Lose track of time in the brilliant ball-pit basement at ABC Studio

ABC Studio is now permanently closed.

What?: Pint-sized indie play centre whose main draw is its bright green, padded, plastic ball-filled lower-ground floor. Imagine your mum/dad mate has sacrificed the bottom two storeys and back yard of their mid-terrace for their kids’ amusement and that’s basically what you have here. It’s bloody tiny but, provided you pick your moment, it beats Eddie Catz, Gambado and every other warehouse-based play hell hands down with its playroom/soft play/ride-on garden combo and chilled vibe – just don’t rock up here on a rainy Monday morning during half term because you can bet your bottom dollar you will want to hurl yourself down the (gated) spiral staircase and drown yourself in the ball pit.

We went on a sunny term-time afternoon an hour before close and there were only three other kids there, which was perfect, although I’d suggest going a bit earlier than we did as your money buys you a two-hour play session. On arrival the relaxed and friendly owner explained how everything worked before leaving us to it, and we started with a play-food tea party in the ground-floor playroom before Bab soon spotted the ride-ons and dragged me through to the garden. The garden, by the way, is particularly tiny and there’s barely room to do a u-turn in the Cozy Coupe, so don’t expect to spend particularly long out there unless your child is cool with doing a lot of reversing.

While the playroom is pleasant enough with its house-shaped wooden bookshelves, monochrome foam tiles and a few absolute gems including a Playmobil house, the real jewel in ABC’s crown is its ball-pit basement, which is admittedly somewhat greener than I’m completely comfortable with and whose ball situation would be better described as a light sprinkling than a full-on pit, but this is still, let’s face it, a room whose floor is totally covered in plastic balls – and where else in London can you find that? The basement is particularly great for babies – one of whom was having a full-on sensory overload when we went down there – and toddlers will love hurling themselves off the squishy slide and into the sea of primary-hued spheres. Just watch out for the slightly precarious staircase (the baby gate takes some faffing with) and you’ll be fine.

Where?: 39 David’s Road, Forest Hill – just a three-minute walk from Forest Hill Overground/mainline station.

Best Bits: A chilled, friendly atmosphere and something a bit different for when you’ve exhausted every other rainy-day option.

Worst Bits: It’s tiny – but if and when you get bored there’s always the beautiful Smallprint Books next door, whose chill-out space should guarantee you another half hour or so of quiet play.

Facilities: Baby change, buggy park outside, drinks menu.

Price: £3.95 per child, £2.95 per additional sibling and £1 for babies aged 0-6 months.

Would We Come Back?: Yes. This will probably now be a thing we do after visits to the Horniman.


Babu floats on a sea of balls at ABC Studio, Forest Hill.