As a general rule, and having grown up in t’country, I do find the city farms to be a bit depressing. But, that aside, my bab is such a city girl already that it is quite nice to take her to visit actual animals (cue shocked baby face and loud screaming) and teach her to make clucking noises at the chickens. Indeed, chickens do make up a large proportion of the animals on the farm, as well as a couple of hilarious pigeons who have managed to get into the enclosure and now live a fine life with free food, shelter and feathery lady friends.
There are also goats, cows, some sheep, and rabbits, guinea pigs, geese and ducks. The half of me that is ‘country’ has to turn a blind eye to the small pens, but they are well-bedded with straw and look pretty comfortable. However, it would be nice to see the animals out and about in the back field more often. In the spring and summer, the flower beds look and smell fantastic, and at Easter the farm run a really delightful day of stalls and activities, with opportunities to pet the animals.
The set up is good for kids, with loos on site, sinks to scrub hands and antibacterial handwash stations, and there is a small cafe serving basics such as tea and soup. Freightliners is not exactly a big day out, but it’s a lovely addition to Paradise Park, and good for a stop off on the way home or as part of a bigger trip to the park.
Location: Freightliners Farm, Sheringham Road, N7
Opening hours:10-4.45 (Closes earlier in Autumn and Winter), Tuesday – Sunday
Getting there: a ten minute walk from Highbury and Islington or Holloway Road tube, or a five minute walk from the 153 bus stop on Mackenzie Road.
I have linked this post up with the ‘travel with kids’ link on the http://icklepickleslife.co.uk blog – click the badge below to visit and find more ideas for lovely days out.
If you haven’t been to a Baby Bounce session at one of the local libraries then I urge you to go at least once! For one, they are completely free; second, it is so important to keep frequenting our borough’s libraries before we become in danger of losing them. Islington babies should have received their first library card, and vouchers for book and cd loans, when they were registered as newborns at the town hall.
Baby Bounce is essentially half an hour of nursery rhymes and action songs led by a couple of library volunteers (and their puppets). The man at West Library on Bridgeman Road is especially good humoured and accompanies on harmonica and banjo, and encourages the adults to sing up and participate.
As with most of these groups, Baby Bounce is a great opportunity to meet local parents. Some of the sessions are followed by a toy library, too (most of the toys seem to be geared towards 9 months to 3 years), which saves a bit of money and keeps the toy box looking exciting!
Locations: West Library, Bridgeman Road, N1; Friday 11.00, followed by the toy library. South Library, Essex Road, N1; Friday 11.00. North Library, Manor Gardens, N7; Friday 11.00. Central Library, Fieldway Cresent, N5; Wednesday and Thursday 11.00. John Barnes Library, Camden Road, N7; Thursday 11.30. For full list, see website.
Getting there: there are so many locations that all are easily reached on foot.
This children’s centre is tucked away in the playground of Hungerford Primary School, behind the main school building, which means it is totally secure and can only be accessed by the centre users.
Jackie, who runs the Stay and Play, is incredibly welcoming and more than happy to go through the centre programme with you (a varied timetable including baby massage, yoga and a knitting & crochet group). Stay and Play is split into a 0-6 month and 6-12 month group, although both are fairly flexible so a non-mobile 7 month old would be accepted with the younger children, for example. The room itself is large and bright, with a padded play zone for little ones, a quiet baby corner, messy play tables and a craft area, as well as a small outdoor space. A small kitchen overlooks the room, and parents were welcome to make themselves drinks during the session.
As with most of the Stay and Plays, the older children have a story, singsong and snack provided.
I was impressed by the room here. Great effort had gone into making the space exceptionally clean, bright and engaging.
Positives: clean, spacious, welcoming.
Negatives: I really couldn’t find any – perhaps having to avoid the barrage of schoolchildren if you try to navigate the playground during break!
Stay and play times: 0-6 months – Friday 13.30-15.00; 6-12 months – Friday 09.45-11.45
Getting there: not terribly well-serviced by buses, but it is less than a five minute walk from York Way or Hillmartin Road. There is pay and display directly outside the school, or park in a residents’ bay using Islington residents’ roamer parking.
Paradise Park itself is just off Liverpool Road, and is a large well-kept open space, with a ‘wild’ garden, outdoor gym, extensive playground and Freightliners Farm. In the corner, you will also find the children’s centre. (Little titbit of local history – the area used to be covered by a pub and housing , but was completely destroyed during the Blitz by a V2 rocket).
On first sight, the centre is friendly and welcoming. There is a small cafe selling simple meals and hot and cold drinks, and always one or two members of staff and other parents to chat with. The majority of the centre is given over to a nursery, which benefits from a fantastic outdoor space – there are plenty of little places for toddlers to hide, a special under 5s adventure playground and an outdoor musical area.
Stay and Play takes place on Wednesdays from 10.00 until 12.00. The facilities for this aren’t as good as other centres in Islington, as the space feels a little like a corridor, but they make the best of it by zoning small areas for different types of play. Snacks and a singsong are par for the course, and the play staff are super – happy to take a squally baby off your hands for ten minutes, which is always a winner in my book!
On Thursdays, the Morris Minors singing group takes place upstairs. This is well worth a trip, so do see my review of this, too.
It sounds a little expensive when you first sign up, but is absolutely worth it. The girls who run it could be straight out of a Disney film or CBeebies set, and seem to have boundless energy and lots of fun ideas to get babies moving and learning.
Plenty of sensory play, singing, bubbles, parachute games and opportunities to get pre-crawlers crawling and pre-walkers walking. Other islington mamas told me that this was where their kids learned to crawl and made their first friends. Each week follows a theme, for example rocking, balancing, crawling, which keeps things fresh and allows the babies to become familiar with all of the different toys and equipment. Sessions are targeted at 0-6 months, 6-10 months, 10-16 months, etc, so nothing is too overwhelming.
The building itself is amazing – the entire downstairs area is given over to all sorts of play equipment on padded floors (they pride themselves on being the cleanest children’s play area in islington), as well as separate rooms for music and art activities. Upstairs is a handy room with sofas and high chairs – useful as the babies’ little brains work so hard during sessions that they are usually starving or exhausted by the time the class is finished!
There are plenty of other music and sensory groups in the area, but none as well set up and versatile as Gymboree.
Cost: £15 membership fee, and £55 a month (make-up classes are available if you miss sessions for holiday or illness).
Getting there: The 393 stops right outside, and Islington resident roamer parking means you can park between 11-3 if you have a permit within the borough. Alternatively, it’s only about ten minutes walk from High&I station!
With locations in and around London, Aquababies aim to teach your baby or toddler to feel confident in the water and learn basic swimming skills.
In Islington, our local group is held at the Bridge School on Hungerford Road, led by a super teacher called Madalena.
Lessons follow a firm routine to give the babies confidence, and each part of the session is accompanied by a song or action to keep it familiar. By the end of the first lesson, your baby will have experienced ‘swimming’ underwater (scary for the parent, but the baby takes in in their stride!), and as they progress, they learn more difficult skills such as holding on to the side, or swimming up to the surface when entering the pool from the edge.
Portrait sessions are also held throughout the year, so you can buy gorgeous photos of your baby under the water.
I am a strong advocate of water safety and getting the kids confident at a young age. Of which other sport can you say it could save your life one day?
Getting there: The Bridge School is on the corner of Hungerford Road and York Way, so any bus that goes along York Way or Camden Road will be a good bet. There is limited free parking on the school site, and pay and display outside Hungerford Primary School.