The best soft play London locations 2021
By Helen Wright
Finding indoor play centres in London has always been hit and miss. A few soft play London locations are seriously superior, with others that are seemingly always booked up – night and day. Now, post-Covid rules often require booking in advance, but that is no bad thing. Restrictions on numbers make the experience less chaotic for little ones, meaning the adults leave feeling more sane too.
Whether you’re looking for a London soft play to pass some time on a rainy day, or to treat your toddler during a visit to the city, this list will help you narrow down the best soft play spaces in London for your crew.
The soft play London locations worth booking in 2021
It’s worth noting that a lot of local authorities have pop-up community soft play locations, such as this one in Islington, and free drop-in sessions for parents and babies. If you are looking for a specific area, it’s worth checking local listings.
Below, I have picked out some of the best London soft play centres and listed them geographically to make it easier to narrow down. Have fun!
Related post: In London with kids? Check out our pick of the best things to do in London with a toddler.
Related post: Fancy venturing further afield? This list of 30 family things to do in Essex is worth bookmarking.
Soft Play London: EAST
1. Discover Children’s Story Centre, Stratford
We originally visited the Discover Children’s Centre for a temporary Judith Kerr exhibition and were amazed to discover an extensive, indoor sensory soft play and a fun outdoor playground too. Everything is included in your entry price and if you’re lucky, you might catch one of the excellent storytelling exhibitions too. Located just outside Stratford Westfield, it’s very convenient for travel by public transport and as we say in our London for Toddlers post, this is one of our favourite places to take kids in London. Educational and hours of fun.
2. The Idol soft play centre, Barking
If you’ve had enough of staring at gaudy rainbow colours while your kids play, this slick London soft play is a monochrome masterpiece. Designed by Marvin Gaye Chetwynd for the Abbey Leisure Centre in Barking, this art space / soft play London is a one-of-a-kind project linking fun play and social art and it’s very impressive.
Surely the coolest soft play ever? At the centre of the space is The Idol, a two-storey-high climbing frame that dazzles with staggered levels labyrinthine chambers, ramps, slides and swings. For babies, bold black-and-white images are said to stimulate the development of the optic nerves and encourage cognitive development without over-stimulating them, so everyone is welcome!
3. Mudlarks at Museum of London, Docklands
Families in London have been going to Mudlarks for over a decade now, but the children’s space is constantly evolving to offer children a hands-on, immersive experience. More than a standard soft play London, Mudlarks is an interactive space for children up to eight-years-old, providing exploratory play, sensory areas such as water and sand, educational aspects and, of course, a fun and silly soft play too. Keeps kids entertained for hours and the museum itself is fantastic too.
Soft Play London – big fun for little ones
4. Squish Space at The Barbican Centre
This is a free London soft play for under-5s and an ideal introductory experience. It’s very small and is busiest between 11am–12pm each day, especially on Friday mornings, so you may have to wait for a turn. This simple indoor soft play uses light, texture and sound sensory, as well as soft blocks and items to entertain babies and toddlers. It requires a hands-on approach for parents to encourage children to be imaginative, but unlike some of the bigger, crazier soft plays, this is a simple and serene play space.
Afterwards, head upstairs to the Barbican Conservatory, an incredible ‘greenhouse’ with more than 1,500 species of tropical plants and trees. Open to the public for free on select days of the week from late May and like a wild rainforest adventure for little ones.
Soft Play London: CENTRAL
5. Sorted! Postal Play Space at The Postal Museum, Clerkenwell
This is another more major attraction for kids in London, but does house a cool soft play inside that you can access for just £5. We LOVE the postal museum, it has interesting, modern exhibits, hands-on activities for kids and a mini underground train ride (the former mail rail). As well as soft, climbable exhibits, the Postal Play Space has a mini post office, sorting office and post office van to encourage role play and you can even write a letter to Santa!
Soft Play London: NORTH
6. Little Dinosaurs at Alexandra Palace
This lovely little children’s play space and cafe is almost a hidden soft play in London. The independently-run business can be found in Alexandra Palace park (The Grove, Muswell Hill) and has a cute outdoor playground and activity garden with cafe seating for grown ups, as well as an indoor soft play for when you’d rather be indoors. Bookings are now essential, but even before Covid-19, they were recommended because Little Dinosaurs is a small, much loved soft play London choice for locals and it’s usually very popular.
Soft Play London: WEST
7. Gambado Chelsea
As far as mega soft play London goes, this joint is the whole package. There is a huge soft play, separated for different areas, massive slides, mini fairground rides, soft football and a role-play zone with costumes and activities such as balloon making and face painting (at specific times or events). Gambado is a top choice if you have a mix of children of different ages, or if you plan to spend the whole day enjoying the indoor fun to get top value for money.
Soft Play London: SOUTH-WEST
8. WACKY WAREHOUSE, Kiss me Hardy, Colliers Wood
Like Gambado, Wacky Warehouse is a large soft play unit, which is why you have to venture to the edge of London to enjoy the vast space. This soft play London is toward Wimbledon but offers a lot for the entry fee (£5 kids, £3.75 under-4s). A huge climbing structure, slides, ball pools, tunnels and a seperate area for babies. The best news is, the kids area is connected to a pub so adults can take up a table and have some pub grub while the kids play.
Soft Play London: SOUTH
9. ABC studio, Forest Hill
This is a local favourite in Forest Hill, a boutique soft play that was started by a local mum, frustrated there wasn’t more on offer for little ones in the area. The business has now expanded into a nursery but there are still stay and play sessions for non-nursery children. It’s teeny tiny and hidden away on a side street, so bookings are definitely recommended. There is both an outdoor and indoor area with toys, bikes and scooters to play with, but the main draw is the entire basement floor, which is taken over by a room-sized ball pool. The stuff of mini dreams!
Top tip: Smallprint Books next door is a beautiful little children’s bookshop, bursting with charm. Help local businesses by buying a little souvenir from your visit.
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