The Museum of Childhood is now closed for a major revamp.
What?: Wide-eyed younger sibling of South Kensington’s Victoria & Albert Museum, dedicated to the memory of life before responsibility and despair. On show is a barrage of nostalgic chintz that will make you wonder how the hell you ended up here in 2017 with a child of your own and why you’re not round your next-door neighbour’s house in 1993 with her four-year-old brother throwing the Mouse Trap board at the cat because he lost and “it’s a stupid game anyway”.
Meanwhile your modern-day children probably don’t give a toss about Beanie Babies or Pogs or any of the other shit you used to play with when you were little, but there’s more than enough stuff to keep them occupied while you work through your existential crisis, including a sensory pod with colour-change lighting and a tactile wall, a fenced-off baby area with giant musical flowers, an indoor sand pit and a well-stocked library area. Should your kids actually take an interest in the antiquated relics of your childhood, everything is displayed in floor-standing cabinets so it’s at eye level even if it’s got to the point in the day where they’re just rolling around on the floor frothing at the mouth.
Where?: The museum sits directly opposite Bethnal Green tube station (Central) but I wouldn’t recommend using it unless you possess a) an extra adult or b) a death wish. I once fell down the steps at Bethnal Green tube with a suitcase and it really hurt. Let that be a lesson to you. Anyway, Shoreditch High Street and Hoxton (Ginger) stations are both just a 25-minute walk away and have lovely lifts. And if you really must get the tube, Liverpool Street and Mile End stations are reasonably close and both have ok lifts.
Facilities: Step-free access; nice cafe with high chairs and healthy ‘pick-and-mix’ kids’ lunches; shop selling beautiful design-led toys and children’s books; Quiet Room with baby-changing and bottle-warming facilities plus en-suite family-sized loo for synchronised pooing; baby-changing in both the women’s and men’s toilet (this is really progressive and great and everything but the last time we came here I saw the baby-change symbol on the men’s loos first, assumed that those were the only facilities and proceeded to change poor Bab’s nappy inches from three blokes with their knobs out. And nobody stopped me).
Best Bits: The museum essentially turns into a giant creche during the week, which sounds hellish but it’s actually really nice to be somewhere cultural and interesting hanging out with your baby and other nice arty East London parents and their babies, playing with Victorian child shoes and watching the pretty lights.
Worst Bits: My latte was too strong and the lift smelt of poo.
Cost: Free, with a suggested £3 donation. We didn’t donate because I’m trying to economise. Then I spent £50 on plants on the way home.
Would We Come Back?: A resounding yes.
Bab plays in the baby area at V&A Museum of Childhood