We’ve tried out a lot of toddler activities over the past couple of years, but our
favourite way to spend the day is definitely outdoors somewhere wild (or as wild as London will allow), preferably mixing up some mud and doing something crafty with twigs. You know, the simple things. The trouble is the simple things seem to cost a lot of money, with some forest-school sessions causing panic attacks in the more financially challenged among us. Here are some nice ones we’ve been to that will allow your tiny tearaway to connect with nature on the cheap.
Little Green Fingers at the Calthorpe Project
This friendly stay-and-play session takes place in the early years garden where little ones can get involved with growing fruit and vegetables and feeding the birds, as well as doing indoor arts and crafts in the playroom. You’re free to explore the rest of the awesome community garden, which is full of cool play structures and treehouses, as well as a sunken garden, a mud kitchen, a cafe, books for sale, a fire pit, a wild garden and beehives. It’s a great organisation and a really imaginative place.
Monday 11am-3pm; £1.50 (free for families receiving benefits)
Grow Wild at Lloyd Park Children’s Centre
This adventure playground has been built as an addition to the children’s centre and we were blown away by it. It’s a magical, muddy paradise for toddlers, and every nook and cranny is crammed with loose parts and natural materials, mud kitchens and water play. It’s a completely unstructured session and the little ones really are free to be wild – leaping off palette towers, climbing the trees and play structures, painting anywhere and anything they like, hunting for frogs, chilling in one of the many dens or throwing themselves down the nerve-shatteringly fast tunnel slide.
Tuesday 9.45-11.15am and Friday 1-2.30pm; £2
Garden Explorers at Kentish Town City Farm This is a lovely little city farm populated by goats, pigs, sheep, chickens and a whole load of hoofed friends. Little ones are put to work in the garden (which isn’t otherwise open to visitors), helping to sow seeds and tend to the plants, as well as getting involved in creative natural art activities. It’s all led by the wonderful Trish, who’s great with the toddlers.
Tuesday 10am-12pm; free
Wee Woodland Wanderers at Haggerston Park
Haggerston Park contains a cute little woodland area with a stumpery and a wild
pond, and it’s here you can meet the lovely Claira and her cart full of delights. Explore the area together, collecting things to use for crafts – such as painting with natural materials, and making bird feeders, land art and stick dolls. Bring some food and hang out with everybody afterwards for a picnic.
Tuesday 10-11am; £3
Forest School Foragers at Oasis Play Nature Garden
This takes place in an incredible garden full of wild areas and play structures. There are ride-ons, a mud kitchen, a sandpit, tree houses, a little climbing wall, a slide and a million other exciting things to entice your toddler away from the session itself, in which they’ll play games before gathering ingredients from the garden and using them to make something to eat together. You’re also invited to harvest yourself some goodies from the lush herb garden.
Tuesday 10-11.30am; £2 suggested donation
Family Forest School at Lollard Street Adventure Playground
A big favourite of ours, this session gives toddlers the chance to run riot in a massive adventure playground that’s usually only open to older kids. There’s a huge play structure, a car, a football pitch, a boat, a sandpit and a garden full of plants for the little ones to water. There are also outdoor activities from Nature Vibezzz on offer, including clay modelling, camp fires and a load of other stuff I never get the chance to see because my toddler is always more interested in performing death-defying stunts on ladders.
Wednesday 10am-12pm; free
Nature Club at Sunnyside Community Gardens
This relaxed session is run by local forest-school leader Nadine. Explore the garden
together, learn about the wildlife you find and join in with activities such as bug
hunts, potion making and stories. The garden is also home to a wonderful tree that’s the perfect size for toddlers to climb.
Friday 10am-12pm; free
Sprog explores the treehouse at Forest School Foragers, Oasis Play Nature Garden