Mayfield Lavender, Banstead, Surrey

What you have here are fields of lavender – it’s not a pick your own kind of place, but it’s lovely to wander and take photos and have your kids run around (watch out for bees and nettles though).

It’s free entry and there’s plenty of parking – there’s a small refreshment area and shop towards the entrance which has plenty of lavender bundles you can buy at a very reasonable £3.50 each.

Don’t forget to take sunhats, cream and water on a hot day – there’s very little shade!

http://www.mayfieldlavender.com/

Wakehurst Place

We’re National Trust members (you can get a very very good deal via Quidco) and often visit Wakehurst Place – for free entrance you can be a National Trust or Kew member.

For this you get acres of green to walk around (and hills too, there’s some very buggy unfriendly ones, but we did it!), lots of plants, flowers and trees.

We’d not spotted them before, but there’s a few areas which are marked with an asterisk (on the map) which are designed for younger visitors, H being almost two enjoyed two of the ones we went to.

There’s also two cafe’s, both very child-friendly. There’s changing, and the whole area is pretty much safe for a child to run around (beware, there are ponds and a lake though), as well as plenty of ducks.

The shop at the end is also good space wise to get your buggy round!

Cheam Park, Cheam

This park is a good large space, though disappointingly a lot of the playground equipment seemed geared towards older children.

There’s plenty of swings for the young ones, mini see-saw’s, and a large one and a Fire Engine they can climb inside, and slide down – but the best bit of all has to be the enormous sandpit.

Previously a paddling pool, it’s huge, with a little hut in the middle.

H loved running around, but I found she was more attracted to the rides which were a bit too old for her.

Bonus – the car park right next to the park is free.

Lady Neville Play Area, Banstead

This park is situated to the rear of the new Waitrose store. Facility-wise there’s a large cafe (complete with acoustic guitar playing this afternoon), and plenty of space to sit down and have some refreshments, as well as Ikea highchairs for your kids.

In the play area itself the majority of the playground equipment is for older kids (H is almost 2 now), but there’s some swings for really small children (that don’t swing too much), as well as two similar ones which go a bit higher. H’s favourite bit was a climbing frame which is pretty child-friendly, but has good climbing support and a slide on it – perfect for the 2-4 age range, I think – something most parks around here are lacking!

The biggest downside is that there’s nowhere with any shade within the play area – generally not a problem for most of the year, but today was a really hot one, there is a large grassy area which has shade outside the park which is great space for the kids to run around.

There’s also a younger child friendly climbing wall (but I’d not recommend them doing it on their own!).

Beanies, Croydon

‘Beanies’ is a play centre/cafe in central Croydon, on the site of the old Beanos record store. On the ground floor is a cafe area, but if you want to go up to the play area on the first floor there is also waiter service. They give you a wristband which acts as a tab you then settle on leaving. They also hire out their top floor to other ‘organisations’ that offer music, dance, drama and even yoga classes etc.
Pros: The staff are very friendly, it was set up by mums with young children. The cafe does a wide range of sandwiches, paninis, cakes and drinks. There are lots of toys and dressing up costumes for babies and toddlers. They sometimes offer painting and other arts & crafts activities. There is no restriction on length of stay.
Cons: Personally, I found £5 entrance to the play area a bit expensive considering the toys are not dissimilar to what is provided at our local Sure Start Centres (which are free) and toddler groups. There was no soft play area, which I had expected it to have. The food and drink prices are comparable to typical cafes and coffee shops, whereas another play centre I know in Addiscombe only charges @ 50p for kids sandwiches.

If it was cheaper, we might go more frequently as a treat after shopping. However, for us there are cheaper, more local, places with soft play climbing areas that we would prefer to go.

Vines Bar & Grill, Carshalton

This place has only just opened, although (and this is a guess) is probably owned by the people who had the Greek Taverna in Carshalton – which is now closed.

There’s good buggy access, and already some good deals – buy a coffee and get a free croissant, buy a meal and get your child’s one free. The menu is a good selection of regular and meditteranean foods, and a good selection of vegetarian meals.

The downside – at this point there’s no baby changing, although the man I spoke to said they’re converting an office, so that will happen soon.

There’s also an outdoor area at the back.

Although I’ve not dined here, it looks good, it’s reasonably priced, and definitely worth checking out. Open now (just!)

 

Hooky Knitters Carshalton

Rachel started the Hooky Knitters group way back in the summer of 2011. We met every couple of weeks until Rachel went and moved to Exeter. We miss her!

We still meet though – around the middle of the month, just once a month, still at The Sun in Carshalton. Head over to our Facebook Group for more information.

The Hub @ Tooting & Mitcham Football Club

This is a soft play area which is well worth a visit. It’s £4 for a single child and I pay £6 for my two (age 6years & 20months June 2011) This is for a two hour session and it closes at 6pm.
The “playzone” for children is in the style of a ship. There is a dedicated area for the under fours however the sides are very low and my 20month old climbs out to get into the big kids bit.
It’s on two levels, with slides, playballs and various knock about bits you expect to find in soft play.
The area is generally quite clean although the only baby changing area is in the disabled toilet, and sometimes that’s not working or a bit smelly. The adult toilets are in good condition and have always had a supply of toilet paper & soap.
They serve hot and cold food. We’ve had the hot food a few times and I’ve always been more than happy with the service and quality of food. Kids portions are huge! Tea & coffee is very reasonable and I might note; drinkable. They have a range of snacks and drinks available for the kids and do ask that you don’t bring your own food. They have about 5 ikea high chairs for the smaller ones.
It’s hard to determine how busy it gets. I’ve been on days where it’s rammed out and you can’t get a seat and I’ve been on days when we’ve been the only family in there.
For older children, across the hall from the “playzone” is the “challenge zone” this is a high up soft area for climbing. My 6 year old is tall and finds some of it a bit difficult.
All in all, a good place to go on a rainy day to burn up some energy or to meet your Mummy friends and have a coffee.

The East Hill, Wandsworth

Located on Alma Road in Wandsworth, The East Hill is a Geronimo pub, we’ve been to a couple, and they’re definitely child-friendly.

The general rule is no children after 7pm, but before then you’ll find parents, families, kids, pets – there’s enough space so you can have your buggy by your table, and there’s enough child seats your little one will have somewhere to sit (they use this kind).

I’ve not seen a child menu there, although the side dishes are cheap enough you could get away with those.

Baby-changing wise, the toilets are just plain weird. You go through one door, and within are four or five cubicles – so you’re sharing sink space with everyone – you just have your own privacy beyond the door. I’ve not actually tried taking a buggy in the loos, so we’ll come back to that one.

 

Debenhams, Sutton

Let’s be honest. Debenhams in Sutton is showing its age. From the grubby changing rooms to the consistently broken down escalators and smelly lift, signs of wear and tear abound. So it’s safe to say I didn’t hold much hope for the child-friendliness of the ‘restaurant’ (we’ll call it a cafe for this review).

Don’t be fooled! The cafe is a perfectly acceptable place to feed your baby / toddler and had a few surprising touches. First of all, there is SPACE! And plenty of it. No need to squeeze my postnatal belly and buggy here (yes, Starbucks Sutton, I am referring to you). Enough space for your pushchair or double buggy even. Then there are the highchairs – bassinette style for newbies and good old standard wooden seats for the toddlers. And the safety straps are intact – mostly.

So, once you have unloaded your luggage and baby and strapped them in, you can make use of the ‘At Your Own Risk’ microwave. It’s super powerful, nuking baby food (I sneak my own in but there is a limited selection of children’s food available to buy, including innocent smoothies and annabel karmel ready meals) in minutes. The food area is clean, the microwave doesn’t pong and they even provide small food cartons (with lids) for you to heat and serve food. Handy if, like me, you forget/drop/melt your Boots baby food bowl and lid.

Helpfully, there are disposable bibs, individual wet wipes in sachets and plenty of napkins.

The food might not be all that, and the cafe staff aren’t that friendly, but just have a coffee and a sandwich and be thankful that baby is fed and might just drop off in the buggy afterwards while you browse the clothes. Be warned that the shopfloor is not as accommodating as the cafe in terms of space, so mummies, drive buggies carefully to avoid the tutting staff.