The National Army Museum, next to the Royal Hospital behind the King’s Road, is a great place if you’re shopping in Chelsea with young kids and they need a break or want to let off steam for an hour.
Their dedicated Kid’s Zone is really good. It’s aimed at 0 – 10 years olds, and has a castle climbing frame with ramparts to climb up, forest trees to weave in and out of, and an assault course to conquer. There is also a dressing up box, arts and crafts stuff, and plenty of children’s books and board games. For younger tots, there is a safe soft-play area with lots of toys to explore.
The Kid’s Zone is free, but there is a limit to the number of kids they can accommodate at any given time. It works on a ticketing system with 50 minute slots (the first slot starts at 10am and runs longer, till 11.20am. Thereafter each slots start on the half hour, with the latest session beginning at 4.30pm), so though you can arrive at any time, you may have to wait till the next session starts to get in (you can explore the museum and it’s shop, or just sit in the cafe while you wait). The busiest times, of course, are after school hours. It’s also sometimes closed for an hour at a time, if they have a private birthday party (what a good idea), but these times are always posted on their website well in advance.
The museum itself is also great for older kids especially, adults too of course. The permanent exhibitions tell the story of the making of Britain, the World Wars, and much more, through the very real experiences of those in the army. There is a cafe, good shop (brill for presents for army-mad boys) and an excellent programme of visiting guest speakers.