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Free Range Urban Kids
Jorn Tomter

101 things to do in London with kids: outdoor activities

Get some fresh air in the little ones' lungs with these great ideas for open-air fun

Written by
Laura Lee Davies
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London can’t be beaten for expansive parks and imaginatively designed playgrounds that keep little rascals occupied for hours on end. There are vertiginous slides, giant pirate ships and inventive water play zones on a scale that wow out-of-towners.

SEE THE FULL LIST101 things to do in London with kids

Outdoor activities for kids

Cycle between the trees in Epping Forest
  • Attractions
  • Forests
  • Essex

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

All ages

Hurtle down the giant slides in Victoria Park
  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Victoria Park

On the east side of vast Victoria Park, The Hub is a playground for bold adventurers. Along with climbing equipment and sand play (plus a pool play area that’s open in summertime), The Hub boasts huge swooping slides for speedy thrills. There is a skatepark here, too, though smaller children might prefer to head for the V&A playground to the west of the park, near Grove Road, for the gentle pleasures of swings and other things.

Free

All ages

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Celebrating the great outdoors at all times of the year, Free Range Urban Kids encourages young children to play and learn through nature. Den building, mini-beast spotting and foraging are typical of the alfresco diversions on offer at this ‘Forest School’ playgroup and holiday club based at South Millfields Park. Everything has been thought about, including a discreet outdoor potty area, and a professional and friendly team runs drop-off sessions.

£18, £16 each for six sessions, £35 Holiday Club (ages 3-8; 4 hours, lunch included)

Ages 2-5 (ages 2-3 parents stay for the session)

Various London venues

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • King’s Cross

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

All ages

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Watch the pelicans being fed in St James's Park
  • Attractions
  • Sightseeing
  • Westminster

Surrounded by some of London’s most popular sightseeing attractions (Buckingham Palace, Westminster and Trafalgar Square), St James’s Park often gets overlooked, but it’s one of the loveliest green spaces to let the kids run about in. Duck Island, at the east end of the park’s lake, is perfect for birdwatchers. There have been pelicans here since the 1660s, and every day you can watch these curious feathered creatures being fed fresh fish at 2.30pm.

Free

All ages

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Crystal Palace

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.

Free

All ages

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Drive into the Thames with Duck Tours
  • Attractions
  • Ships and boats
  • Waterloo

See London’s best-loved landmarks by road and river without the need to switch from bus to boat. Using amphibious landing craft from WWII, Duck Tours start close to the London Eye, then head past Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace and Westminster before splashing down into the river close to Tate Britain, for a Thames cruise return to where you started. There are James Bond, D-Day and Pirate-themed tours, too.

£24, £20 concs, £16 under-18s, £70 family, free under-1s

All ages

Take a dip in the Serpentine
  • Sport and fitness
  • Hyde Park

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.

£4.80, £3.80 concs, £1.80 child, £12 family

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

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  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Richmond Park

Richmond Park’s wild landscape is ideal for families. Venture beyond the gates of the Isabella Plantation (near the south side of the park), and you’ll find yourself in a scented, colourful world of flowers and bushes. Choose your pathway into the woods and find the pretty oasis of Thomson’s Pond. Picnic under the weeping willow then try to negotiate the stepping-stones and the series of bridges over the stream without getting shoes and socks wet.

Free

All ages

Zoom around on scooters on the Barbican highwalks
  • Cinemas
  • Barbican

The long walkways that link the various venues and residential blocks of the Barbican are traffic free, with few pedestrians. In fact in early morning and in the evening you might encounter joggers, but otherwise this is a great place to let little ones scoot around. There is a lot to spot, too, including arches, turret motifs and arrow slits built into the design by architects, referencing the site’s previous life as a fortress.

Free

All ages

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