Looking for something fun (and free!) to do at the weekend or over half term with your little ones? Blogger and parent Emmy Watts from Bablands shares some of her best alternative playgrounds across London.
Bored of traditional playgrounds?
It can be hard to enthuse about the lacklustre swings-and-a-slide situation found in most local play parks, particularly when it’s your fourth visit that week. Thankfully London is home to a wealth of exciting spaces filled with inventive, challenging equipment designed to boost children’s creativity and fuel imaginative play. Here are some favourites.
1. Astey’s Row Playground, Islington
A colourfully painted ‘boulderscape’ and an unusually elongated shape makes this recently renovated Essex Road playground stand out from the crowd. But it's not all about looks: the approaches to both of its slides – one on either end of the space – are genuinely challenging, as is the interesting-looking climbing frame. Other fun features include a bug hotel, water play and adjoining rock garden.
2. RAF Museum Playground, Colindale
It might be tucked up in the farthest reaches of the Northern Line, but the RAF Museum's military logistics-themed playground is easily one of the capital’s most imaginative play areas with its yellow helicopter tree house, pair of warplane slides, a funhouse built as a replica of one of the museum's oldest buildings, and lots of planes and cars to commandeer. It’s worth a visit to the museum just for this to be honest.
3. Biodiversity Playground, Stratford
Otherwise known as The Pond, Stratford’s Biodiversity Playground is, for shame, Danish playground design master Monstrum’s only UK site. Tucked behind Westfield shopping centre, this pond life-themed, blue-tarmacked beauty truly is one of a kind, boasting springy lily pads to bounce on, giant paper boats to clamber through and – the pièce de résistance – a huge orange koi slide with a hollowed-out belly.
4. Elephant Park, Elephant and Castle
Sitting pretty on the site of the old Heygate Estate, this hidden treasure might be relatively temporary, having been built around the hoarding that surrounds a building site, but that’s all the more reason to check it out before the new development is completed. Expect tube slides, sandpits, tyre tunnels, telescopes, hidden dens, swings, sand hoists and balance beams, all finished with a super-cool geometric wall mural.
5. The Children’s Garden, Kew
You’ll need to splash out on tickets to Kew to access this elements-themed playground, but it’s worth it. Split into four zones with an incredible treetop walkway in the middle, this botanical beauty features ‘wormhole’ tube slides, giant ‘pollen’ spheres, a stream and splash pool complete with stepping stones, a forest of ‘windflowers’ and a sun tunnel, all set within acres of landscaped gardens.
6. The Magic Garden, Hampton Court
Access to this myths and legends-themed playground is free with entry to Hampton Court Palace, but it can also be visited separately for a fee. The red-eyed dragon and pair of play palaces are what this place is known for, but there are so many hidden delights here: think secret pathways leading to concealed dens, undulating hills that mask tunnel slides, and plenty of otherworldly creatures to meet along the way.
7. Paddington Recreation Ground, Maida Vale
Probably the most underrated playground in London, this Maida Vale treasure is actually a two-for-one deal. There’s the little ones area encompassing a shipwreck climbing frame and a row of pastel townhouses concealing a slide behind their façades, and the more challenging adventure playground with its network of wobbly walkways. What’s more, the two are connected via an ingenious bridge system.
8. Holland Park Adventure Playground
Drawing inspiration from the park’s nearby Kyoto Garden, this sprawling beauty of a playground is packed with unusual structures and natural materials, blending with its surroundings whilst providing an awesome place to play for all ages. Highlights include the circular hill-coaster apparatus and fishing tower play feature, which both manage to be visually stunning as well as offering countless opportunities for play.
9. Marylebone Green Playground, Regent’s Park
It feels as though the Gloucester Gate Playground upgrade is all anyone’s talking about right now, but until that’s complete the popular Marylebone Green can hold onto its ‘best playground in Regents Park’ crown. While parts of the park’s southeastern play spot are beginning to look tired, the famous concrete slide structure still looks fresh, and the playground’s water-play area remains one of London’s best.
10. Kilburn Grange Adventurous Children’s Playground, Kilburn
Blending in with its leafy surroundings, this brilliantly named playground might appear as though it's been haphazardly cobbled together from logs sourced from the park, but it’s as sturdy as they come. Broadly aimed at under-14s and more accessible to toddlers than it looks, this brand new construction comprises a huge climbing apparatus as well as a stand-up seesaw, hammocks and some super-long swings.
Many thanks to Emmy for her suggestions, you can find more fun things to do over on her Instagram account @bablands.london. Have you got any secret playgrounds or places in London that you love? Share your tips on Instagram or Facebook using #KoruKids now!
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