How to do it

Play areas at UK airports

No more wandering aimlessly around Duty Free for me these days – once I’ve cleared security at the airport, and stocked up on any last-minute toddler essentials, it’s straight to the soft play area.

Sometimes tiny, sometimes surprisingly impressive, often tucked away where you’d never stumble across them by accident, it’s one of my key ways to survive a flight with a young child – tire them out before you board the plane.

toddler-soft-play-gatwick-airport

The well-loved play area at Gatwick’s North Terminal

So if you’re flying from a UK airport, here’s what’s on offer at 15 around the country.

Heathrow
Every terminal has a ‘stay & play’ area, all open from 6am to 9pm. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Terminal 1 – the play area is near Caffe Nero and Dixons in the main departure lounge.

Terminal 2 – the impressive new terminal will have a screened off play area near Gate 16, overlooking the planes.

Terminal 3 – there’s a special Family Lounge area, with separate play sections for ages 0-2 and 3-9 plus a game zone for 10-15, breastfeeding area and comfy seats. It’s all but hidden away, so follow signs for Lounge A near the Ted Baker store, and it’s tucked away upstairs. Worth tracking down…

Terminal 4 – head towards Gates 1-6 for the play area.

Terminal 5 – in the main Terminal 5A departure lounge near Gate A7.

Minnie tests out the Terminal 3 family room

Minnie tests out the Terminal 3 family room

Gatwick
North Terminal – the small kids’ zone is tucked away in a corner near Boots. There are two branches so you want the one at the far end on the left after security.

South Terminal – the soft play area is much bigger, although less inspired, and right in the centre of the food and shops upstairs.

Manchester
Terminal 1 – a play area for children under three only, next to Gate 21.

Terminal 2 – a toddler area for under threes and an ‘adventure’ play area for three to eight-year-olds near gate 213.

Birmingham
No dedicated play areas but they have created the child-friendly ‘Sky Side’ experiences, with games, challenges and activities ending at the Sky Zone, which has story-telling pods, touch screen tables and floor projections.

Stansted
A soft play area for children aged two to six (although this is unsupervised so presumably parents can decide if it’s suitable for eg a 21-month-old) near the Hamleys store.

Luton
No soft play facilities.

Edinburgh
The airport has installed two brand new soft play areas this year, one near Gate 2 and the second by Gate 15.

Glasgow
An unsupervised soft play area for two to six-year-olds after security on the international pier, near gates 27A and 27B. There are also puzzle tables and Lego dotted around various bits of the terminal too.

Bristol
No soft play although there’s a Game Zone for older children.

East Midlands
A soft play area in the first floor food court, suitable for children under eight.

Robin Hood (Doncaster/Sheffield)
A soft play area – the First Choice Kids’ Corner – by WH Smith after security.

Leeds Bradford
An unsupervised play area in the international departures lounge.

Belfast International
No soft play area – although it’s worth noting that Belfast City Airport does have one next to O’Brien’s in the departure lounge.

Newcastle
A major revamp means there’s now a play area as part of the Flying Hippo diner, opened in April 2014 (and prosecco on tap…).

Liverpool John Lennon
No soft play area.

Disclaimer: All information is correct at time of publishing but airports do update their facilities so it’s always worth doublechecking – do comment if there’s anything new and I’ll add it to the list.