The world of ‘mummy-and-me’ activities can be a complete minefield when you’re a first-time parent, and it’s far too easy to get sucked into the monotony of generic (and, in our experience, pretty shit) children’s centre classes and stay-and-plays courtesy of a well-meaning health visitor. Before you know it your mat/pat leave has deserted you and you’re back at work, wishing you’d filled those precious weeks with something rather more exciting than daily park outings, trips to the local soft play and twice-weekly rhyme time drop-ins. So don’t be a drab dad or a humdrum mum; check out our edit of the coolest things to do with your littlest of Londoners, from catching the latest releases together to getting pissed together (…sort of), plus toddler-friendly alternatives for when they’ve outgrown them. Happy hanging!
- Of all the activities I wish we’d done more when Bab was still tiny, baby cinema is the one I yearn for the most. Cinemas including Odeon, Picturehouse, Vue and the Barbican offer special parent-and-baby showings of a selection of their films – many wonderfully un-child-friendly – but my favourite is Everyman, where a hot drink and cake is included in the price and hand-delivered to your own personal sofa. And when they’re too old for that: Picturehouse runs Toddler Time sessions for preschoolers, though don’t expect to catch the latest psychological thriller.
- Another thing I lament is not getting more exercise when Bab was still essentially a flailing sack of spuds who would have happily laid on a mat gurgling while I downward dogged around her. Baby yoga classes are two a penny in the capital, but I recommend The Life Centre with its lovely, chilled studios and gentle programme. And when they’re too old for that: The Life Centre also runs an absolutely brilliant mums* and toddlers class for tinies aged 10 months to four years.
- At the end of each month, Bottle Apostle hosts mums’* wine-tasting events at five of its London shops, complete with light snacks and baby toys. There are no age restrictions where little ones are concerned, though Bab was pretty mobile when we visited and the words ‘bull’, ‘china’ and ‘shop’ sprung to mind more than once. And when they’re too old for that: Brockley pub Jam Circus has soft play every Friday from 11am to 4pm, so they can make merry while you get merry.
- Need a good laugh? If you’re less than 12 months post-partum the chances are you do (even if that means wetting yourself a bit in the process). We missed the baby stand-up boat, but if I could do it all again I’d be eagerly signing up for a Screaming With Laughter or Bring Your Own Baby Comedy gig for people with under-ones. And when they’re too old for that: as far as I know there’s no stand-up for toddlers, but Soho Theatre runs a Saturday Comedy Club 4 Kids aged six and up.
- Dubbed the ‘TED talks of the parenting world’, Mindr‘s lectures for those with tiny human appendages aim to expand your mind while your baby expands its nappy. There’s no age limit but they’re best enjoyed with stationary infants since they’re hard to follow when you’re simultaneously chasing after a hypermobile minibeast. And when they’re too old for that: Tomato Tutors‘ Montessori classes for 2-4s encourage children to be independent, intrinsically motivated critical thinkers.
- Whitechapel Gallery‘s guided Crib Notes tours might be aimed at parents and carers with children under four but they’re a million times easier to engage with when your companion is a small and sleepy sling-dweller as opposed to a hyperactive, calamitous two year old to whom the words “don’t touch” translate as “please lick”. And when they’re too old for that: Parasol Unit‘s brilliant Project Light sessions for under-5s are as interactive as art classes get, with touching actively encouraged.
- Flying Fantastic‘s Mum* and Baby Aerial classes are without doubt one of the most thrilling things you will do with your baby. These challenging sessions are aimed at mums with tots under 18 months and focus on giving you a good workout while the life limpets chill on a mat – though there’s plenty of time for baby flying at the end. And when they’re too old for that: Flying Fantastic also runs a free-flow, toddler-focused Mini Flyers session for ages 2-4, complete with singing and dancing.
*I have no idea why these places specify that their classes are for mums only, but I’m sure they’d be open to dads popping along too if you asked nicely.
Bab hangs out in her buggy at Craig & Karl’s ‘Hereafter’, White City.