What?: The country’s largest collection of sea-themed stuff, all housed in a lovely light and airy space overlooking Greenwich’s beautiful park and Royal Observatory. As well as offering two hands-on galleries for 0-12s, this place is bursting with things for kids to see and do, from The Great Map, an interactive digital/analogue attraction designed to introduce the museum’s stories to young people, to its outdoor play fountain and term-time Play Tuesdays programme of trails, arty workshops, songs and stories. Definitely one of the most child-friendly museums you’ll find in London.
Where?: Greenwich, five minutes from Cutty Sark DLR, 12 minutes from Greenwich DLR and mainline stations, and eight minutes from Greenwich Pier where you can catch the Thames Clipper. We got the boat there in the hope that it might placate the angry small person but if anything it just made her worse, so we got the DLR home.
Facilities: Baby changing on most floors, though probably not enough for the number of babies that come here on a weekend. We visited on a Sunday and had to queue for 15 minutes outside the only baby-change room on the ground floor with a very cross, pooey child, which was stressful. Several cafes offering child-friendly fare, though we didn’t eat here so not sure what exactly; Ahoy! gallery for 0-7s and All Hands gallery for 6-12s; buggy park; step-free access; good shop selling kids’ clothes, books and toys.
Best Bits: Ahoy! is open all day every day, with no limit on numbers or play duration. Highlights include a child-sized fishmongers complete with stripy aprons and an impressive variety of plastic fish, a net-enclosed sensory area with colour-change lighting, an air-hockey game featuring foam boats, plus house ship Rawalpinidi with its protruding bow to clamber on and a maze of wood-panelled rooms to explore below-deck.
Worst Bits: Ahoy! was great and kept Bab entertained until chucking-out time, but a few more baby-friendly activities wouldn’t have gone amiss – I mean for a start where the hell was the bloody water table? Isn’t this supposed to be a maritime museum?! One of the blokes working there had very sinister hair which was potentially quite frightening for under-5s and Bab Dad overheard another member of staff telling a little girl off for playing with some plastic fruit because she’d “just spent half an hour tidying it”, which is pretty bonkers.
Cost: Free with a £3 suggested donation, which we paid because we were still feeling guilty about not donating to the Museum of London Docklands the day before.
Would We Come Back?: I like Greenwich so perhaps the next time we visit we’ll pop into Ahoy! if Bab’s getting fractious. I wouldn’t make a special trip just to hang out there though.
Bab plays in the Ahoy! children’s gallery at the National Maritime Museum