Tomorrow – Saturday 30th June – is the Summer Fair at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. There will be face-painting, workshops, music, food, a nature trail and, I’m sure, much more. It’s likely to be another hot day, so where better to be than outdoors under the shady canopy of the park’s beautiful trees?
Henry Reynolds Gardens is a small bowl-shaped park located a stone’s throw away from a busy roundabout on the A12, but you wouldn’t know it. When you’re in it, you feel far from the east London traffic. Like I said, it’s a small green space (although if you’re after more, Wanstead Park and Wanstead Flats are just over the road) but it’s been turned into a magical place for children to play.
First up, there’s a playground split into two parts set on springy artificial grass – one part is for toddlers, the other for slightly older children. There’s everything you’d expect – swings, slides, climbing equipment – and it’s all clean, new and well-maintained.
Image from kompan.co.uk
Image from kompan.co.uk
Then, there’s a expanse of grass with trees dotted around, and some more climbing equipment. That’s when you spot the beautiful carvings.
There are several tree trunks set on the side for children to climb over and there are lovely animals and insects carved into them.
The badger catches your eye first, but there are also hares, caterpillars, dragonflies and more.
What’s great is you’re taken on a trail towards the trees at the edge of the gardens, encouraging children to swing from the branches and generally have fun.
We went to Henry Reynolds Gardens because we felt like exploring somewhere new, but we liked it so much that we’ve been back. You can easily combine a visit to the gardens with a picnic there or a meal at one of the nice pubs or cafes in Leytonstone. Or with a bigger ramble in Wanstead Park or across Wanstead Flats.
It’s hard enough for grumpy grown ups to talk about their feelings, let alone pre-schoolers who don’t have nearly so many words available to them. So it was really great recently when my four-year-old found a way to tell me exactly how she felt (as long as she felt one or all of the following – mellow, loving, angry, inspired, sad or happy).
So usually the magazines she choses are full of fairly unexciting stories, some colouring and unsurprising activities, but one a few weeks’ back had something we liked – and that you could easily replicate.
First you cut out a little door hanger with a pocket, which goes on your child’s bedroom door (or any other place that suits). You also cut out some colourful blob things that represent each feeling. You could have fun making your own. Then your pre-schooler chooses which ones to put in the pocket in the morning or at any point in the day.
It turned out to be a great introduction to talking about how she felt – once we’d explained what ‘mellow’ and ‘inspiring’ might be.
If you’re making your own, you can choose or add other words, of course – knowing that you’re helping your child develop a habit of reflection that’ll stand them in good stead in the future.
A couple of weeks back, we went to Mile End Children’s Park and I wondered to myself, ‘Why don’t we come here more often?’. It’s not far. There’s loads to do and we had a great time, but let’s face it, we’re spoiled when it comes to parks…
… So what has Mile End Children’s Park got to offer?
If you’ve been, you’ll know it’s located a little further beyond the leisure centre. It’s secure – with gates all round – so there’s no fear of any little ones bolting.
On a sunny Friday morning, we had the whole playground pretty much to ourselves and there was plenty to explore. Only the water spray was out of action. There’s a sand pit, swings, a seesaw and climbing equipment that were suitable for the one-year-old and the four-year-old. There’s also plenty of green space for a game of hide and seek. And a nice slide set into the slope.
The one-year-old really enjoyed getting a stick and playing the musical instruments.
If you’ve been to Mile End Children’s Park, you’ll know there’s also a pavilion with a schedule of children’s activities. Check out the timetable here.
A visit to Mile End Children’s Park can be combined with a session in the pavilion, a swim at the leisure centre, a trip to the Ragged School museum, or simply a scoot through the rest of the rest of Mile End park.
And there are the links to some of the other small parks and playgrounds we’ve posted about.
London’s many elderflowers are in full, joyous bloom right now and the heady, musky-sweet smell fills the air in any wild or open space.
For once, this is a scent you really can bottle and maybe even save for winter, to remind you of these sunny days.
Elderflower (perhaps unlike blackberries!) is a child-friendly plant to forage: no thorns, and some of the blooms often grow at child height (though if your child is very small you you might want to give them a boost, to avoid dog-pee height!).
Every time we cycle to Hackney Marshes we find something new (to us).
This time it was this gem of a nature reserve, hidden away across a footbridge from the Lee Valley Waterworks centre.
It’s an easy, traffic-free cycle along towpaths or through parks from neighbouring Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Newham. Here’s a map. It’s certainly hidden away, so following signs to Lee Valley Visitor Centre is probably the best way to find it… the bridge into the reserve is just opposite the cafe.
The nature reserve is beautifully designed to nurture wildlife and charm children at the same time. There are pretty ceramic brick signs hidden in the grass, showing children what they can search for nearby. Continue reading “Lee Valley Nature Reserve”
The hoardings are up in Victoria Park – it’s festival season again. But this year, it’s all change.
No Lovebox or Field Day or the other regulars. Instead there’s All Points East, which takes place for ten days from Friday 25th May and promises to cater a little better for local residents – including offering free activities for children during half-term.
Bank holiday Monday (29th May) is a celebration of 100 years since some, but not all women finally gained the right to vote – thanks (in no small part) to the activities of women living in this area. I’m not quite sure how a free screening of Moana fits with the theme, but I’m not going to moana about it.
It’s on at 12 noon if you fancy it. Stay on until 3.15pm and you can take part in a suffragette rally. It’s billed as having a historical flavour with speeches from the time, but I suspect there will be a relevance to much of the messaging today…
There’s also music, crafts, food stalls and that kind of stuff. All we need is some Bank Holiday sunshine.
Free theatre from the Half Moon (Mon-Thurs times here)