Having kids is an expensive business, and most budgets wont stretch to paid activities every weekend or during the half term and school holidays. Fortunately, London offers plenty of choice of free family activities, for children of all ages and with the most different interests. Pack your lunch and enjoy Spring and Summer in this amazing city! Here are some suggestions of free activities for your family.
Diana Memorial Playground
Let your little ones be pirates for the day on Captain Hook’s huge wooden pirate ship at the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground, in Kensigton Gardens. This large, safe, outdoor play area is truly outstanding. It’s dominated by a large pirate ship which children can climb all over then come down and play in the sand. There’s also a sensory trail, areas for climbing and exploring as well as swings and slides. Staff are on site at all times and no adults can enter without children. There’s a café and clean toilets meaning many stay all day so on busy days there is a limit, and you may have to wait to enter. But outside of the height of summer you’ll be in and playing immediately. Suitable for children up to 12 years old.
Location: Broad Walk, London
May-August: 10:00am – 7:45pm
April and September: 10:00am – 6:45pm
March and early October: 10:00am – 5:45pm
February and late October: 10:00am – 4:45pm
November-January: 10:00am – 3:45pm
The Horniman Museum has a traditional natural history gallery – dominated by a bizarre, overstuffed walrus – where the exhibits are displayed in traditional cases with no computer touch-screens in sight. There’s also a state-of-the-art aquarium, a collection of around 1,600 musical instruments and an area where visitors can play some of them, as well as a permanent gallery dedicated to African, Afro-Caribbean and Brazilian art. The landscaped gardens of the museum are really beautiful and the kids will love to run around. All ages.
Cass Arts workshops
Get creative at the Cass Arts workshops. The sessions are on Saturday mornings (10am-noon) at Cass Arts branches in Hampstead and Islington are a lovely way to inspire ideas and nurture budding artists. A free activity table is set out with a range of materials, inviting kids to let their imaginations run wild. Children must be accompanied by an adult, but sessions are drop-in and all materials are supplied free. Age 4+.
100 London Road, Forest Hill
London SE23 3PQ
Open daily, from 10:30 – 5:30pm
St James’s Park
In the heart of London, St James’s Park is one of the loveliest green spaces in the city to take the kids. At the east end of the park’s lake, it is locates the Duck Island, perfect for birdwatchers. Every day at 2:30pm you can watch pelicans being fed fresh fish. These curious feathered creatures were first introduced into St James’s Park in 1664 as a gift from the Russian Ambassador. Why not include on your day out a stroll around St James’s Park beautiful and famous neighbours, Trafalgar Square and the Buckingham Palace? All ages.
Address: SW1A 2BJ
V&A Museum of Childhood
The V&A Museum of Childhood houses the UK’s national collection of childhood objects, ranging in date from the 1600s to the present day. Rare, hand-crafted objects sit alongside well-loved toys from the 20th century, allowing an insight into how different children might have lived, thought and felt, through the objects they were surrounded by throughout their childhood. In addition, the museum runs temporary exhibitions and displays, activities, events and workshops, outreach projects and an award-winning programme for schools. All Ages.
Cambridge Heath Road
London E2 9PA
Open daily 10:00am – 5:45pm (last admission 5:30pm)
Closed 24, 25 and 26 December and 1st January
Museum of London Docklands: Mudlarks Play Area
The museum is housed in a 200-year-old warehouse and tells the story of the London’s history as a port. It has a lot for children and the Mudlarks play area is the favourite with the little ones. This is an informative and interactive play area for the under 12s, with a soft play section for under 5s. Everything is themed around life in the London docks so the big kids can weigh cargo or load a tea clipper while the small kids get to crawl around with large foam bananas and a London bus, plus they can pretend to drive a DLR train.
West India Quay
London E14 4AL
Open 7 days a week, 10:00am – 5:50pm
Closed: 24 to 26 December