What?: A museum documenting the history of humans doing unspeakably horrible things to each other might not be your first choice for a fun day out with an infant, but this one probably should be – and here’s why. IWM London is huge – like, mahoosive – and footfall is relatively low compared with, say, the Natural History Museum (which, by the way, is the worst place in London to take an under-five). To be honest I feel like running space and crowd control alone are enough to make this museum toddler-friendly – screw the potentially terrifying subject matter – but there’s actually a whole bunch of reasons why you should bring your kid here.
First there’s the all-important basics – free, secure buggy parking and lockers. In fact these two things are seemingly so basic that most museums forget about them altogether. People with kids – particularly those who aren’t earning and spend their lives chasing their offspring around museums – don’t want to shell out £5 for the privilege of having somewhere to put their stuff while they do so. Personally I’m much more likely to spend extra on cake in the cafe or bits in the gift shop if I haven’t had to spend all my pocket money on logistics, but that’s just me. Speaking of the cafe and gift shop, the lush Peyton & Byrne restaurant is brilliantly child-friendly, offering plenty of high chairs and tiny-person treats (although when Bab tried to “buy a coffee” she was told she needed to get in the queue… which I thought was a bit harsh. I mean she didn’t actually want to buy a coffee), and the gift shop is pretty decent, with lots of cute things for kids to faff with.
The museum itself is well arranged for running around like a headless chicken. The space is open-plan and the brilliant (but obviously quite harrowing) Holocaust exhibition is tucked away on one of the upper floors out of wandering distance, with a minimum entry age of 14. Many of the exhibits are hands-on and set up with little ones in mind, and everything that’s too delicate for even tiny hands is – fairly ineffectively in some places (my friend’s kid ploughed into a massive piece of rusty metal when the solitary bit of rope surrounding it was insufficient to break his fall) – fenced off. The central atrium with its hanging war planes is visible from all galleries and is great for quelling tantrums (which might happen quite a lot given how knackered they’ll getting running around this place).
Where?: IWM London is on Lambeth Road and a seven-minute walk from Lambeth North, 10 from Elephant & Castle and 13 from Waterloo.
Best Bits: Is it really sad if I say the free lockable buggy park? Because yeah, that. I also really love the A Family in Wartime exhibition, which tells the story of a family of 12 who lived round the corner from the site of the museum whose house was bombed in the Blitz. It’s got lots of interactive bits including audio accounts from the family and an Anderson bomb shelter you can climb into.
Worst Bits: The model depicting a nuclear holocaust victim is pretty grim viewing, even for an adult.
Price: Free, with suggested £5 donation.
Facilities: Lockers, secure buggy parking, step-free access, baby changing, cafe with highchairs.
Would We Come Back?: Yes.
Babu poses with the big guns at IWM London, Southwark.