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Top 10 museums in London for kids

Museums aren't just for adults – treat the kids to a fun and educational day out this half-term

You've read them books, taken them to see a show – how can you continue to keep the kids entertained during half-term in London? Just head to one of London's many child-friendly museums, which provide all kinds of activities and fun stuff to keep the little ones happy. 
Lots of the museums are free to visit, and many offer activities and workshops for kids too, meaning that the children will probably leave having learned even more than the adults.
RECOMMENDED: the full guide to half-term in London for kids

London's best museums for families

Horniman Museum

This anthropological museum has to be one of the most child-friendly venues in all London. Set in 16 acres of landscaped gardens, the Horniman provides extensive facilities for families, including a nature trail, weekend workshops and a Hands On Base where children can touch museum objects. There's an aquarium, and the Nature Base explores the natural world with exhibits including the Horniman Museum beehive.

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Forest Hill

V&A Museum of Childhood

A lot of thought has gone into making this museum child-friendly; after all, it's a tease to see so many toys and not be able to play with them. To compensate, there are activity stations in each area with Lego, stickle bricks, a sandpit, board games, rocking horses, a book corner and many other treats. In addition, the museum hosts plenty of kids events at weekends and during school holidays.

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Bethnal Green

Science Museum

No one's too young (or old) to get a kick out of a visit here. Icons of science (Stephenson's Rocket locomotive, Crick and Watson's DNA model) are treated with due respect, but this place couldn't be less stuffy with its games, simulators and interactive exhibits. The jewel in its crown is Launchpad, where 50 hands-on exhibits and experiments keep kids agog; here, they can make a rainbow or take a dizzying turn on the rotation station.

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London Transport Museum

This much-loved museum does a sterling job of presenting a fascinating and entertaining history of transport in the capital, with many vehicles to explore along the way. For children, the London Transport Museum has an under-fives play area decorated with Steven Appleby illustrations and the chance to sit in the driver's cab of a red bus and guide a Northern Line simulator through tunnels and up to platforms – (truth be told, it's fun for adults, too).

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Covent Garden

British Museum

Rooms 62 and 63 of the Roxie Walker galleries are top of most children's agendas; it's here that the Egyptian mummies reside, exerting an eerie spell over visitors. Inventive and free family events run on Saturdays. Handling sessions take place daily in various galleries and there are some fantastic trail booklets available in the Paul Hamlyn Library that help kids of different ages get the best out of the museum.

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Natural History Museum

The museum splits its exhibits into four colour-coded zones, each with its own marvels. In Blue Zone, a life-size model of a blue whale quietens all but the loudest of kids. Geology takes centre stage in the Red Zone. It's a dramatic escalator ascent through the centre of the earth. At the top you'll find the ground-shaking earthquake simulator – a reliable source of giggles and a few shrieks of alarm.

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Geffrye Museum

Housed in a set of 18th-century almshouses, the Geffrye Museum offers a vivid physical history of the English interior. It's like time-travelling without the Tardis. On the first Saturday of the month there are free quizzes and craft activities for 5-16 year-olds, while half-term brings hands-on workshops for all ages. In summer, there's an eclectic array of family days; events often spill into the glorious gardens, so bring a picnic to eat on the grass.

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Dulwich Picture Gallery

Lending weight to the idea that the best things come in small packages, this bijou gallery – the first to be purpose-built in the UK – is also a community hub of arty activity. Tuesday's Evening Art School gives 15-18 year-olds the change to develop their portfolios. Wednesday's quirkily-themed after-school sessions are aimed at 7-10 year-olds, while there are six-week art courses on Thursday evenings for 11-14 year-olds. Holidays bring yet more activities, often involving making things along a seasonal theme.

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Dulwich Village

Old Operating Theatre Museum

This museum is a real one-off. Each step up the narrow, rickety, wooden spiral staircase leads you further from present-day London and towards the quiet ghosts of the past. Ghoulish exhibits are packed under its dark eaves. Go through a narrow antechamber to find Europe's oldest operating theatre, where sanitised reenactments are sometimes held. Children's workshops take place on Saturdays – see the website for details.

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London Bridge

Imperial War Museum

There are guns, planes and tanks in the main galleries, but there's far more to the museum. The family exhibition 'A Family in Wartime' tells the story of how ordinary people braved the challenges of life at home during WWII through the eyes of the Allpress family, who lived in Stockwell. The unflinching Holocaust Exhibition, which traces the history of anti-semitism and its shameful nadir in the death camps, is not recommended for under-14s.

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More great London activities for children