Tips on moving to London with small children – building a network

Sandpit fun at playgroup

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A big concern for anyone moving countries, let alone with small children in tow, is whether you will be able to find and build a network of friends.

I’ve been solo parenting in London while my husband is back in Australia for business and family reasons for over a week and the thought of this would have absolutely terrified me 6 months ago. Now I am a little nervous but what has changed is I feel like if I was in trouble I could call on quite a few friends for help.

Now of course the tried and true park stalking method of meeting local parents is always your first port of call. May I recommend however that you check your footwear prior to embarking on such a venture. I went out sporting this ensemble on one of my outings and was barely able to rustle up a hello in response to my friendly greetings. Can’t think why..

Mismatched shoes

If your park activities are not yielding any success and/or it’s the middle of winter and too cold/wet for the park, London has an amazing array of local playgroups (usually free)  in children’s centres, church halls or libraries. These sessions are run by local councils, not for profits and other groups and are called playgroups, stay and play or one o’clock clubs.

Usually there are indoor and outdoor areas with a wide variety of toys, sensory activities such as sand and water play, painting and other crafts for your kids to choose from. Playtime is often followed by some singing and movement – think “wheels on the bus”. You can find out about the playgroups online via the sites I listed below but when you are there ask the other mums what are the best groups to go to as it’s difficult to find all the local information in the one spot. I’m still finding gems a year on from moving to the area we live in.

Obviously, you need to have a bit of confidence to start conversations up however for those that are a bit shy I have found the staff at the playgroups really clever at helping like minded people to connect. And that’s really important as you really do want to find “your people” that you can connect with and share experiences. Luckily for me, I have a lovely little group of “my people” that I call friends now, so the last week or so of solo parenting was a lot less scary. I was even the lucky recipient of a delicious lasagne cooked by a dear friend who also has twins.

Just before we moved my lovely friend Briana, who has done her fair share of international moves with young kids, gave me some sage advice. She said, you don’t really know where you will end up and who you meet but you will make it work and find “your people”. Even if you moved two streets away from where you settle you might be living a very different life but it will be the life you make it. So true and if you are lucky you may even meet a kindred spirit. Good luck!

Some online resources for building a network in London:

Mumsnet – a wealth of knowledge on all aspects of parenting in the UK. Also has regional/local sites so you can discover services and activities near you

Netmums – similar to Mumsnet but perhaps slightly easier to navigate

Facebook – search in Facebook for “your suburb/area + mums or parents” – most areas seem to have a local group you can join where people share local info e.g. reliable tradespeople, talk about schools, nannies and other childcare options

TAMBA – Twins and multiple birth association and their local affiliates usually have a wonderful program of activities