The top London museums for kids
With arts, crafts, ancient animals, and the opportunity to drive a Tube train, London's best institutions aren't just for adults
The best museums in London for families
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.
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.
Having undergone a £23 million transformation, this free-to-visit Chelsea museum reopened in 2017 with fabulous displays and a serious focus on activities for kids of all ages. You can do a spot of square-bashing and see if you pass muster with the drill sergeant, take command of a battle and test your strategy smarts, then get stuck into the interactive tank experience where you can get behind the wheel, man the guns or be look-out in the turret as tank crew on a WWII mission in Normandy. In the Play Base area there’s an assault course and a themed soft play area, and at weekends and during school holidays there are lots of free activities.
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. Once a month on a Sunday families can come down for Art Sundays, aimed at 7-12-year-olds (although all ages are welcome). And then there are Family Fridays, where you can get your hands dirty doing 'expressive art-inspired' activities, led by artists. Holidays bring yet more activities, often involving making things along a seasonal theme.
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.
What was once the Museum of Childhood has had a big refurb and is now Young V&A. 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.
Support Time Out
We see you’re using an ad-blocker. Ad revenue is Time Out’s main source of income. The content you’re reading is made by independent, expert local journalists.
Support Time Out directly today and help us champion the people and places which make the city tick. Cheers!Donate now
Discover Time Out original video