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Children's theatre in London

Keep the kids quiet with a bit of culture at one of London's family-friendly shows

'Grandad Me and Teddy Too'

Even the smallest members of the family enjoy the odd stage show. Here are the Time Out theatre team's recommendations for kids' theatre and which performances will suit the very little ones, the nearly big ones, and the grown ups too. If you're planning ahead for the school holidays, check out top 10 children's theatre shows this half-term and our 101 things to do in London with kids. Or for treats the whole family can enjoy, have a look at our favourite West End theatre shows.

Theatre for children (5+)

The Box Of Photographs

Award-winning playwright Daniel Jamieson's lively new adventure play is based on hundreds of stories by local children. They were shown photographs collected by Donne Buck, a pioneer in establishing adventure playgrounds in London and beyond. Inspired by his work, they've helped create an anarchic performance where imagination makes the rules.

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Polka Theatre , South Wimbledon Until Sunday May 15 2016

Grandad And Me

A gorgeous living storybook from the Letter J company, this show tells the story of a young girl who misses her Grandad. She follows in his footsteps on a magical journey that helps children explore themes of loss and memory.

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Battersea Arts Centre , Battersea Saturday June 4 2016 - Sunday June 5 2016

Running Wild

Samuel Adamson adapts an Indonesian elephant adventure by Michael Morpurgo, the children's author whose book inspired West End smash 'War Horse'. Some of the horsey hit's puppeteers are on board too, to create a richly visual story of what happens to Will and his elephant Oona when tsunami strikes.

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Regent's Park Open Air Theatre , Regent's Park Friday May 13 2016 - Sunday June 12 2016

We're Going on a Bear Hunt

Critics' choice

Michael Rosen’s rhythmic tale about a family which goes looking for bears is addictively popular with tots. And it's very nicely adapted here by a sweet-throated troupe of Little Angel puppeteers, who add soulful folk songs to the story. Ages 3-6.

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Little Angel Theatre , Islington Until Sunday June 26 2016

Little Red Riding Hood

The Berry Theatre presents an adaptation of the traditional tale written by Olivier Award-winning Mike Kenny with songs by Simon Slater and directed by Owen Calvert-Lyons. Come along in your pyjamas, dressing gowns, onesies, and slippers if you like!

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Artsdepot , North Finchley Friday May 27 2016 - Wednesday June 1 2016

The Showstoppers' Fantastical Story Factory

The Showstoppers team have made their mark on the grown up theatre scene - and the West End too - with their rapid-fire improvised musicals. This kids' version of their show will take children on a magical musical adventure based on their suggestions, however silly. 

Read more
Southbank Centre , South Bank Saturday May 7 2016 - Saturday July 2 2016

Annie

The famous story of the orphan girl with the bright red hair is one of Broadway's best loved musicals. In this version, 'Birds of a Feather' star Lesley Joseph stars as the tyrannical Miss Hannigan, orphanage matron. With sunny hit songs including 'Tomorrow', there's nothing like a play about life in a 1930s orphanage to convince the kids that it's not such a hard knock life, after all. 

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Fairfield Halls , Croydon Monday May 2 2016 - Saturday May 7 2016

946 The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips

Emma Rice brings her former company Kneehigh to the Globe for the second time this summer with this big, boisterous, music-filled show adapted from a 2006 novella by 'War Horse' man Michael Morpurgo. Set during the Second World War, it follows the goings on in a Devon town, an idyll shattered by the terrible carnage of a botched training exercise that claimed the lives of 946 American servicemen.

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Shakespeare's Globe , South Bank Thursday August 11 2016 - Sunday September 11 2016

The Librarian

Ever been lost in a book? This imaginative performance will set kids on the trail of a very unusual librarian, and an even more unusual book. Audio guides will lead them through an interactive adventure that's all about the magic of stories. Discover Children's Story Centre are taking this magical experience on a trip round East London libraries and schools. Ages four-plus.

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Leytonstone Library , Leytonstone Monday May 2 2016 - Saturday May 28 2016
See more kids theatre recommendations

Theatre for young children (0-4)

The Polar Bears Go Up

Two polar bears find a rare and precious balloon in the snow. And when they lose it, they must follow its trail over trees, clouds and stars. This imaginative performance from Glasgow based duo Fish and Game is aimed at children aged from 2-5.

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Unicorn Theatre , London Bridge Sunday May 1 2016

We're Going on a Bear Hunt

Critics' choice

'We're Going On A Bear Hunt' returns to the Little Angel Theatre in Spring 2016. This review is of the production's 2014 run. ‘We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re going to catch a big one, what a beautiful day, we’re not scared.’ Michael Rosen’s rhythmic tale about a family which goes looking for bears is addictively popular with tots. And it's very nicely adapted here by a sweet-throated troupe of Little Angel puppeteers, in whose hands it’s become a charming, slightly alarming Saturday dad disaster story with additional folk songs. Converting a board book to a 45-minute show is often a stretch, but this pre-school classic can take the strain. Each onomatopeic obstacle that our plucky heroes have to surmount (such as swishy swashy grass) converts ingeniously to a nifty scene and set. And the whittled wooden puppets are cute, perfectly tuned to Helen Oxenbury's wistful original illustrations, and expertly handled, particularly the swimming baby and the licking dog. The energy drops in some scenes, especially when the makers opt for spooky ‘mild peril’, as DVD-regulators like to call it, and lose the adventurous enthusiasm in that rocking rhythm which drives the story forwards. And I could have wished that the helter skelter finale, where they do everything backwards, had been more hectic. But, as always at this treasured London venue, the production values are superb – if you have a 3-6-year old and can get them to Islington conveniently, you couldn’t wish for a sweeter intr

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Little Angel Theatre , Islington Until Sunday June 26 2016

Little Red Riding Hood

A bold retelling of the story of the big bad wolf from The Berry Theatre. Olivier Award-winning Mike Kenny has adapted the story, filling it with songs by Simon Slater. Kids are invited to come in pyjamas and settle in for some fearsome fun.

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Artsdepot , North Finchley Friday May 27 2016 - Wednesday June 1 2016
See more of the best London shows for little ones

Theatre for all the family

946 The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips

Emma Rice brings her former company Kneehigh to the Globe for the second time this summer with this big, boisterous, music-filled show adapted from a 2006 novella by 'War Horse' man Michael Morpurgo. Set during the Second World War, it follows the goings on in a Devon town, an idyll shattered by the terrible carnage of a botched training exercise that claimed the lives of 946 American servicemen.

Read more
Shakespeare's Globe , South Bank Thursday August 11 2016 - Sunday September 11 2016

Annie

The famous story of the orphan girl with the bright red hair is one of Broadway's best loved musicals. In this version, 'Birds of a Feather' star Lesley Joseph stars as the tyrannical Miss Hannigan, orphanage matron. With sunny hit songs including 'Tomorrow', there's nothing like a play about life in a 1930s orphanage to convince the kids that it's not such a hard knock life, after all.

Read more
Fairfield Halls , Croydon Monday May 2 2016 - Saturday May 7 2016

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Critics' choice

A luminous roller-coaster ride of colour, spectacle and fantastical happenings, Sam Mendes’s stage version of Roald Dahl’s adored children’s book is still as entertaining as ever, two years and a couple of casts down the line. And though a lot of that comes down to the show’s garishly-hued stage tricks, it’s also due to the main attraction.

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Theatre Royal Drury Lane , Covent Garden Monday May 2 2016 - Saturday January 7 2017

The Lion King

The posters have been plastered around the London Underground for years – long enough for this show to become the most successful musical of all time – but nothing prepares you for the sheer impact of 'The Lion King's opening sequence. With the surge of 'Circle Of Life' reverberating through your chest, Julie Taymor's animal creations march on, species by species. Gazelles spring, birds swoop and an elephant and her child lumber through the stalls. It's a cacophonous cavalcade that genuinely stops you breathing.

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Lyceum Theatre , Covent Garden Until Sunday October 2 2016

Matilda the Musical

Critics' choice

'My mummy says I'm a miracle,' lisps a pampered mini-me at a purgatorial kiddies' birthday party at the outset of this delicious, treacly-dark family show. The obnoxious ma and pa of its titular, gifted, pint-sized heroine are not, of course, quite so doting. But 'Matilda' has been scoring hit reviews and even a Broadway run: its creators, playwright Dennis Kelly and comedian-songsmith Tim Minchin, must be a pair of very proud parents.

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Cambridge Theatre , Covent Garden Until Sunday May 28 2017

The Railway Children

Critics' choice

E Nesbit’s book-turned-cult movie about three exceptionally well-mannered Edwardian children is essentially ‘Brief Encounter’ for families. But this lively version is more than just a ticket for the nostalgia express, thanks to some strong performances and a thrilling staging including a real 60-tonne steam engine.

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King's Cross Theatre , King's Cross Until Sunday January 8 2017

Running Wild

Samuel Adamson adapts an Indonesian elephant adventure by Michael Morpurgo, the children's author whose book inspired West End smash 'War Horse'. Some of the horsey hit's puppeteers are on board too, to create a richly visual story of what happens to Will and his elephant Oona when tsunami strikes.

Read more
Regent's Park Open Air Theatre , Regent's Park Friday May 13 2016 - Sunday June 12 2016

The Showstoppers' Fantastical Story Factory

The Showstoppers team have made their mark on the grown up theatre scene - and the West End too - with their rapid-fire improvised musicals. This kids' version of their show will take children on a magical musical adventure based on their suggestions, however silly. 

Read more
Southbank Centre , South Bank Saturday May 7 2016 - Saturday July 2 2016
See more recommended family shows

Comments

6 comments
Lucy Limon
Lucy Limon

Which play does that top photo show, the one with the train steaming down the middle of the theatre?? That looks amazing. Thanks

Lucy Limon
Lucy Limon

Which play does that top photo show, the one with the train steaming down the middle of the theatre?? That looks amazing. Thanks

Andrzej
Andrzej

Re: Elaine: the smaller theatres tend to be represented more by the 'for children' and 'for young children' tabs at the top of the screen - if you click on them you'll see shows at the Little Angel et al, it's just that the genuinely 'family friendly' shows (ie anyone of any age could see them) tend to gravitate towards the West End while the specialist children's theatre tend to put on shows that are actively aimed at children only. Might rethink this one if it's not clear!

elaine turner
elaine turner

this sight is too west end based- what is needed is some information regarding small theatres that we can take our kids to without getting a new mortgage