Wednesday, 9 August 2017

London With Children: Our Mini Break

With my biggest boy about to start full time school in September, I've been trying to think of ways to make our last summer before school really special.

I'm always so very aware of just how much upheaval Tyne has had over the past 2 years with the birth of not one but TWO baby brothers, his life has changed so much in such a short time and I often worry that he may feel a little bit pushed out by suddenly having to share us with two other little ones.

So we decided that during August, the only month of the year that we have babysitters available regularly, we'd make the most of it and take him away for a few days to London - just us, without the babies.

Tyne was delighted by this and has spent the last few weeks counting down the days in excitement - we had plenty of chats about what fun things we could do in the capital, and he chose the things that most appealed to him.

We arranged to stay at the Hilton Wembley which was a beautiful hotel in an ideal location - I'll have a more detailed review on this coming up shortly on my blog, but for now let me just say that the hotel staff were certainly the friendliest and most helpful I have ever encountered - they couldn't do enough for us, and every aspect of our stay was honestly perfect.

The room was a fantastic size for our family, and the location of the hotel was brilliant - we were right beside a lovely little childrens play area much to Tyne's delight, and the London Designer Outlet was just a stones throw away meaning there were plenty of shops to browse and lots of lovely restaurants right on our door step too.

It was also just a 10 minute walk from the Underground and Overground railways, meaning it was very easy to travel wherever we wanted within the city.

We spent our first afternoon in London at a launch event, and by the time we arrived to the hotel we were all pretty tired of walking so we decided to have an evening of swimming in the hotel pool which Tyne really enjoyed - we don't get to take him swimming often because all of our local pools have 1:1 child/adult ratios for under 5s and we obviously have more children than that, so it was lovely for him to be able to enjoy some time in the pool with us.

The next day we decided to head off to Kidzania - somewhere that Tyne had been dying to visit for months!

Kidzania is inside Westfield Shopping Centre and is pretty easy to find - it's hard to describe exactly what Kidzania is but I'll do my's basically a mini-world/city where kids are in charge.

It's not a soft play or a play centre as such - it's made up of lots of individual places of work and children have the chance to take on various different roles to earn "Kidzos" - Kidzanias own currency.

There are TONS of jobs for children to choose from - they really are spoiled for choice! Tyne chose to work as a police officer first of course - he was briefed on his role in the Kidzania police station, and then went out on patrol with his fellow police officers. They headed around to the scene of an explosion where the Kidzania fire fighters and paramedics (all children doing their jobs also!) were hard at work, the police had the job of cordoning off the area and keeping the public safe. Tyne was absolutely in his element!

Once his role as a police officer was over and he'd been paid his 8 Kidzos for his time, he decided to try his hand at some other roles - during our four hour slot he worked as a surgeon....

 a dentist....

 a paramedic (where he got to ride in the real moving ambulance!)...

And a shop assistant! (He also worked in a hotel but we didn't manage to get any photos of this!)

In every job the children do, they earn Kidzos - they can go to the bank to deposit their money where it will earn interest, or they can just keep hold of it until they want to spend it.

There are various fun activities children can do which will cost them kidzos - such as having their face painted, trying their hand at making their own Cadbury chocolates, or playing football.

Tyne was far more interested in doing lots of different jobs, and at the end of his four time slot he chose to spend his hard earned kidzos in the department store where he could exchange them for various items - he chose a snap band!

We had a really fun time at Kidzania, although I have to say the queues were very long and it was difficult to keep a 4 year old happy for such a long time - we had to queue for around 20 minutes for each activity, and we did unfortunately witness quite a nasty altercation between two unhappy parents and a member of staff whilst standing in one queue which frightened Tyne quite a lot - but this was probably all down to visiting during the summer holidays, I think if we returned we'd try to do so during term time where possible.

Later that day, we headed into central London for a visit to Hamleys where Tyne had a lot of fun looking at the various displays and spending his pocket money from his grandparents!

The following day, we gave Tyne the choice of where to visit.

Of course, being so utterly obsessed with cops & robbers as he is - his first choice was to visit The Clink Prison Museum - a museum all about London's oldest prison and all of the gruesome punishments that went on there back in the day.

The museum was only small and it took us probably around half an hour to meander through it with a 4 year old in tow, but if we had the chance to stop and read everything in there (difficult to do with a child!) then we could have spent another hour or so there. As it was, it was the perfect length for Tyne's age as he didn't have chance to get bored.

Some aspects were a little bit gruesome and some children may be slightly spooked, but the goriest sight you will see is some severed dummy heads on sticks -everything else is pretty tame.

At the end of the museum, there was the opportunity to have your photo taken behind bars - this was totally free and you are given a ticket to enable you to download your photo online, which I thought was a great touch!

Another plus point to visiting The Clink was that it only cost £7.50 per adult, and children under 5 were free - there was also only the tiniest of gift shops (it was really just a counter..) with very little choice of things to tempt children, meaning that it didn't cost me an arm and a leg on the way out like it usually does at tourist attractions!

After our visit to The Clink, we headed to Buckingham Palace - I have been desperate to see inside the palace for absolutely years and when I found out that the State rooms were currently open for tours, I couldn't resist!

I'd booked our tickets online and I was pleased I did as the queues outside were huge, but they moved very quickly and we were inside within around 10 minutes.

We were given audio sets to listen to as we toured the palace, there were settings for adults or children which was great as the kids version kept Tyne entertained while I looked around.

There were 19 State Rooms to look around, and every room seemed more breathtaking than the next - I am a huge fan of the royal family, the queen in particular, and I have to admit - I cried when I first walked in! And again when I stepped into the Grand Ball was just absolutely spectacular.

The audio tour was full of interesting facts, but my favourite thing was just to find a quiet spot in each room and sit there taking it all in - imagining the people who had been inside that very room over the years.

There was a special memorial area dedicated to the memory of Princess Diana with items chosen by the Princes to represent her life - this again brought a tear to my eye when I noticed that she had scribbled her name in marker pen on one of the cassettes in her childhood music collection, something about that really brought the reality of her life and death home to me.

I only wish I'd been able to take photos or film inside as the rooms were just stunning to behold, but of course I understand the safety issues and the reason that photography is banned.

Once the tour was over, we spent a bit of time in the childrens area where Tyne had lots of fun playing dress up before heading to the Garden Cafe where we indulged in some delicious pastries and hot chocolates.

Tyne's favourite part of our visit to the Palace was standing outside and watching the guards on duty, ever since we got home he's talked about how much he wants to do that job when he's older!

The following day, after a quick visit to the stunning Hilton Park Lane for their Boss Baby Event, it was time to head off home.

We had such a wonderful time in the capital, and we are all looking forward to visiting again - it always feels that no matter how much time we spend in London there is always so much still to do!

What are your favourite places to visit with children in London?

As always, I'd love to hear from you!

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