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101 things to do in London with kids

Get set for family fun with our round-up of exciting events and activities for children in London

© Peter Csongedi

There need never be a dull moment in this city – London is jam packed with fantastic experiences and days out for families and kids. Whether you’re bringing up the brood here or planning to visit, we’ve tracked down the most inspiring activities for all ages and interests. Read on to discover 101 of the best things to do with children in London by age, and then go out and have an absolute riot with your babies, toddlers and teenagers. 

Things to do in London with kids

Throw some shapes with Big Fish Little Fish

This family-friendly disco crew references the rave culture of the early ’90s, but happily their events around London and at festivals are thoroughly wholesome affairs. Suitable for babies and children of all ages, Big Fish Little Fish daytime gigs give parents a chance to enjoy good music in a setting that the whole family can enjoy, complete with activities like synthesizer workshops and hulahoop demonstrations. Check their website for upcoming dates.

Various venues

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Commandeer a wigwam at the Diana Memorial Playground

Located next to Kensington Palace, this play area has a Peter Pan theme and a fabulous wooden pirate ship as its centerpiece. Specially designed to suit children of all physical abilities, the playground includes a beach, sculptures, teepees for make-believe games, and a sensory trail. It’s free to enjoy, but at busy times there might be a queue to get in.

Under-13s 

Free

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Knightsbridge

Play shops in the fish market section of the National Maritime Museum’s Ahoy!

The NMM’s new gallery especially for babies and young children is all about fun. Ahoy! features many different play zones including a beach and a ship deck, plus a game firing cannons and another that is a bit like air hockey. The fish shop is ace –rows of pretend fish, cash tills and shopping baskets. There’s also the All Hands exploration gallery for ages 6-12.

Free

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Greenwich

Listen to stories on a magic carpet at the National Gallery

Long before children can muse on Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ and remark how the impasto helps to express the texture of the seed heads, they can relate to centuries-old paintings that sing with colour and drama. That’s why the National Gallery’s ‘magic carpet’ storytelling sessions are brilliant. Every Sunday morning parents and sprouts are invited to sit in front of one of the paintings and hear stories inspired by what they see.

Ages two to five

Free, book on arrival

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Trafalgar Square

Ride a Shetland pony across Richmond Park with Stag Lodge Stables

Stag Lodge Stables operates lessons and hacks in the relatively car-free settings of Richmond Park and nearby Wimbledon Common, suitable for all ages and abilities. For little ones (ages 3-6) the Shetland pony sessions are particularly popular, and include a four-day holiday course. Birthday party bookings are also available.

Ages three and above

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Kingston Vale

Bounce around inside a work of art at The Idol soft play centre

Tired of the usual bright and tacky indoor playgrounds near you? Then head over to Abbey Leisure Centre in Barking and set the kids free to jump and roll and slide around a work of art. Turner Prize-nominated, multimedia artist Marvin Gaye Chetwynd has created an incredible black-and-white play complex inspired by Greek mythology and science fiction. Brilliantly bonkers.

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Barking

Splash about in the Science Museum's water play area

For small children, it’s the doing not the looking that amuses and inspires. As a result, this busy museum’s hands-on galleries win the day. The Garden is a free play zone where young’uns can don aprons and play with waterways and boats, jump around exploring light and shadows and discover the science of sound through all kinds of fun activities.

Ages three to six

Free

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Brompton

Nurture a budding nature lover at Kew Gardens’ Climbers and Creepers

Recommended

There’s a lot of natural wonder to be enjoyed at Kew, from the treetop walk with a bird’s-eye view over the park, to the incredibly stinky, rare flowering titan arum plant, but for younger visitors the specially created Climbers and Creepers play zone is a treat. Kids get to feel like tiny insects crawling over huge wooden models of plants and play with interactive features – including the chance to discover the perils of carnivorous plants.

Ages three to nine

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Kew

Get beside the seaside at the Museum of Childhood

The V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green has been a dedicated temple to the history of growing up in Britain for over 150 years, but it’s not all antique dolls in glass cases. There are hands-on exhibits and games everywhere you look. Children can join organised activity sessions and dress up in Victorian costume or theatrical attire. On the first floor, there’s even a Punch and Judy puppet show booth you can work yourself and a sandpit for toddlers who want to kick off their shoes and have a little romp.

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Bethnal Green

Nurture a mini maestro at Bach to Baby

Not all children’s entertainment has to be corny and colourful, as Bach to Baby proves. Trained musicians perform child-friendly classical concerts in spaces all over London. Toddlers are free to get and up move about and babies are contented to sit on laps as the classical music floats around them. There are shows every week and sessions include a pre-concert Monmouth Coffee Mingle.

Various London locations 

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Things to do in London with kids

Unearth a real fossil at the Grant Museum

The Grant Museum of Zoology could be a movie set for a mad professor’s home: jars of specimens, skeletons and mounted animals include examples of creatures that are now endangered and in some cases even extinct. Take a self-guided tour or join one of the free, drop-in hands-on family sessions – see how sharp a shark’s tooth really is, and what a python’s skin feels like.

Ages three and above

Free

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Fitzrovia

Suss out your Sherlock skills

Madame Tussauds, with its galleries of wax models, might seem a rather strange place to go for fun. Apart from taking a selfie of yourself next to your favourite movie star or president, what is there to do? Lots! The attraction works hard to keep everyone entertained to ensure you never really notice how busy the place is, and experiences include playing ‘Angry Birds’ on a massive screen and a taxi cab ‘fairground’ ride through London’s history. You can also have your photo taken as you sashay down a fashion catwalk and try to solve a Sherlock Holmes mystery in a specially designed interactive gallery. With Madame Tussauds just around the corner from Baker Street, it’s the perfect day out for fans of the legendary sleuth.

All ages

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Madame Tussauds , Regent's Park Until Saturday July 15 2017

Scale a skyscraper at Clip ’n Climb

Give your furniture a break and take the kids to a proper climbing centre. Clip ’n Climb in Chelsea is a colourful landscape of specially designed climbing walls suitable for various ages and levels of ability. Completely safe for beginners, with challenges including ‘The Skyscraper’, ‘Jungle Gym’ and ‘Vertical Drop Slide’, this is a brilliant place for restless little monkeys to gain confidence clambering, climbing and dropping.

Ages four and above

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Walham Green
Learn to play the gamelan at the South Bank

Learn to play the gamelan at the South Bank

In 1987 the Southbank Centre was donated a Javanese percussion orchestra of instruments (a gamelan). Ever since, the centre has run sessions where children and adults can learn how to play the instruments. These include Dragon Babies sessions suitable for preschoolers. Family Taster workshops are also hosted at regular times through the year.

Ages three and above

Burn some energy at Barnard Park Adventure Playground

Here children can stretch, bound and challenge themselves in a safe setting. This supervised adventure playground in Islington includes football and basketball pitches, an amphitheatre and the chance to join arts and crafts sessions, and in the main park there’s a water play feature for clean, wet fun on warmer days. There’s a lunch club during school holidays for a small charge, but open access to the playground is free.

Ages six to 13 

Free

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Barnsbury

Hone your wheel skills at BaySixty6

This skate park under the Westway is a brilliant mix of street cool and great organisation (reassuring for parents who don’t want to spend hours in A&E). Friendly and encouraging, they offer regular beginner sessions but also plenty of challenging thrills for experienced skaters, BMX bikers and professional scooters at an excellent purpose-built skatescape. Perfect for kids who want to mix it with older riders who’ve acquired serious smarts.

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Westbourne Park

Square up to a stegosaurus in Crystal Palace Park

Carefully positioned in the landscape at the Thicket Road end of Crystal Palace Park, vast models of extinct animals and dinosaurs stand just as they did when they were first unveiled in 1854. The Victorians were obsessed with palaeontology, and the ‘Dinosaur Court’ was a huge hit. Fully restored in 2002, the models still fascinate young children (no climbing!) even though any modern-day, dino-obsessed preschooler can tell you that their quaint shapes are anatomically inaccurate.

All ages 

Free

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Crystal Palace

Visit the (deliberately) stinky streets and dark alleyways of Sailortown at the Museum of London Docklands

This free museum has a dedicated gallery (Mudlarks) for small children, but it’s worth visiting the main galleries, for the huge model of the old London Bridge and a walk-through recreation of the docklands in Victorian times. Hear the noises, smell the scents and peer into the shadowy alleyways. Gaze through the window of the chandler’s shop and see inside an old East End boozer.

Free

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Canary Wharf

Get some 1960s-style strikes in at Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes

Venue says: Bowling, karaoke, 26-inch pizzas, cocktails, craft beer, ping pong, private hire space and so much more. Click the website for details.

A change from the vast bowling alleys at out-of-town leisure complexes, Bloomsbury Bowling has a retro feel to it, plus it’s smaller than most alleys (there are just eight lanes) so it has a more intimate vibe. You can come for a game with the kids during daytime hours, or book a bowling and karaoke party here, from £12.50 per child. Note: there are no gutter bumpers and no children admitted after 8pm.

Ages six and above

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Bloomsbury

Learn how the grown-up world works at KidZania

KidZania at Westfield White City is a slick attraction – a whole city built for child play. Kids can dress up and role-play with hands-on activities, becoming anything from a heroic firefighter or a chocolatier to a glamorous pop star or a dentist – testing themselves at a variety of life skills. Just pray they don’t come home thinking a ‘makery’ is what we call a workshop.

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Shepherd's Bush
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Things to do in London with kids

Paddle your own canoe at Lee Valley White Water Centre

This amazing watersports centre scores high for city thrills, not least because it’s an Olympic-standard resource built for London 2012 that was actually open to the public before the Games got started. Cool or what? Sessions include one-off rafting and kayaking courses, but a favourite for teenagers is the six-weeks of level two hour-long classes that prepare you to take on the centre’s most tricky challenges.

Age 12 and above

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London

National Centre for Circus Arts

At this circus-training centre there are courses and facilities for professional artists but also special bookable workshops for beginners of all ages. These include monthly Youth Experience Days where older children can develop key circus skills. Booking in advance is essential, but it’s worth it – a chance to take on the trapeze, the tightwire and the diabolo with expert supervision and tutoring.

Ages eight to 16 

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Shoreditch

Land of the Lions

ZSL London Zoo in Regent’s Park has lots of daily activities that enable families to get close to the wildlife. There are also additional experiences to make a visit even more memorable, including the Zoo Academy two-day course, with games, challenges, trails and zoo-keeping duties. One of our favourite highlights is featured as part of the impressive Land of the Lions zone – a chance to sleep overnight in a Gir Lion Lodge in the enclosure with these incredible beasts.

Ages 14 and above
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Until Sat Dec 31

Bunker 51

Many live-action adventures like this are located further out of London but Bunker 51 is in Docklands and decked out like an underground nuclear shelter. The lighting and props (discarded canisters of toxic waste, abandoned 4x4s and signposts to the missile bay) help to crank up the fear factor and remind you that this is war! Though happily, only in paintball (or lasertag) form.

Ages 12 and above 

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Charlton

Learn the media ropes at The Roundhouse's Young Creatives

Let your kids turn a passion into a potential profession with the Roundhouse creative sessions for ages 11 to 25. For free (in some cases a very small fee), the workshops and courses offer expert advice and hands-on experience for all abilities. Sessions include drop-in street-circus skills, learning how to DJ, radio and music producing workshops and more in-depth courses using the excellent studio facilities.

Ages 11-25 

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Chalk Farm

Learn some serious spy skills at ClueQuest

Great for parents who remember ‘The Crystal Maze’ and kids who love online challenge games, ClueQuest is one of a growing number of experiences offering adventurers a similar challenge in real life. In teams of three to five players, you get locked in a room and have 60 minutes to solve a series of puzzles and mysteries in order to escape. Perfect for parties.

Ages nine and above

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Pentonville

Tackle the mountain biking at Lee Valley VeloPark

With the space to create graded mountain bike runs (the three trails are graded red, blue and black, like ski runs), this is one of the more easily accessible parts of the cycling experience available to the public, post-London 2012. It’s useful to sign up for free membership in advance, then you should be able to just turn up and pay for a session anytime, daily from 9am to sunset. Although booking ahead is recommended.

Ages five and above 

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Stratford

Play Bond for a day on the Thames Rib Experience

Forget a sedate cruise down the river. Opt instead for the pacey pleasures of a high-speed trip down the Thames, bouncing over the water in a rigid inflatable boat (Rib). There are few other ways to go this fast in central London – and, fittingly, one of the special trip experiences on offer is the ‘Spy Charter’ – hire the whole boat and make like a special agent with a licence to thrill.

Minimum passenger weight 15k 

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Waterloo

Spruce up your portfolio at the Dulwich Picture Gallery

Galleries are pretty savvy at cultivating the next generation of art lovers, with free drop-in activities, family-friendly tours and holiday workshops. Dulwich Picture Gallery is among the best, with Practical Art courses throughout the year. Sessions are planned by age range, so under-10s and teens get the right challenges for their abilities and interests. From sculpture to figure drawing, it’s a great south London resource for budding artists.

Ages six and above

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Dulwich Village

Get to grips with a massive wall of ice

Perfect for older kids who appreciate a serious challenge, Vertical Chill is ice climbing that doesn’t require a flight to the Alps – it’s in Covent Garden! This indoor real-ice climbing experience at the Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports store is designed to help beginners and experienced climbers put equipment and their capabilities to the test. It’s suitable for kids aged from 14 years but under-18s must be accompanied by an adult and you can book extra tuition or gear hire if you need it. 

Ages 14 and above

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Things to do in London with kids

Be dazzled by a neon wonderland at God's Own Junk Yard

Artist Chris Bracey created incredible works for art projects and movie sets for nearly 40 years until his death late last year. His God’s Own Junk Yard space in Walthamstow is a studio where you can see his work – a combination of recycled urban debris and electric light in a gallery of wonderful colour. Still a working neon sign business, it’s open to the public Friday to Sunday, and its Rolling Scones Café is open all week.

Free

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Upper Walthamstow

Lidos and outdoor swimming pools in London

Nothing feels quite so liberating as swimming in nature – and in the middle of Zone 1 in Hyde Park, you can do just that. A trip to Serpentine Lido includes a sun terrace and children’s play area, including a paddling pool, but there is also access to a safely marked-off area of the lake for open-water swimming. Wetsuits permitted.

All ages (two adults to each under-16 swimming in the lake) 

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See a show and play in the giant Wendy House at the Polka Theatre

The Polka’s busy programme is all about theatre created to amuse babies and toddlers, and live-action productions to make older children giggle. Other performances include book adaptations and there are workshops for young performers and kids who want to discover backstage crafts. With a café, playground, art space and garden, it’s a welcoming place to pop in even when you don’t have time to take in a show.

All ages

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South Wimbledon

Decorate your afternoon tea at Biscuiteers Boutique and Icing Café

The chic Biscuiteers on Northcote Road takes adorning sweet treats with pretty toppings very seriously. Along with adult classes, they host a Little Biscuiteers School of Icing (£36 for an hour-long class, including soft drinks, biscuits and apron) and any time during opening hours little ones are welcome to indulge in a spot of decorating while the grown-ups chat and nibble (£15 including biscuits to take home).

 

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Westbourne

Epping Forest

The largest green space within the M25, Epping Forest is as breathtaking an escape today as it was when it served as a royal hunting ground in Tudor times. The City of London website has a brilliant cycling map with nine wooded and waymarked trails. For easier rides head towards Leyton and for Wanstead Flats, for steeper, denser challenges get yourself to High Beach and Loughton.

Free

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London

Horniman MuseumCome face-to-fish with a jellyfish shoal at the Horniman Museum

Recommended

This free museum in south-east London has plenty of fascinating exhibits to gaze at and (in some cases) grapple with, but there’s also a great little aquarium here you can explore for a small charge. It includes a Fijian Reef, a Tropical Rainforest, a Mangrove swamp and a UK rock pool display, stocked with aquatic creatures native to those environments. The moon jellyfish are particularly magical.

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Forest Hill

Take command of a treehouse at the Olympic Park's Tumbling Bay Playground

With oodles of traffic-free pathways, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is a brilliant place for running around and bike rides. The Tumbling Bay adventure playground is a real highlight, with sand pits, wobbly bridges, rock pools and tall treehouses. There are also swings and slides. Note to parents with a penchant for a cuppa and a cake – it’s next door to the Timber Lodge café.

Free

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Stratford

Sniff out an intriguing artwork at the Saatchi Gallery

The Saatchi Gallery has moved home a few times over the decades, but an enduring favourite of its collection is Richard Wilson’s ‘20:50’ – a room seemingly filled with black oil, enchantingly shiny and smooth to look at and heady in scent. The gallery is a champion for modern art and other visiting exhibitions never fail to inspire and fascinate all ages.

Free

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Chelsea

Go pond dipping at Camley Street Natural Park

In two acres of wilderness just north of St Pancras, Camley Street Natural Park is like a corner of countryside in Zone 1. Created from an old coal yard and sitting alongside the Regent’s Canal, it’s a wonderful space for seeking out birds and butterflies, croaking amphibians and even bats, then reporting back on your wildlife sightings, which helps the work of the reserve.

Free

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King's Cross

Discover what the green ogre did next at Shrek's Adventure

A wacky misadventure at County Hall, Shrek’s Adventure! London is a genuinely fun, new immersive experience. When your 4D bus tour ‘crash lands’ in a strangely familiar swamp, you (yes, adults as well as kids) have to work as a team to solve puzzles and get home again. On your quest you’ll meet everyone from Princess Fiona and Donkey to Puss in Boots and a host of other Shrek heroes (and villains). Great fun.

Ages six and above


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South Bank
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By: LauraLee Davies

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