London With Kids: Don’t.

Day 2 in London (or was it 3 or 1? I’m confused) had the kids begging to return to the playground where we ended up after seeing ancient mummies and marble breasts. (That playground had a kid-friendly zip-line.)
I had other plans in mind to torture them (and myself).
I took them to the science museum because everyone says it’s spectacular.
After a fairly quick Tube ride (do I put “Tube” in quotes?), I told the information desk, “I’ve got 2 hours to kill with two kids who collectively have 24 minutes of attention span. What should we do?”
“Well…you could walk through the center.”
“Um…OK. Just…let the science lead us?”
I listened to her instead of to my instincts screaming “ASK SOMEONE ELSE!”
We walked through the center.
On that ground floor there were feats of engineering – 1950’s Citroens, experimental airplanes, antique locomotives, space capsules (stolen?) from the USA, space suits (stolen?) from the USSR, and a laughable replication of the American lunar lander that – I shit you not – was made of cardboard and aluminum foil. (The lighting was strategically dark. I’m not sure anyone else noticed.) And both kids declared, “This is boring.”
My older son is interested in anatomy. So we went to the “Who Am I?” exhibit. Like most of the museum, it was geared toward 10-year-old brainiacs, not 5-year-old insaniacs. There were some interactive iPads that took up-close pictures of retinas and had brain games too difficult for me to enjoy, let alone my kiddos.
And then there was the “puberty” iPad that explained how hormonal changes make testicles and breasts grow larger in adolescence. You actually touched body parts to watch them grow.
Yeah, my boys LOVED that.
But in the interest of not shaming human physiology (or being too puritanically American), I let them…um…diddle.
For another half hour I dragged them around the museum just to make sure there wasn’t anything interesting for their over-active minds, and we landed on the top floor at the paid exhibit “Exploro-lab.”
I shouldn’t complain – the museum was free. But I quickly grasped that THIS was where we were supposed to have a hands-on extraordinary experience. That information desk volunteer should be fired. After all, they have national healthcare; she’ll be fine.
The ticket seller tried to up-sell me on an annual membership because, if we wanted to return after the mere 45 minutes we had before closing time, it’d be a better deal.
I gave her my best, “Girl, I used to work in an NYC restaurant. We invented the up-sell. Don’t even try it,” stare.
We entered a haven of scientific ecstasy. There were playground slides of varying speeds demonstrating friction, a pulley system allowing kids to pull themselves to the ceiling, an interactive laser show, etc.
This was a science museum for little kids, as opposed to a 3-D encyclopedia of snore-inducing explanatory panels.
And I realized these “London with Kids” books I’ve been following don’t make the stipulation they’re catering to an older segment of whiny tourists: 9 & 10-year-olds.
Furthermore, I realized, “oh, yeah. No one should ever be stupid enough to take 5 & 3 year-olds to international cities and expect them to do anything more than play on playgrounds.”
No matter how much money you have (…chosen to waste), you can’t be a control freak or have high expectations for travel with these little ones.
(Don’t answer that.)
Maybe I should start another genre of travel guides – “Int’l Travel with LITTLE Kids.” My first entry, “Chill the hell out, find a playground, bring a flask.”
It’s just so hard when you’ve come all this way and you want to make use of your time (and money).
At any rate, I’m glad I learned this lesson early into our trip, and not on the last day. I’ll try my best to lower expectations.
So. Over the next ten days, how do I squeeze in visits to Buckingham Palace, the Natural History Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Tate Modern, Stonehenge, and a walk through the market stalls of Camden Road to see the retro punk rockers?
I know. I’m setting us up for even more annoyance. My to-do list even bores me.
I’ll buy a flask for pre-mixed martinis and a thermos for coffee.
(And yes – I upgraded to the “annual membership” to go back to the cool part of the science museum.)
Eye roll emoji, here.


  1. It’s not in London, but I would choose Avebury over Stonehenge any day – unlike Stonehenge which is closely protected, you’re allowed to wander among the stones and it’s a much bigger circle with a deep ditch to run up and down (wearing the kids out). Back in London, the Natural History Museum is better than the Science Museum, except that the famous dinosaur skeleton from the lobby is off on its tour around the UK. If it’s not too expensive these days, the Duck Tours are fun – they run from just behind the London Eye and are bright yellow ex-military vehicles which take you on a tour around a bit of London before entering the Thames for a little trip up and down on the river. Camden is lovely, but make sure you find the bit between the river and the railway arches, rather than just the stalls along the main road – little cafes where you can sit of “lambretta-style” seats and stare at the river.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oohh oohh oooh! You have to try the Transport Museum near covent garden. Took our 5 and 7 year old boys there a few months ago. They loved it and they’re definitely the ‘I’m bored’ after 5 minutes kinda kids! Loads of age-appropriate interactive stuff – highlight was getting to drive a tube train through various underground stations 🙂


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