The sun should be showing its face by the time May half-term (Saturday May 26-Sunday June 3) rolls around, but whatever the weather, there are tons of brilliant things to do, shows to see and exciting events happening in London to suit all ages. Read on for our pick of the best family-friendly half-term activities in London – get the kids off the sofa… and get out!
Check our full guide to half-term in London for more events.
Half-term activities for kids
The Underbelly tent has once again landed on the South Bank and it’s bursting with tip-top entertainment for kids. Over half-term you can catch circus shows ‘Soap’ and ‘The Very Circusy Caterpillar’, comedy from ‘Screaming with Laughter’ and ‘Harry and Chris’, the Belly Theatre’s ‘Aliens Love Underpants’, a special children’s variety show and the spectacle that is ‘The Amazing Bubble Man’. And while their older brothers and sisters are enjoying that little lot, toddlers can get grooving in Monski Mouse’s Baby Disco Dance Hall.
In a specially constructed tropical enclosure, kids can come face-to-face with butterflies, including the swallowtail, blue morpho, moon moth and many others originating from Africa, Southeast Asia and the Americas, and take part in games, activities and challenges that teach them about the sensory world of the fluttering creatures. There are so many butterflies that you have to take care not to trample them underfoot (so perhaps not the best environment for toddlers) but this is a wonderful chance to learn about these creatures and immerse yourself in every stage of their brief lives.
In recent years, hugely respected immersive theatre company Punchdrunk has turned its hand to inventive kids’ shows like ‘Against Captain’s Orders’, a piratical adventure that took over Greenwich Maritime Museum. It’s showing off its child-friendly side again with this show for LIFT Festival, which is set in Nanny Lacey’s flat. She’s moving to a care home, but before she goes, she’ll show kids the magical miniature creations she’s used to house her memories in.
The Horniman Museum can always be relied upon to put on some fab family events over half-term. This May you can join free drop-in arts and crafts sessions, go pond dipping, listen to performances and talks based on the museum’s musical instrument collection, and learn about buzzy creatures as part of Friends of the Earth’s Great British Bee Count. Best of all, most of the activities are free. And if you have time, be sure to check out the fascinating exhibition ‘Colour: The Rainbow Revealed’.
Photo: Megan Taylor
Feed your kids' minds and bodies at this fab learning and eating combo event. Crafty workshop leaders PomegranArt will teach the little ones how to make a crepe Fantasy Flower and then they'll be fed a hearty supper of popcorn chicken and mini pork rice from Old Spitalfields Market restaurant Jiaba, plus an ice cream sandwich from Happy Endings.
You know summer’s properly on the way when Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is back in business. This year, the London institution will be hoping for clear skies for its first show of the season, a jaw-dropping and wonderfully magical production of ‘Peter Pan’. Other child-friendly treats to come at the venue include musical ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ and interactive spectacle ‘Dinosaur World Live’.
As Whitney Houston sang, ‘The children are our future’, and this exhibition aims to show what they’ll be up to in the years to come. Kids can browse a collection of more than 100 objects, ranging from futuristic smart appliances, satellites, and versions of artificial intelligence to the more cutting-edge aspects of internet culture. Welcome to the world of tomorrow.
If you don’t want to hear kids’ music at a kids’ disco there is an alternative. How Does It Feel to Be Loved? is an unashamedly indie club night – Belle & Sebastian, The Smiths and the Pixies are some of its staples, although pop and soul make an appearance too. It also puts on monthly Sunday afternoon shindigs for families: the same music policy applies, with the tunes played at a more kiddie-friendly volume. Give the youngsters a dose of musical history.
Take older kids (12+) to a matinee screening of JJ Abrams’ 2009 ‘Star Trek’ reboot (Sat June 2) or 2016's ‘Star Trek: Beyond’ (Sun June 3) at the Royal Albert Hall, with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra playing along to the soundtrack. The scores were written by composer Michael Giacchino, who mixed vintage ‘Star Trek’ tunes with new music – these live performances are sure to boom around the room.
Will Exeter make it two in a row or could our very own Saracens take the trophy? Or maybe another team will slip in and upset the applecart. If you and your rugby-mad kids want to see all the action live, head to Twickenham for the biggest match of the year. And make the most of the pre- and post-match excitement at The Fan Village, where last year there was an interactive games zone and a pop-up pitch for a spontaneous scrum.