As a devotee of the Kids' Zone, I was sceptical when I learnt that The National Army Museum (NAM) was redoing the space and charging admission. The old space was clean, fun, interesting and generally pleasant to spend time in. OK, so you were never certain if your kids were screaming for help inside the climbing frame unless you were actually in there with them while your baby was left to fend for themselves in the middle of the room, but otherwise it was a great time out for the perfect price: free.
Things are changing around London museums, but this change is genuinely worth the £2.50 per child the NAM is now charging for children over 1 year to enter the play zone. If you plan to go regularly, you can buy a season pass for £30 (the current pass is good until April) and put up to three adults on it and take up to three children with you.
They have introduced new session times but have kept the number of tickets allotted to twenty. Instead of the first session being extremely long and the others a bit shorter, all the sessions are one hour long with a twenty minute break between sessions. You can obtain tickets for upcoming sessions when you enter the desk; if you find out the 10am session is filled, you can get a ticket for the 11:20am or a later slot and go off down King's Road for a while.
This has been a blessing and a curse.
As a member, you are free to queue up at 9:15 and take three tickets for morning and additional afternoon sessions, even purchase some more tickets for friends. On a rainy day all the sessions can sell out very quickly. I suspect they will be making some changes to this in the near future.
As it stands, the session times are as follows: 10:10 – 11:10; 11:20 – 12:20; 12:30 - 1:30; 1:45 - 2:45; 3:00 - 4:00; 4:15 – 5:15.
Once you enter the new play area, you will understand what all the fuss is about.
The new Play Zone has been lavishly redesigned and brilliantly reconfigured. The space is larger, big enough for children to run around in, with an even bigger climbing frame than before. You can easily see into the climbing area and find out which child is tormenting and which child is crying, or see if a little one needs help getting around. The kitchen is larger with room for loads of children to play, instead of just a few. There are new, clean costumes to dress in; large sheets with toggles so you and the children can make tents under the climbing frames; an art and reading area; a new train and transport table and a twirly slide.
The best part of all, there is a section filled with soft climbing blocks for babies to pull themselves up on and fall down without getting hurt.
There are no loos in the new Kids Zone, but there is one just across from the cafe that is wheelchair/pushchair accessible with a changing table.
If you can get in, you will have a really great morning. Afterwards, pop out and enjoy naptime on the King's Road...