Public transport in the UK is run by a variety of commercial companies and there are generally different fare structures and rules in place across different modes and networks. On the whole, though, children under the age of five years can travel for free, without any ticket or form of identity. There is usually a limit to how many children can travel with a single paying adult, that limit is four. In London, children aged 5 - 10 can continue to travel free on services provided by Transport for London, (buses and trams) but they may need an Oyster Zip card to prove that they are under 10.
Given that public transport is easy and cheap for little ones, why not consider taking them on an outing on a bus or a train? ...or why not see how many types of public transport vehicle you can ride in a day? Can you go on a regular bus, a 'double decker' and a train? If you live in the right area you might be able to add on an underground train or a tram even?
In London there are other fun and slightly different systems including the Docklands Light Railway, river buses and the brand new cable car cutting across the river between North Greenwich (O2 Arena) and Royal Victoria (near Excel). The river bus provides a wonderful way to travel from Docklands into the centre of London, with services as far out as Hampton, Kingston, Putney and Richmond. The river bus is by far the cheapest river ride available on the Thames.
Pack a picnic and plan a round trip using public transport. The children will love it and you will explore and see new places and experiences along the way.
On 12th January 2012 an exhibition of paintings by Quentin Blake will open at the Foundling Museum, London, featuring illustrations of mothers and their babies.
Quentin Blake is one of Britain’s best-loved illustrators having created the now iconic images for Roald Dahl novels and stories. This exhibition entitled "As Large As Life" shows work he created for four hospitals which were designed to have a calming, relaxing effect on the hospital visitors. Over sixty works were created for a children’s hospital, a maternity hospital, young people with eating disorders and mental health patients.
Depicted in the pictures are senior circus performers juggling and tightrope walking, creatures from Planet Zog, youngsters enjoying everyday life and mothers and babies meeting for the first time underwater.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a programme of events, including family activities, talks and a reading corner decorated with Blake’s recent designs for wallpapers. The exhibition at the Foundling Museum, Brunswick Square, London WC1N 1AZ. More information can be found at the Foundling Museum's website.
Winter Wonderland has opened for the Christmas season in Hyde Park, London; take your little ones along for a festive spectacle of lights, sounds and the smells of Christmas foods!
Situated at Hyde Park Corner, Winter Wonderland offers a Christmas Market, Christmas themed fairground rides, a big wheel, ice skating and lots more! Winter Wonderland is full of sights and sounds that will trigger your little one's senses and bring that magic sparkle to Christmas.
Entry to Wonderland is free but you will need to buy tokens to enjoy the rides which typically cost between £2 and £4 per person. Babies and toddlers will love Santa Land where all the rides are suitable for even the youngest visitors and they can meet Santa for free. Kids will love the carousels, a train ride and many other fairground attractions.
Plenty of food stalls are scattered throughout, selling hearty fare including hog roasts, fish and chips, bratwurst, potatoes, soups and Belgian chips. For grown-ups, there's mulled wine and German beers. Food is a little on the pricey side for a family because you won't find children's portions, each food is priced at around £5, and with so many stalls around, everyone can choose a different meal.
The large attractions include a giant wheel with rides lasting around 15 minutes and Zippo's Circus. The ice rink isn't particularly good for younger children as there are no 'Penguins' to help children stay on their feet and build confidence on the ice. Keep an eye out for the talking tree, that will keep children engaged for hours. There are plenty of toilets on site, as well as baby changing facilities in two locations.
At the Angels Market you will find Christmas decorations, London memorabilia, traditional toys and craft, jewellery and other gifts.
Winter Wonderland is open daily now, from 10am to 10pm, until 3rd January 2012. Check out more information from the Winter Wonderland website.
Last summer on a family outing to Buckler's Hard in Hampshire, our children were enthralled by the tale of a ship builders daughter who, 300 years ago, would stand in the window of her cottage, reading a large antique bible. She stood in the window for two reasons, first because 300 years ago, before electricity, it was the lightest place at which to read, but second, her proud parents wanted her to be seen by the whole village, so that they could show off their affluence in society by demonstrating that they were wealthy enough to educate their daughter who, in a time of widespread illiteracy, was able to read. Most likely, the bible was the only book that this family owned.
This week the Evening Standard is running a special report uncovering shockingly low levels of literacy in some parts of London. The stories are desperately sad. In one instance a class was asked to bring in a book from home. One nine-year-old brought in an Argos catalogue saying that it was the only book in his house. At one level we might laugh and think this is an amusing anecdote, but the Standard goes on to state that as many as one in three children are growing up without access to books in the home. This doesn't come about because of a shortage of money - 85% of children have games consoles in their home, and most have televisions and hi-fi's. No, this lack of access to books is the result of parents making certain choices, choices that could have a fundamental effect on the lives of their children.
In this modern day, there is absolutely no excuse for parents not to expose their children to books. Books are more readily available today than at any other point in history. If family's cannot afford books then they can borrow them from libraries or school.
The knock on effect of children not being encouraged to read is that 16% of adults aged 16 - 65 living in London have the reading skills of an 11 year old. 40% of employers in London claim that poor literacy skills has a detrimental effect on their business.
A London ice cream parlour in Covent Garden is selling breast milk ice cream to customers willing to pay £14 a scoop.
The ice cream is served in a tall cocktail glass with a rusk at the side, and dry ice (Liquid nitrogen) bellowing out of the top. The dish has been named Baby Gaga and is served by an outlandish, costumed waitress.
Women willing to donate their breast milk to the shop have been found and are paid £15 for every 10 ounces they hand over to the chefs. The chefs then blend vanilla and lemon and churn the milk into ice cream. Apparently, the women are screened for health problems and have a blood test similar to that given to blood donors.
The ice cream can be served with whisky or a cocktail of your choice. Some are saying it's a good way to get people to realise how tasty and nutritional breast milk is and it will encourage mothers to feed their babies. Others are condemning the ice cream as a bad thing.
Westminster Council seized samples of the ice cream for checks to be carried out but the owners are convinced it is safe and healthy. It sold out within hours of going on sale. Lady GaGa has also threatened legal action over the name of the dessert, claiming that they are preying on her name and image.