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.

The well-loved play area at Gatwick's North Terminal - one of the play areas at UK airports

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

So if you’re wondering where to find the play areas at UK airports, here’s what’s on offer at 15 around the country before you fly off.

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

Terminal 2 – the impressive new terminal has 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…

Minnie tests out the Terminal 3 family room - one of the play areas at UK airports

Minnie tests out the Terminal 3 family room

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

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

[NB Terminal 1 is now closed]

North Terminal – the small kids’ zone is tucked away in a corner near Boots. Head towards the far left after security, and it’s next to the lifts.

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

Terminal 1 – there is a kids’ TV zone opposite the breastfeeding area, but the play area for under-threes  seems to have been removed.

Terminal 2 – a toddler area for under threes and an ‘adventure’ play area for three to eight-year-olds near Caffe Nero. The airport also has art desks with colouring in and and crayons, including at most places to eat.

Two ‘Sky Zone’ airport play areas designed for three to 10-year-olds, at Gates 3 and 54 so you can access them from both departure lounges, they opened in 2016 replacing the previous less active options.

No soft play areas (although there is a Hamleys store).

There’s a kids’ area with interactive games by Gate 10 but no soft play for littler ones.

The airport has three soft play areas this year, one near Gate 2, another by Gates 10 and 11, and the third by Gate 15 – part of its aim to be the most family-friendly airport on offer. Hurrah Edinburgh!

A girl plays in the soft play area at Heathrow airport's Terminal two - one of my ways to make airports easier with kids

My daughter, at Heathrow’s Terminal 2 soft play

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

If you feel like it, you can also buy tickets to Upper Deck on the top floor which also has a kids zone, games centre and views out onto the planes. Prices aren’t cheap at £7 for kids aged two to 13, and £18 for adults, if all you want is a bit of energy burned off.

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

East Midlands
There’s a soft play area in the first floor food court, suitable for children aged under eight.

Doncaster Sheffield Airport (formerly Robin Hood Airport)
The airport has a children’s play area near the customer service desk in departures.

Leeds Bradford
There’s an unsupervised play area on the first floor.

Belfast International
No soft play area.

Most facilities are aimed at older kids, with games and tablets. There is a small play area in the Flying Hippo diner.

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 (or anything has vanished) and I’ll update the list.