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So it’s an early morning on the weekend. Perhaps you’re a little precious after the drinking antics of the night before and you’re hoping to remain, slug like, in the comfort of your bed, at least until the afternoon. But energetic children don’t seem to experience this same magnetism to their duvet and are regrettably often jumping on your pounding head before you’ve managed to adjust your eyes to the return of daylight. Without an off-switch, or removable batteries, there is a strong temptation to prop their eager little faces in front of an ipad and watch the Teletubbies work their magic. However, as we know well, exploratory play and interaction with nature is crucial for a child’s development, and let’s face it, the fresh air and sunshine will be as beneficial to you as it is to your little Duracel bunny. Here is a list of the best park playgrounds in London for your child to enjoy, and the best thing about a park, of course, is that it’s free!
Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Park Playground, Knightsbridge
With structures inspired by J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan it’s suitable for children under 12, or those who never want to grow up. A giant sea monster, swing set, turtle drum, storyteller chair, tree carvings, tepees, tree-house, ladders and slides will transform your children into the Lost Boys of Neverland. New equipment has recently been installed, designed for people with special needs. Toilets and baby-changing facilities are conveniently nearby, and there is a cafe serving cakes and sandwiches at reasonable rates. The playground can get very busy on weekends with sunshine, giving you a chance to reenact “Where’s Wally” with your child.
Regent’s Park Playground, Regent’s Park
Regent’s park sees a huge amount of summer food and music festivals, is home to the London Zoo, and beds a beautiful garden of more than 30,000 roses. There are several playgrounds in the park, the best of which is at Hanover Gate. On the backdrop of the boating lake and built within a gigantic sand pit is a timber tree house, providing plenty of climbing challenges for adventurous kids. There is also a more traditional playground, next to this one, with slides, swings; the whole shebang. The Garden Cafe is nearby for brunch or tea and Ice-cream stands open up during the summer months.
Coram’s Fields, Kings Cross
A giant sandpit, an array of climbing frames, sea saws and nest style swings are a toddler’s heaven, adjacent to which is the older adventure playground with a zip wire, tunnel slide and an abundance of climbing contraptions. City farm is within the park and includes goats, chickens, rabbits and birds.
Finsbury Park Playground, Finsbury Park
Nestled within the 112 acre park, the playground consists of slides, sandpits, tricky climbing frames, aerial walkways, ramps and ladders, and is set to the beautiful backdrop of the boating lake where you can spot ducks and swans. There’s a small skatepark nearby which is great viewing for younger kids and a brilliant outlet for older children if they’ve got the skill.
Clissold Park, Hackney
The playground, set in the 54 acre park, is essentially an enormous sandpit docking a shipwreck, climbing frames, toddler swings and most impressively a zip wire. The nearby Clisshold House cafe is a great pitstop for paninis and even a Sunday Roast! There is a table tennis and basketball area to entertain the older children, and deer, goats and an avery to amuse the whole family.
Battersea Park, Battersea
With both a Toddler’s Playground and an Adventure Playground for up to 16 years, Battersea Park is a great choice for anyone trying to entertain a range of age groups. The Toddler’s area plays station to a fun train (great for imaginative play), a pirate ship, swings and other contraptions. The older kids can get busy mounting climbing frames and nets and monkey around on the trapeze bars and other great fixtures. Next to the free playgrounds is a new tree-based climbing obstacle course called “Go Ape”. Unfortunately this has a staggering entry fee, but the other playgrounds should be more than enough to keep the attentions of the kids from wandering. The park itself has lots of space to run, cycle and rollerblade around and there is also a boating lake, zoo and crazy golf course.
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford
This park is a hub for children on wheels of all sizes, with a BMX and mountain bike trail and lots of wide pathways. Amidst the hustle and bustle is the Tumbling Bay Playground; a brilliant workspace for budding sandpit diggers, den builders and treetop wanderers. Timber Lodge Cafe is burrowed amidst the greenery within view of the playground so parents can relax over a coffee and ice-cream and waffle desserts while their children discover the playground’s adventures. There are also giant red rocks, challenging climbing walls, supersized swings and turbulent fountains to splash around in. On your visit you’ll also wander past the park’s meadows and fields, beautiful gardens and the River Lea, which runs straight through its centre.
Mile End Playground, Tower Hamlets
The park itself meanders along the Regent’s Canal. An imaginative sand filled playground, docking a boat and bridges, outdoor musical instruments, water fountains, climbing castles. A neighbouring older kids’ playground provides plenty of challenging climbing facilities and nest style swings. A small cafe next to the playgrounds sells snacks and nibbles. There is free parking available next to the park on Burdett Road.
Holland Park, Kensington
Spread over 55 acres the park houses a stunning Kyto Garden; a Japanese Garden with a koi pond, waterfalls and bridges. The adventure playground has every climbing and swinging apparatus imaginable and is designed for slightly older kids, but there is also a toddler friendly play area next door. Children and adults can get a great buzz from the friendly peacocks that wander through the park.
Avondale Park, Notting Hill
The playground here was regenerated in 2005 and now caters for children up to 14 years old and has a separate area for toddlers. A solar panelled spider-shaped ‘PlayAlive’ installation powers different games within the playground, such as an interactive “intelligent gym”. Also within the playground are the more traditional logs, mounds, wood tunnels, boulders and a huge sand pit. Changing facilities, public toilets and a food kiosk are just a short walk away.