Radiators covered in damp socks from rainy trips to one of London's best parks? Here are some great spaces where kids can let off steam indoors, for free. We've got you covered, literally, whether you're looking for fun, shelter or just some great rainy day activities in London.
RECOMMENDED: the full guide to half-term in London for kids
Free indoor play spaces in London
Make life easier by using the Science Museum’s online visit planner in advance, so you can go straight to the galleries that suit your kids’ ages. For older children, Launchpad manages to make physics, maths and chemistry fun, with oversized experiment displays they can try for themselves. For five- to eight- year-olds, the Pattern Pod looks at science in creative ways, with multi-sensory activities. The Garden gives three- to six-year-olds a taste of key scientific themes – water, sound, light, construction – through play. And if they all go home thinking they’ve spent the day playing, well, that’s just fine.
The former home to Bankside Power Station’s electricity generators is five storeys high, with plenty of room for runaway toddlers and strolling grown-ups to do their own thing without collision. Tate Modern has unveiled a new work by sculptor Richard Tuttle (on display until April 6 2015) in the Turbine Hall. The installation is his largest work to date. ‘I Don’t Know. The Weave of Textile Language’ features enormous swathes of fabric in vibrant colours. It’s the perfect inspiration for the themed activities for children that Tate Modern offers for free every weekend (and on Thursdays and Fridays in school holidays). Get weaving!
The NMM’s vast mezzanine floor is light and airy, so there’s no need to stay home and suffer cabin fever. New for 2014, the Great Map is a huge plan of the world painted on the floor that you can walk, crawl or scramble across. Use one of the museum’s interactive tablets to discover stories of seafaring adventures, or pick a themed Great Map game to play.
The main galleries, with models of ships, bridges and an eerie walk- through recreation of the dangerous dockside area in Victorian times, have lots to amuse the family. But the real star is the Mudlarks gallery, with a soft play area for little ’uns and hands-on fun for older kids. They can load cargo and sift the ‘riverbed’ for treasure while learning about the Thames and ships. There’s theatre, storytelling and art too, all free.
With an aquarium and galleries of weird and wonderful exhibits, the Horniman is a delight. But at weekends and in school holidays, the Hands On Base room is the best place for kids who can’t resist touchingthingstheyshouldn’t. Have a go playing unusual musical instruments, wear a Mexican mask and handle strange curiosities.
From face painting to wand making, Scalextric racing to singalongs, the store hosts half-term activities during the holidays. The department store's permanent play space is on the fourth floor. The staff are attentive, and properly interact with the children and there's plenty to keep nippers occupied including a Lego table, a Play-Doh station and Barbie zone complete with a shiny plastic fuchsia work station. Overall, it's not too gender specific and nothing is labelled 'boys' or 'girls'.