Most of the time, if I’m planning on taking the kids into the centre of London, I try to find somewhere that is super child-friendly and where we won’t be the only ones running, jumping and yelling at the top of our voices.
But occasionally – most especially during the school holidays – my one priority for a central London day out with my children is to find a place where there won’t be too many other families.
Yes, I love the Science Museum, Natural History Museum and Tate Modern as much as the next person (or, not quite as much, if the next person is one of my offspring) but I do not love queuing for hours to get into a museum or have lunch and (whisper it) I am not actually a huge fan of being surrounded by millions of other people’s children. My own three can be a stretch at times, and I am basically contractually obliged to love them.
That happy medium between somewhere not heaving with hundreds of other people’s children, but still not too disapproving if your own are behaving a touch on the loud side? The V&A Museum.
I took my oldest there for a day at the start of the Easter holidays and we really couldn’t have had a better time.
The place was pretty busy, to be sure, but it was mostly busy with incredibly chic women of a certain age. (That age being about a decade older than me.) They were wafting around looking at the Dior and Quant exhibitions, eating lots of cake for lunch and showcasing seriously sharp haircuts, red lipstick and well-tailored, clearly very expensive but very edgy clothes. I was properly inspired.
But back to the kids. I’d read a tip that there were special gallery backpacks available for children, so our first port of call was the Sackler Centre on level 1 to pick one up.
There was a list of different activities to choose from, with suggested age ranges. The six-year-old chose one on ceramics, and we set off with the bag for level 4, to open it up and explore.
Inside the backpack were individual drawstring bags and an instruction booklet, telling you what to open when. We felt raw clay, searched for giant vases and designed a “flower tower”. The 6yo was pleasingly engaged the whole time and loved completing the tasks, and we spent a fantastic hour wandering around talking about pottery.
(I actually think all my parenting goals are achieved when my kids want to talk to me about art or books or history. My all time favourite ever conversation was when the eldest and I discussed the ethics of creating a clone of a woolly mammoth from its frozen DNA and he said about six times, “Of course, it’s just our opinion, we can all have our own opinion on it…” Just to reassure you, this sort of conversation only happens about once every few months; most of the time they are just busy punching each other and asking me whether Superman or Spiderman would win in a fight…)
Hungry from all of our lovely ceramics chat, we ate lunch in the frankly palatial surroundings of the café. The food ranked around average for museum fare. My fish was tasty, though slightly dry (as I suspect everything was, sitting on the hot plates waiting to be selected) but my slice of potato gratin was incredibly delicious. The sproglet had a children’s macaroni cheese, which had little identifiable cheese and a lot of very milky sauce. He was in the mood for being delightful though, so told me a lot of times how much he was enjoying it (he knows all too well that I get exasperated by the constant complaints about food that come from the kids) before deciding he was “really quite full up” after five mouthfuls. I couldn’t blame him, it really was very runny.
After lunch, a wander round the cast courts, which were bathed in the most heavenly sunlight. We sat inside the replica Trajan’s column and I bored on for a little bit about when I used to live in Rome. We watched someone winching a piece of carvings out of the way for repair. And the sproglet obligingly stood in all the locations I asked him to, so I could take a photograph.
The sunbeams tempted us outside, where I sat by the pool, watching the sunlight dancing across the water and the sproglet – quite worn out now by all the most excellent behaviour he’d been doing – ran round and round and round quite a lot of times, incredibly close to all the other people relaxing, and we decided it was best to head for home.
A fabulous, picturesque day. One to be added to the memory banks of parenting triumphs, and thought about in days of total parenting fails.