Top 10 half-term activities in London

Spend the week with the kids doing some of the coolest and quirkiest activities London has to offer this October half-term

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As much as we love telly and video games, we have to admit: a half-term spent hunched on the sofa is one wholly wasted. With that in mind, here’s our round-up of London’s best events, activities and even more this half-term (Monday October 27 – Friday October 31 2014). Batteries not included – or necessary.

Crash Bang Wallop! Family Concert

From Oct 8-Nov 1, the City of London Sinfonia will be celebrating the 450 years that have passed since Shakespeare's birth with performances of music used in films and plays inspired by the late bard. The orchestra will be closing the series with a fun, family-friendly concert to introduce young children to classical music. Featuring extracts from Mendelssohn’s 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream', Mussorgsky’s 'Night on Bald Mountain', Tchaikovsky’s 'Sleeping Beauty Waltz', Debussy's 'Prelude à l’apres-midi d’un faune' and 'Sorcerer’s Apprentice' by Dukas. If you arrive early, at 11am, children can also take part in the pre-show activities, which include meeting the musicians, minute maestro conducting, musical arts and crafts, and a percussion zoo.

  1. Cadogan Hall Sloane Terrace, SW1X 9DQ
  2. Sat Nov 1
More info

Wildclub

  • Free

Pull on your wellies and get down to one of London's most family-friendly green spaces, Spitalfields City Farm, for these Saturday nature-themed workshops. Activities could include anything from modelling clay bowls from leaves or making concrete steps for the farm's bug hotel, to using the garden's vegetable bounty to stamp out an autumn painting. Hang around after the sessions to play in the awesome treehouse or say hello to the resident animals which include Bayleaf the donkey, Watson and Holmes the kune-kune pig brothers, and Isla and Kirsty the friendly seaweed-eating sheep. Kids aged 4-8 can attend with a parent in the morning (10.30am-noon), while afternoon sessions (1.30pm-3pm) are for children aged 8-12.

  1. Spitalfields City Farm Buxton St, E1 5AR
  2. Sat Oct 25 - Sat Nov 15
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Voicelab Half-Term Singing Course

We know full well that not every musical child is obsessed with One Direction or desperate  to become the next Justin Bieber, and this singing course invites those aged 7-12 of all singing abilities to learn some music of a higher calibre (no offence intended to Directioners and Beliebers). Participants will learn the children's chorus part of Benjamin Britten's 'War Requiem' during five days of workshops in preparation for a concert at the Royal Festival Hall on Remembrance Sunday. In breaks from note-bashing, budding performers will visit 'Mirrorcity' at the Hayward Gallery, go on a backstage tour of the Royal Festival Hall and attend a gardening workshop. Juice and fruit for breaktimes are provided but it's BYO packed lunch, and children will need to be able to attend rehearsal days on Nov 8 and 9 in addition to the half-term dates and concert. The course is priced at £35 per child for the whole week.

  1. Southbank Centre Belvedere Rd, SE1 8XX
  2. Mon Oct 27 - Fri Oct 31
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Cartoon Drawing Workshop

Mik Brown leads three cartoon drawing classes throughout the day for different ages and abilities. First up are the beginners sessions for 7-9-year-olds (10-11.30am), followed by the 10-14s (12-1.30pm). Then from 2.30-4pm ages 7-14, who already have a knack for sketching, are taught techniques to develop their skills. There are ten places per class; booking essential.

  1. Alleyn Park Garden Centre 77 Park Hall Road, SE21 8ES
  2. Fri Oct 31
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Storystock

  • Critics choice

The children's literary festival for ages 3-11 (plus parents) returns this year. Authors, comics, poets, illustrators and storytellers will host events over the three days, with a particular highlight being Michael Morpurgo Day (Oct 28), where the author himself will perform 'The Mozart Question' and Morpurgo's classic tale 'I Believe in Unicorns will be staged by Daynah Miller. On top of those shows there will be Q&A events with best-selling kids writers Judith Kerr and Lauren Child and Jeanne Willis. Also watch out for Jan Blake reading her Anasi stories and the show 'Danger is Everywhere' from comedian David O'Doherty.    

  1. Bush Theatre 7 Uxbridge Rd, W12 8LJ
  2. Tue Oct 28 - Thu Oct 30
More info

Family Day: The Weave of Textile Language

  • Free

American textile artist Richard Tuttle's exhibition at the Whitechapel is full of creative ways with everyday objects. This workshop for families, led by artists Monica Rivas and Freya Gabie, will see visitors create collaborative drawings using wire, cotton, string, paper; the sort of stuff you'd find in various household drawers. Use the Family Trail to explore the exhibition to look for inspiration. Booking recommended.

  1. Whitechapel Gallery 77-82 Whitechapel High St, E1 7QX
  2. Sat Nov 1
More info

Shakespeare's Untold Stories

The Globe gets ready for half term with this series of interactive family days for families. Globe Education has created adaptations of Shakespeare's play for ages 6-plus. The pieces will be staged in unseen areas of the Globe, and include 'Romeo and Juliet' - named 'The Party Planner's Tale' - 'The Merchant of Venice' - named 'The Banker's Tale - and 'Titus Andronicus' - named 'The Pie Maker's Tale'. The final show is staged on Halloween. There are two performances running at 11am and 2pm daily and the plays alternate.

  1. Shakespeare's Globe New Globe Walk, Bankside, SE1 9DT
  2. Mon Oct 27 - Fri Oct 31
More info

Tricks and Treats Animation Workshop

Kids can get creative by making their own stop-motion animation film to show to parents and guardians on the final afternoon, learning skills such as drawing, background and character design, model making and cut-out animation along the way. Please take a packed lunch.

  1. Chocolate Films Ltd Units 1 & 2 Hackford Walk, 119-123 Hackford Road, SW9 0QT
  2. Thu Oct 30 - Fri Oct 31
More info

Get Your Folk On!

Young musicians of all levels (and all instruments) can join these workshops in creating folk music whether they're new to the genre or already know the lyrics to Fairport Convention's first album. The sessions will involve singing and dancing as well as playing, and most music will be played by ear. Two separate courses are available – a two-day introductory course for those aged 9-12 (Oct 27-28) and a three-day creative course for those aged 12-18 (Oct 29-31). Call 020 7241 8953 or email education@edfss.org to enrol.

  1. Cecil Sharp House Regents Park Road, NW1 7AY
  2. Mon Oct 27 - Fri Oct 31
More info

Albert’s Band presents: To Infinity and Beyond

Join Albert's Band, the Royal Albert Hall's resident orchestra, for an action packed journey through space-inspired music. These concerts are held in the Hall's Elgar Room, with an area reserved for children to sit right in front of the stage and interactive elements for the whole family.

  1. Royal Albert Hall Kensington Gore, SW7 2AP
  2. Sat Oct 25
More info

The View from The Shard: Kids Go Free

Fancy taking the kids to see the Houses of Parliament, the Tower of London, the London Eye and Buckingham Palace for free, all at the same time? During the May half-term week at The View from The Shard each paying adult can bring two children for free to see the whole the capital from its highest point. Check online to confirm opening times.

  1. The View from the Shard Joiner St, SE1 9QU
  2. Mon Oct 27 - Sun Nov 2
More info

Get on your Bike at Lee Valley Velopark

Two-wheel enthusiasts can sign up for taster sessions at the Olympic velodrome track (age 12-16), or opt for the BMX track, smooth road circuit or mountain bike skills section (age 7-16). Other sporty half-terms events happening at Lee Valley Regional Parks are canoeing, white-water rafting, athletics, tennis and Quicksticks hockey classes. See www.visitleevalley.org.uk for more info.

  1. Lee Valley Velopark Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, E20 3EL
  2. Mon Oct 27 - Fri Oct 31
More info

Tiny Explorers

Let your little ones explore some big places with these creative play sessions at Kensington Palace. Each session lasts 45-60 minutes and is led by an artist who will lead visitors from room to room, singing and playing as they go. The babies' sessions take place from 10.30am-11.30am, while toddlers and kids aged four and under should go to the 1pm-2pm or 2.30pm-3.30pm sessions. Call 0844 482 7777 to book. Tickets do not include full palace entry.

  1. Kensington Palace The Broadwalk, Kensington Gardens, W8 4PX
  2. Wed Oct 22 - Wed Nov 12
More info

Half Term at the V&A

Drop in any day during half-term and visit the Imagination Station to create cloud-themed artwork based on the Constable exhibition, or visit the Digital Studio to design screen-based art. There are also pop-up shows that will take place each day at 11am, 1pm and 3pm that bring Constable's country scenes to life. All the above events are free, and you can also book on to a landscape painting workshop for ages five to 12 (Oct 27-31, 10.30am-12.30pm and 2.30pm-4.30pm, £7.50).

  1. V&A Cromwell Rd, SW7 2RL
  2. Sat Oct 25 - Sun Nov 2
More info

Dazzle Camouflage

Camouflage has always been an important part of warfare and defence, just as much for ships as for soldiers. So just how do you hide a ship at sea? Find out at this family event, and take part in a creative animation workshop to create your own camouflage.  

  1. HMS Belfast The Queen's Walk, SE1 2JH
  2. Sat Oct 25 - Sun Nov 2
More info

Autumn Antics at the ArcelorMittal Orbit

Spend half-term getting crafty inside the Olympic Park's striking sculpture with these afternoon activity sessions for visitors aged 4-16. Learn to make traditional Diwali lanterns (Oct 26), carve your own pumpkins (Oct 27) and join the spooky family disco in fancy dress (Nov 1, 5.30pm-7pm). The workshops are all free with admission.

  1. ArcelorMittal Orbit Olympic Park, Stratford, E20 2ST
  2. Sat Oct 25 - Fri Oct 31
More info

The Little Disco

What could be more fun than trading moves with the offspring on a Saturday afternoon? The concept's simple: a DJ at the wheels of steel, throwing down a rare mix of old skool classics, children's favourites and current hits for 90mins, and a fully functioning pub bar at which daddy and mummy can gently lubricate their inner Ibiza. Aimed at families with under-sevens.

  1. East Dulwich Tavern 1 Lordship Lane, SE22 8EW
  2. Sun Oct 26 - Sun Dec 14
More info

Pizza Workshops with Well Kneaded

Handcraft your own lunch in these workshops with street food pizza experts Well Kneaded which are aimed at children aged 4-9 but very much suitable for grown-ups, too. Make, bake then scoff your unique creation between 11.30am and 1pm. No booking required – just drop by. These workshops are part of the Doodle Bar's half-term activities.

  1. Doodle Bar 33 Parkgate Rd, SW11 4NP
  2. Mon Oct 27 - Thu Oct 30
More info

Astronomy Photographer of the Year

  • Free

Among the awe-inspiring shortlisted entries for this year’s competition are pics of psychedelic auroras, spine-tingling meteor showers and the centre of the Heart Nebula. The last example is a star-clustered region of glowing gas in the Cassiopeia constellation – in case you didn’t already know. The free exhibition features remarkable photos from a record number of submissions, showcasing remarkable feats of astrophotography for a sixth year. It’s a chance to see magical views of both our own night sky and of galaxies far, far away. The winning spacey visions come from dozens of professional and amateur snappers in four categories: ‘Earth and Space’, ‘Our Solar System’, ‘Deep Space’ and ‘Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year’ for under-16s.

  1. Royal Observatory Blackheath Avenue, SE10 8XJ
  2. Until Sun Feb 1
More info


Users say

5 comments
lilibartley
lilibartley

Thanks ThomasCrock, I am going to take you up on the Lincoln thing! My daughter is weirdly obsessed with him so that will definitely wile away a few hours...

ThomasCrock
ThomasCrock

great selection. thank you, has been invaluable. Did also go to the new Tiger space at London Zoo, unfortunately was a very rainy day and the tigers (as with most of the animals) were in hiding. Have also been using www.lincolnfingerpuppet.com as a companion to keep the kids amused!

Daniela Dellacqua
Daniela Dellacqua

hello i am very impressed with your choices of children half term activities only i would like to suggest to include a few for the under 5 years old many thanks

Anne Bradley
Anne Bradley

Half term for some parents outside of London started on the 11 February 2013. London should take into account this.

Maureen
Maureen

I do feel sorry for more than 2 kids in family as I feel they do miss out I know my 4 grand children do I want to take them to places but just cant afford places of interest as 4 comes so expensive.