Discover Book Swap 2018

Fed up of reading the same books to your toddler night after night? Need some new stories?

This Saturday, 10th February, you can take part in Discover’s annual book swap which takes place at locations across London (you can see them all on this Google map).

Here are just a few places you can go locally to swap books – The V & A building Victoria Park, the Childhood Museum, Stratford Library, and Discover Children’s Story Centre.

The Victoria Park event looks good. It also includes an art session. It’s free, so just turn up 11am-2pm.

Details here.



Canary Wharf Winter Lights – last chance

If you haven’t yet been to the Canary Wharf Winter Lights Festival, you’re running out of time. It ends tomorrow, Saturday 27 January 2018.

All the details are here.

A sneak preview of what you can see around the Crossrail station is here.

And here’s what you’ll see if you head to Canary Wharf tube station.

It’s Friday – hurrah!

Canary Wharf Winter Lights Festival

The Canary Wharf Winter Lights Festival 2018 is on now (until Saturday 27 January).

Here’s a post I wrote a few days ago with all the details.

And below are some photos.

As we discovered, it’s worth a visit whatever the weather because, if it’s raining, there’s a large number of installations under cover at the Crossrail station and you can always make another visit to see the rest.

If lights are your thing, don’t forget there’s only one more day to view the Lumiere festival at sites around central London (details here). There are some lovely looking things, but central London in the evening with a one-year-old and a four-year-old isn’t for me right now…

This one was my favourite…


Lights at the end of the tunnel

No 31 Intrude Amanda Parer (from

Just what we need during these post-Christmas, grey, gloomy days – light!

Tomorrow sees the start of the Canary Wharf Winter Festival which, in previous years, has been a great hit with everyone in my household from the youngest to… er… me.

It runs from Tuesday 16 to Saturday 27 January 2018 and it’s free. There are as many as 33 light sculptures (often combined with music/sound) located throughout Canary Wharf. In my experience, here’s the best way to enjoy some or all of them.

  1. First download the map here.
  2. Work out what you want to see and a route that lasts a toddler-friendly period of time

For me, that means not seeing all the sculptures. Or not in one visit anyway. I tend to look for ones that are interactive, big or interesting in another way. I’ve only had a quick glance through the programme, but here are some that stand out.

  • No 1 – Sonic light bubble. Just look at it!
  • No 10 – Pixels. Illuminated blocks you can build with.
  • No 31 – Intrude. Giant rabbits? I don’t need to know anything more. I’m there.
  • No 32 – Sunlight graffiti. Make graffiti using light – yes, okay then.

Make your way to Canary Wharf as darkness falls. (From about 5pm – it’s extra fun for toddlers to be out ‘late’).

There are a whole ton of places to eat or pick up snacks (For more info, click here).

Free swimming

You probably know this already, but children aged three and under swim for free at swimming pools throughout Tower Hamlets that Better Leisure run. Once they turn four, you’re supposed to cough up (usually £4 or so), but did you know there are still opportunities to swim for free?

I couldn’t find any mention of it on the Better Leisure website, but:

  • On Saturday, you can turn up at your local pool and swim for free as a family from 12 noon afterwards.
  • On Friday, any Tower Hamlets resident can swim for free from 9am onwards.

To get your free swim, you need a pay and play membership card, but these cost just a few pounds a year. You can wrestle with the Better website and join your local swimming pool here, or pop along and speak to staff.

  • It’s not free, but women and girls can swim at women-only sessions for a small fee (currently £1.05).

Here’s the best list I’ve been able to find about free swimming in Tower Hamlets.

Enjoy your (free) swim!

Walthamstow Wetlands – part 2

A few days ago, I wrote about a visit to the newly opened Walthamstow Wetlands. Did you know there are special activity days for children under fives and their adult companions on Mondays and Wednesdays, 10am-3pm?

There’s the promise of story-telling, crafts and wildlife activities – and it’s all free.

You can find the details here, where you’ll also find information about other sessions that the London Wildlife Trust offers at various sites.


Walthamstow Wetlands

If there’s a blue sky over London, I can’t think of a better place to be than the Walthamstow Wetlands – Europe’s largest urban wetland – which opened to the public only a few weeks ago. There’s something incredibly heartening about being encircled by huge skies, and seeing the sunlight cast reflections onto the reservoirs, rivers, channels and streams that run through the reserve.

And it’s not just for walkers, birders or fishing enthusiasts, it’s a fine place to be as a family with toddlers. The principle paths are stony, so although I’m sure they get muddy from time to time, they’re also a good bet for pushchairs and scooters. There was one section where we needed to carry the pushchair up some stairs to walk on the bund of the reservoir, but I noticed an accessible path has been constructed – it’s just not yet open.

Walthamstow Wetlands get the seal of approval from my four-year-old who passed her verdict (‘beautiful’) and is keen to return. So are the rest of us. We only walked round a small part and it will be interesting to see the whole reserve change through the seasons. On our first visit, we spotted a heron, but we’re already looking forward to next year’s ducklings, goslings and cygnets. If you have binoculars for your little one, be sure to bring them.

The old Engine House has been beautifully restored and there’s a nice-looking cafe inside as well as a viewing point and what looked like a spot to eat your own sandwiches. The cafe had a long queue when we visited, so I can’t tell you what the food tastes like, but it looked pretty appetising.

As the website advises, the car park is small. If you can, you’re better off coming by train, tube or even by bike up the Lea/Lee valley.

It’s free to visit and open 9.30am-4pm (October-March)

All the details you need to plan a visit are here.