The wee man and I were covered in cornflour and all the happier for it.

Posted in outdoors, tour

Bring your baby guided walks

Ever wondered which famous London market provided the backdrop for the magical Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films? Did you know the inspiration for Charles Dickens’ memorable character, Miss Havisham, was allegedly a London iron-monger who went from dandy to grieving down-and-out after his fiancé died on the eve of their wedding? These are just some of  the fun facts you will learn on Lucy Madison’s fabulous Bring Your Baby “Dickensian Alleyways of the Old City” guided walk. 

Lucy, a former primary school teacher turned tour guide, started Bring Your Baby guided tours back in June; providing parents of under-2s with the perfect opportunity to swap pounding the local park for a brain-nourishing cultural adventure through some of the city’s most historic streets. 

Not only does Lucy entertain and inform with her encyclopaedic knowledge and quirky historical facts, she’s tailored her tour to meet your parenting needs; going at your pace and pausing for baby changing or feeding as needed. There’s even a scheduled coffee-break halfway through at a local pub. 

Lucy also has the patience of a saint so if your little angel happens to be the one screaming for a rice-cake, Lucy will happily tell you what you missed as you rummage in your tardis of a pram for said snack.

Dickens doesn’t do it for you? Lucy offers other tours including two inspired by nursery rhymes where you can learn about the origins of old favourites like Three Blind Mice and the Grand Old Duke of York, while immersing yourself in London’s rich history. She’s also doing weekend dates so working mums and dads don’t have to miss out! Check out the Hoop app for more information and dates through September and October. 

Cost ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

£12 per adult (kids are free) and a well worth every penny. 

Accessibility ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Pram or sling, there are no hard to navigate staircases. 

Facilities ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Numerous opportunities and quiet spots along the route to feed and change and a scheduled stop halfway.  

Feeding friendly ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Plenty of opportunity for babies on boob or bottle to be fed. 

General vibes ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A lovely way to while away a couple of hours while soaking in this brilliant city’s rich history. 

Posted in day out, Days out, sensory

Squish Space, The Barbican

Review below from our lovely friend Lauren, who we met at NCT and is mum to gorgeous Freya. Thanks to Lauren for agreeing to be our second guest contributor.

After Squish Space was recommended by a friend, I thought I’d give it a shot considering I was in the area. Once I’d navigated my way to the entrance around the maze that is the Barbican centre, I found it tucked in the corner. While I was expecting to be greeted with a room full of brightly coloured inflatables, and the usual soft play suspects of balls pits, giant cubes etc – there was nothing of the sort. To the adult eye it all looks a bit underwhelming, there is a fair bit of empty space: in fact it looked more like a small conference room. But the little one was absolutely delighted!

The contents basically look like the creators have raided Poundland and the Barbican’s storage room – plus added in some stuff from the boot of their car. Think exercise balls, giant cushions (some tied onto rolling boards in a type of soft skateboard fashion), piping, tonnes of brightly coloured mesh/silk/balls, and what appears to be tow rope attached to the windows (which she spent a good half an hour just pulling and laughing at). Simple ideas like wrapping loads of neon ribbon around hose pipe holders entertained babes in arms, to running toddlers.  And though I thought all the space made it look a bit empty, actually it meant the kids had lots of room to move/drag/throw whatever had caught their imagination.

While it all sounds a bit of a health and safety hazard, it is all really well put together. So much so that I’m not sure any kid actually went near the small bit of soft play equipment that is in there. And the more we played the more we discovered! The idea of Squish Space is to encourage interaction and play between children and their carers – and the good news is the Barbican have extended their work with creators India Harvey & Lisa Marie Bengtsson until Spring 2020! The space will evolve throughout its time there.

Cost ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s totally free!

Accessibility ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Although the Barbican centre is bit of a nightmare to navigate (top tip – use the silk street entrance), once you’re in there, there’s plenty of room to move around it in a slingor buggy.

Facilities ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

There are baby change facilities on each floor, and a buggy park available outside of Squish Space.

Feeding friendly ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

There are loads of big comfy chairs and sofas to feed outside the Squish Space room, and plenty of these are tucked into darker corners if you’re a bit feeding conscious. We ate at the Barbican’s family friendly cafe, it’s very spacious with plenty of tables and highchairs, and considering we arrived at 12:30pm its was surprisingly quiet. Kids eatfree with every adult meal, however I didn’t find the choice of food on offer was very baby/toddler friendly. It’s also buffet style, so I recommend going with someone who can keep an eye on baby while you head up!

General vibe ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A sensory overload guaranteed to spike your little ones imagination! Very relaxed vibe, with parents and carers chatting away while the kids swap football cones.

Posted in Picks of the week

Punk Me Up Ceramics

MotherCulture has been on up and running for eight weeks and it’s got me thinking about when the wee man was the same age.

There were piles of washing everywhere, Harry Belafonte’s Banana Boat song on repeat (eight months later, it still has a weirdly calming effect on the wee man) and he seemed to be permanently attached to my boobs. 

I wasn’t venturing out much and certainly no further than my own postcode. But on one particularly blustery autumn day some NCT friends and I decided to visit Punk Me Up, a ceramics cafe on the corner of Peckham Rye Park, to get clay imprints of our babies hands and feet. 

Now, the first thing to say is that with prices starting at £60, this ain’t no cheap keepsake. When I looked at the website I must admit I thought twice about it. However, still drunk on love hormones, I decided to throw caution to the wind and go for it nonetheless. My goodness I’m glad I did.

The ladies at Punk Me Up are lovely, and had a table set up for us in the back studio of the shop (incidentally, a space where they also host a range of classes, including Monkey Music; check out their website and Instagram for more info).

There were four of us in the group, and Toni – the owner – took time to discuss with us individually the different options we could go for including paint colours, finishes etc. There are other options too; some in the group got little hand-prints on Christmas baubles (a lovely present idea for doting grandparents!) It was fun! At eight weeks, the babies were a little non-plussed as we moulded their feet and hands in to wet clay but the results were fabulous and after surviving the first – often brutal – eight weeks of motherhood, it definitely felt like a treat we all deserved.

For older kids, the main café offers a treasure trove of ceramics for creative young  minds to get busy on. Prices start at £8 for the ceramics and £3.50 for a child over £2.  I’ve been with my nine-year-old god-daughter and her big sister, who absolutely loved it; choosing their ceramics (one did a cup and saucer, the other a bowl), paint-colours and working out their designs … it was a lovely way to while away a couple of hours over coffee and cake.

Cost ⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s not the cheapest but then neither are the results, plus you get to take home one-of-a-kind ceramics made by your little creative geniuses. Worth every penny.

Accessibility ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

There’s a pram-park outside so you don’t have to negotiate the steep step at the front.

Facilities ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Good baby changing facilities, high-chairs etc.

Feeding friendly ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is a family focussed café, making it a comfortable place to feed.

General vibes ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A SE London family favourite!

Posted in day out, Days out, outdoors

Children’s Garden, Kew Gardens

Our lovely friend @sciencemama has given us the review below as our first guest contributor. Please see link at the bottom to the full review on her blog, which is well worth a read.

“Can we go to the playground?” I have to admit that my heart sinks a bit when I hear this request. After three years of trying to maintain a convincingly enthusiastic “wheeeeee!” whilst pushing a swing for what feels like an eternity, I think I have hit park saturation point.

The new Children’s Garden at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew is the perfect antidote to playground boredom. This thoughtfully designed space is the size of 40 tennis courts, and is built amongst 100+ mature trees. It’s divided into four areas based on the elements: the fantastic Water Garden with paddling pool and pumps, tunnel slides and a hut village in the Earth Garden, trampolines and hammocks are scattered across the Air Garden and the Sun Garden is perfect for picnics. For older kids there’s an ambitious log scramble leading to a 5 metre tall tower.

Top tip: enthusiastic splashers may require a swim nappy and change of clothes! Sand and water toys would add even more fun for little people.

Cost ⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s expensive. £16.50 for adults, £4.50 for kids ages 4-16 (under-4s go free). It’s best to book in advance to avoid missing out.

Accessibility ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Kew Gardens is fully accessible with a buggy.

Facilities ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The White Peaks building next door has food, ice cream and basic baby change facilities.

Feeding Friendly ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

No dedicated feeding area but there’s plenty of seating and quiet corners for privacy.

General vibes ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is a very family friendly attraction and the booking system prevents overcrowding.

The Children’s Garden at Kew

Posted in day out, museum, Picks of the week

Horniman Museum & Gardens, Forest Hill

The Horniman has been open since the Victorian times when a Frederick John Horniman opened his house of weird and wonderful objects to visitors. The collection has since grown and now the Horniman has various collections, exhibitions, an animal walk, a butterfly house and its very own aquarium. Not to mention it’s extensive gardens, with a playground for children and an amazing view over the city.

We’ve been numerous times now and each time has been a huge hit with the tiny dictator so I wanted to outline the best bits for us in the hope it will help you when planning your trip. This breaks a little from our normal format of posts but hope it helps!

  • Aquarium (on the LG) floor is brilliant for kids and babies alike, it’s small but has plenty of amazing things for little eyes to feast on and they have little steps so that little people can stand on them and see all the activity. You have to pay separately for this if you are not a member but at £4.50 for an adult & £2.50 for kids aged 3-16 it’s worth it.
  • Butterfly Garden (located at the top of the gardens behind the animal walk) is definitely worth a visit and is yet again a feat for tiny eyes. Again you have to pay separately for this and remember to book in advance or as soon as you get to reception in the museum as there are timed entrances and it is popular. Also important to note that it has slightly different closing hours and during the winter closes at 3.30pm rather than 4.30pm. Adult entry £6 and child entry is £6.
  • Animal walk is at the top of the gardens so go past the museum itself and carry on up the pathway and you will see it diagonally to the right. This is free and a fun walk through enclosures including some gorgeous alpacas.
  • Café with highchairs and a great range of food, you can sit out or in.
  • Check in advance for what’s on on the day. We went on a Wednesday once and were immediately directed to a free storytelling session in the Hands on Base (a room where you can hold all the real objects). Wednesdays are Wonderful Wednesdays during the summer (still worth checking) and there are various free family activities on.
  • We have been to the Brick Wonders Exhibition. We loved it and visually the baby liked it, but he loved the play area more and I would say this is more for 2+ years, especially as it’s a paid for exhibition.
  • The free exhibitions are brilliant and have interactive elements so do make time for them. Don’t miss out on the infamous huge walrus taxidermy which even has its own Twitter account.
  • Horniman hold Busy Bee sessions for children under 5s which includes storytelling and singing. From 10 September that will be every Tuesday and costs £2.50. Definitely worth trying to coincide with this as much cheaper than any Hoop class we’ve found.

Hope that helps and please do tag us in any photos from your visit.

Cost ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Cost varies depending on what you want to visit. There’s plenty on to do for free (exhibitions, gardens, animal walk, free drop in activities) but we have put some costs in above and for both the butterfly house and aquarium maximum cost is £15 for an adult.

Accessibility ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Easy with pram or sling, and there is a buggy parking area on the LG floor of the museum.

Facilities ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
All the facilities you need are on the LG floor of the museum, there is baby changing in both male and female toilets (hurrah!) and a special designated feeding area (see below).

Feeding friendly ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Special designated feeding area if you want privacy on the LG floor but you can feed anywhere in the museum/gardens.

General vibes ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
As everyone told me, this is a South London gem. Brilliant fun for all the family and so family friendly.

Posted in day out, Days out, Picks of the week

MotherCulture Picks of the Week

The Great Fete, Alexandra Palace:

On Saturday 17th August, the Great Fete takes place with the same line up for food at StrEATLife (think craft beer and yummy food trucks) but with music, cinema screenings (including Peppa Pig!), ice skating, a silent disco, a playzone for under 5’s and so much more this will be a great day out for all the family. Starts at midday until 10pm and free entry it’s definitely worth a visit. Recommended to go by public transport but there is also parking on site.

Floating Market, Paddington Central:

From tomorrow until Sunday, barges along the Grand Union Canal open up their door to local vendors and there will be stalls selling food and various handmade items (candles, bags etc). There will also be live music to serenade you as you potter around. Why not make a day of it and walk to the Wallace Collection after? Free admission to the permanent collection and there is currently a Manolo Blahnik exhibition for all you fashionistas which is also free.

Urban Makers x Old Spitalfieds Market, Spitalfields

Championing Indie creatives, Urban Makers are in Spitalfields Market this Saturday from 10am to 6pm. Have a sneak peek on Instagram @urbanmakers_uk at all the beautiful things their vendors are selling! Why not combine with one of the many restaurants in Spitalfields (can you tell we like food?!)…

Beyond Retro Garage Sale, Peckham

For any vintage lovers out there we wanted to give this a mention. It’s being held in the Bussey Building from tomorrow until Sunday with new clothes added each day. Open from 10am – 6pm. Perfect mixed with a picnic lunch in Peckham Rye Park and if you have little ones who need to thrash around, the children’s playground in Peckham Rye is ace. If you fancy lunch out too, we love Pedler, Cafe G, Petitou & Andersons which are all close by (plus baby friendly, of course!)

Posted in Picks of the week

Apple Tree Children’s Café and Herne Hill

We’ve noticed of late that soft play has been getting a bit of a bad rep.  Now don’t get us wrong, we aren’t so keen on the distinct smell of sweat, the loud colours, loud noise or even the abundance of mini dictators running around like maniacs either. However, our babies are just about to turn ten months and it’s been a game changer. Long gone are the days where they would sit still playing with their toys; instead we spend our days constantly trying to keep them alive. Plugs in mouths, fingers in sockets, lamps used as aids to stand, the sofa treated as if it’s Everest to climb…you name it and it’s a hazard. Soft play has therefore been our saving grace and saves our home from complete devastation.

Now we haven’t been to the huge, over-populated ones but we have found a little gem in the Apple Tree Children’s Cafe. It has a small soft play area with a ball pit and enough space that children can thrash around in but also it’s small enough that we know our little ones won’t get trampled in an adrenalin-enthused stampede. There are also mini kitchens for the children to play with, a shop, till and a reading area. Importantly, it isn’t just aimed at the kids. There’s a lovely cafe for parents to have that much needed coffee or even a cake fix if you are in need.

They have a menu tailored to kids of all ages from weaning onwards and the staff are extremely lovely and helpful.  My mini dictator demolished a weaning platter and left various bits on the floor (we love the drop the food game at the moment!) and the staff were so relaxed about it and stopped us from trying to salvage the floor ourselves.

It’s located in Herne Hill and is a three minute walk from the station (overground). It overlooks the beautiful Brockwell Park and is in the hub of Herne Hill so why not make a morning or afternoon of it?  Have a walk too in the park and there’s plenty of choice for food.  Our favourites are: Cafe Provençal, the Half Moon Pub and if you walk just 5 minutes down the road, the Lido Cafe (see previous post for details).  All are baby friendly and have changing facilities and high chairs.

We are also in love with the enchanting Tales on Moon Lane, the sweetest children’s book shop.  They do storytelling every Thursday morning at 9.30am for free during term time.  We can’t help but buy a book each time we go and this time we bought “In the swamp by the light of the moon” by Frann Preston-Gannon. At one point the book says, “My friend…your song’s unique and important like all of the rest.  Even small voices count, so let’s hear yours – only you sing your song best”.  Amen to that.

⚠️ On Saturdays Apple Tree closes at midday and does not serve food on the menu but has a small selection of food pouches, pastries and cakes. On Sundays it is closed.

Cost ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Per Play at Apple Tree Cafe is free for 0-6 months, £3 for 6-12 months and £5 for 1 years – 5 years. They also offer a ten visit pass for £42 online for 1 years – 5 years.

Accessibility ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Easy with pram or sling, all on the same floor.

Facilities ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Baby changing facilities are available in all the cafes we have mentioned and there is buggy parking at Apple Tree.

Feeding friendly ⭐⭐⭐

Easy to feed in the cafes at the tables but don’t expect a sofa/armchair!

General vibes ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Apple Tree Children’s Café makes soft play bearable, we would go even so far as to say enjoyable. Herne Hill, though it only has a small hub has so much going for it: make a day of it and you won’t regret it!

Posted in cafe, day out, outdoors

Hackney City Farm

Our days are now narrated by poor impersonations of farmyard animals as we “oink, oink” and “baa, baa” to the wee man’s great amusement.  And so I was inspired to take a trip down memory lane and visit Hackney City Farm. A trip down memory lane because when I lived in east London, HCF used to be the backdrop to many a hungover gossip session – over eggs and bacon –  between me and my mates as we dissected the night before.

A near 10 years has passed since, but I’m pleased to report that the Farm still holds a special place in my heart and is, of course, great for kids big and small. Any visit has to start with a good breakfast and the food in the farm cafe is still top notch; predictably I had the sausage sandwich (I do eat other things, honest) and it did not disappoint. I was also delighted to find that they have upgraded the toilets from the tiny and always grubby outdoor loo to a new indoor WC, complete with baby changing unit.

We loved wandering round the farm too. Giant pigs, plucky hens, a rowdy cockerel, delightful donkeys and a few sheep to over enthusiastically point to and say “baa, baa” at repeatedly – what’s not to love?! The wee man loved staring at creatures he had only seen in Melissa & Doug form before and let’s be honest, what adult doesn’t love looking at an animal or two? My husband still marvels at the size of the pigs!

The farm shop is also worth a visit with delicious fruit and veg available and all packaging free – enabling you to do your grocery shopping without a guilty conscience.

All in all a lovely couple of hours, finished off with a quick mooch down Colombia Road … on the one day we decided to take the pram. Top tip? Bring the sling if you can. You can’t get very far through the glorious flower market with our monster Uppababy … though we did still enjoy browsing the shops and the man with his bike basket full of miniature dogs was a definite highlight. Only in east London, eh?!

Cost ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The farm itself is free and the restaurant prices are good – £4.95 for a sausage sandwich on granary bread. They also do children’s meals though the choice is limited

Accessibility ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The farm and cafe are both easily accessible with a pram but top tip; if you want to combine your visit with stroll down Colombia Road flower market – bring a sling

Facilities ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I mean, it’s a farm, so it’s never going to be glamorous but it does the trick.

Feeding friendly ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Absolutely. This place is full of families so you’re unlikely to feel self-conscious. Grab the sofa if you can!

General vibe ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A lovely afternoon out for big and little kids, alike.

Posted in Picks of the week

Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life – Tate Modern

In the last few weeks, Instagram seems to have been flooded with pictures of the Olafur Eliasson exhibition. That and pictures of that spotty Zara dress.  Having already been a marketing victim and bought the dress (!), it was time for a trip to the Tate Modern.

So last weekend I managed to drag my husband, the baby and my brother along too. It didn’t disappoint.  Nor did the Tate Modern itself which proved to be so baby friendly that I think I might be able to persuade my husband to go back again #winwin.

You can buy tickets when you get there but given it’s popularity, top tip #1 buy them in advance and pick a time slot that suits you and baby.  We went post morning nap and before lunch when he’s usually at his most amenable 😂. Top tip #2: go to the right part of the Tate Modern- the Blatnavik Building.   We went to Level 2 of the Boiler House, only to realise we had ventured to the wrong part of the building. By the time we finally got there, there was no queue and we went straight in. I always get a little anxious going in to an exhibition as you never know how the tiny dictator is going to behave but I immediately felt relaxed as there were lots of families with babies.  The exhibition itself was in a large space and so it’s easy to navigate with a buggy.

It was a brilliant, immersive exhibition not just for adults but for children and babies too. It was like a baby sensory class on steroids.  From moss walls, a fog room, a spiral view tunnel, rain, thunder…the exhibition invites you to experience nature and the powerful forces that govern it.  The intention is not for you to just be a spectator but for you to consider your place in the planet too, and indeed the negative role mankind are having on nature. The only part of the exhibition we avoided was the fog room, mainly because we didn’t want the babby to feel at all claustrophobic. The staff member at the entrance to this part of the exhibition was very helpful and showed us how we could navigate round it.  We did go through individually and saw lots of children happily going through it; we just didn’t want to risk it. The rest of the exhibition the baby was honestly enthralled, at one point continuously craning his neck back to look at the mirror on the ceiling.  He also loved the room of colourful shadows and was crawling along the floor whilst other children were dancing around taking in their reflections.  Top tip #3: in case of any meltdowns or any older children getting bored and wanting something more hands on, there is a brilliant interactive table at the end of the exhibit with 3D structures to play with.

We followed the exhibition with a trip to Gail’s Bakery which is located just behind the Tate Modern.  With highchairs, baby changing facilities, helpful staff and a good selection of food that can be adapted for weaning it was a big hit. All in all a brilliant family day out.

Have you been yet?  How did you find it?  Share your stories below!

Cost ⭐⭐

Expensive, unless you invest in an Art Pass – £18 per adult but £9 with an Art Pass. Children under X go free.

Accessibility ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Easy to navigate the museum with pram or sling, there’s a lift that takes you up to the exhibition floor.

Facilities ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Baby changing facilities are available and there is a cloakroom with buggy parking should you need it.

Feeding friendly ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Don’t expect comfy seats but there are places to sit and feed as you go around and the cafe has highchairs (although we popped to Gail’s Bakery which was brilliant).

General vibes ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Such a sensory treat for all the family, we had the best morning and we will be back for sure. Very family friendly and no air of art snobbiness about it. A huge thumbs up from us!