What?: We couldn’t work out if this was meant to be part of the Museum of London but in the Docklands or the museum of the London Docklands. It turns out it’s both, so that’s that mystery solved. I’d been to the Docklands roughly twice in my entire life and wasn’t even aware that this museum existed before I started poking around for Bab-friendly activities, which is sad because it’s such a great little museum, particularly for kids, and apparently very underrated and under-advertised. It made a nice change to learn about something we had absolutely zero knowledge of rather than traipsing round the British Museum’s Egyptian galleries gawking at mummified cats for the thousandth time. Although to be fair this museum had a mummified cat too. You can’t beat a mummified cat.
Where?: The museum is housed in an original Docklands warehouse built in the early 19th century. Parked on a picturesque quayside, it’s just a few minutes’ walk from Westferry, West India Quay and Canary Wharf DLR stations and Canary Wharf tube (Jubilee). If possible I really recommend getting the DLR, which is absolute heaven with a buggy thanks to its almost entirely step-free access and great for distracting despotic children who will have a field day pretending they’re the driver – just make sure to nab the very front seats.
Facilities: Baby changing on three of the five floors; cafe with high-chairs and pirate-themed pick-‘n’-mix lunch boxes for kids; bar and restaurant with childrens’ menu; step-free access to all galleries; engaging kids’ information boards placed at small-person eye level throughout the museum; kids’ activities dotted around, including tables set up with paper and crayons, train sets and sensory games; small, slightly average shop.
Best Bits: The fantastic Mudlarks gallery is designed to introduce under-8s to the themes covered in the wider museum, and features a multi-level soft-play area, a building zone with giant Lego, a Docklands train set and a water-play table, amongst other activities. We made the rookie mistake of showing Bab the water table early on in our session and then she didn’t want to do anything else. We kept trying to interest her in other things but she just crawled around weeping and looking for water.
Worst Bits: You can only stay in the Mudlarks gallery for 40 minutes before you have to leave and let other kids have a go, which is a bit annoying but in fairness there would probably be full-scale anarchy if there wasn’t some sort of system. Another not-so-great thing is the presence of uneven original floorboards throughout the museum, which poses a bit of a hazard for crawlers and meant once our Mudlarks session had ended we had to put up with wheeling a very grumpy incarcerated baby around for the rest of the day. It would be absolutely fine for slightly older ones though.
Cost: Free, with a suggested £5 donation. We did not donate. We are terrible people.
Would We Come Back?: If we lived nearby we would basically live here but it’s a bit of a mission for the sake of spending 40 minutes crouching in a puddle of water while Bab dips her hand into a chlorinated tray full of plastic boats.
Bab plays in the Mudlarks children’s gallery at Museum of London Docklands