Bloomsbury. Home to intellectuals, dead wax philosophers and landmarked trees. In short, it's a wonderful place for things to do with the kids. Here are some top picks by Daisy de Plume, mother of two, founder of THATMuse, and expat living in Blooming Bloomsbury. All of the below are free and within 15 minutes by foot from the venerable halls of the British Museum.
1. St George's Gardens
A hidden treasure, used nearly exclusively by locals, is the gorgeous gardens of an 18th century graveyard. Off the beaten track, it's no surprise that st George's Gardens are also a geocaching spot. For those families who aren't part of the global geocache game, set up your own shenanigans: Pick up a bag of shiny, aluminum-wrapped chocolates at the Brunswick Centre (of Brutalist fame) en route to the Handel Street gated garden entrance, sprinkle the chocolates among the flower beds and bushes, and send your kids on a treasure hunt of their own in the park. Otherwise, just play hide and seek among the ginormous plane trees, some dating to the 1750s.
For guided fun, the Friends of St George's Gardens put on an annual Tales from the Trees, a talk and walk with 'Tree Man' Bob Gilbert, as well as other seasonal events.
St George's Gardens, 1 Handel Street
2. British Library
Besides their special exhibitions, the British Library has a fantastic kid's treasure trail, getting families up to George III's 85,000 book-tower, down to the printing press and over to the library's Listening Project (Balthazar, our two-year old, loved the interactive cubby-hole seats, not to mention mimicking the sound of whales singing).
Don't leave without paying tribute to the Magna Carta, and if you happen to be there for upcoming family readings, all the better. (And if you've come from a British Museum THATMuse, you'll know where the original British Library was.)
British Library, 96 Euston Road
3. Pollock's Toy Museum
Family run since it was started in an attic in 1956, this precious toy museum was always my treat when I was a kid visiting London from NY. Named for Benjamin Pollock, Ltd, which was the last of the Victorian toy theater print companies, their collection of children's theatre sets is wonderful.
Split between two houses (one from the 1780s, the other 1880s), you can skip the museum (£) for the wonderfully antiquated toy shop on the ground floor where you'll find reasonably priced Vilac kites and colourful wood toys such as a Jacob's Ladder and travel chess sets.
(OK, it's more Fitzrovia than Bloomsbury, but we'll let this one slide.)
Pollock's Toy Museum, 1 Scala Street
4. Coram's Fields
This seven-acre park on the former site of the Foundling Hospital is a treasure trove for the kiddies. From a flock of farm animals for all ages (bunnies, goats, chickens, parrots) to a sandpit for tots, Coram's Fields is a gift to parents. My seven-year old, Storsh, does a beeline for the zip-line (aka 'Death Slide') often just standing there ogling heavier, older kids zooming past him. For quick rain showers there's a gazebo as well as a café within the open colonnade that serves toasties, hot chocolate and fruit.
In the warmer months there's also a lovely sunken fountain for the kids to go a-frolicking. Teens and adults can toddle over to the Foundling Museum which tells you about how Handel donated his organ to the Foundling Hospital and William Hogarth designed the orphans' costumes. But careful: adults must be accompanied by a child to enter Coram's Fields.
Coram's Fields, 93 Guilford Street
5. Jeremy Bentham
Storsh's ears perk up at anything grisly. Give him some gore and he'll commit anything to memory, so visiting Jeremy Bentham's waxed corpse is always a treat. The eccentric 19th century philosopher and founder of Utilitarianism insisted that his skeleton be preserved and dressed in his own clothes. The 'spiritual founder of UCL', he's been known to attend the University's council meetings (in 2013 he was recorded as "present, but not voting"), but when this happens it takes three people to move him, as he's bolted to chair in a glass box and must be moved in one piece.
I always recommend this to families who have chosen the Skull Scouting THATMuse at the British Museum, to take their treasure hunting for the dead, outside the museum.
Jeremy Bentham, University College London