London with kids
You have already covered the classics – from the Tower to the dinosaurs of the Natural History Museum via feeding countless squirrels on the way. What else to do with kids in London? Here are a few ideas.
Also have a look at our weekly post on what do this week-end in London! Online on Wednesdays.
2- First time in London? Try BB’s afternoon tea aboard a vintage double decker – 3 experiences in 1: treats, views and travel in time!
3- Show them, on Trafalgar Square, the smallest police station of the country.
4- We love, in Kensington, Maggie and Rose, a special family place. Activities for kids, a softplay, a stylish deco, a mini-cinema, a brasserie but also a rooftop to have lunch on sunny days. Because we all need a haven to have a guilt-free coffee/magazine time when the children have fun…
5- Take some chalks and bring them to Leake Street Tunnel, close to Waterloo, where street artists can legally create all kind of paintings. Let the kids join in and draw whatever they wish.
6 – Not so many pubs are child friendly in London. Try The Rosendale in West Dulwich which has a playground part outside for the little ones and a lovely dedicated menu.
8 – Take a Double Decker, sit on the first bench of the top floor. Even better, taken the vintage #15 from Trafalgar to St Paul. It feels like going on an adventure.
9 – Look for the pelicans in St James Park.
11 – Come to think of it, so does Trafalgar.
12 – Each Sunday, a magic carpet settles in front of a painting of the National Gallery (the page shows a specific date in the past but this is a recurrent event, look for it in what’s on) a different one each time. Kids can listen to fascinating stories for 30mn. Yes, it’s free.
13 – Going through Chelsea? Go and say hi to the pensioners in their famous red coats. You can see a fun elephant there.
14 – No matter how cold the weather is – kids always melt for ice-cream. Go for Yuforia or Snog - their frozen yogurt version makes it guilt free and you can choose the toppings: fruit, biscuits, chocolate sauce…
15 – The Natural History Museum is a favourite for its dinosaur gallery, but do have a look outside for this statue too. See how many animals the kids can count.
16 – Tell them about the story of the red telephone boxes.
17 – Wizards to be will love the Darwin Center. A must stop at Halloween!
18 – Strolling around Waterloo? Stop in this hotel for a picture on some fun chairs with Big Ben in the background.
19 – During the summer, if the weather is really warm, stop at the Somerset House – children can happily play in the floor fountains. They are likely to get pretty wet though so do plan a towel and a change of clothes.
20 – Did you know kids can follow a Sonic Trail at the Tate Modern? Borrow a MP3 player – it’s free – and discover lots of different sounds around the museum, some linked to the paintings, other referring to the place at night… As if it had a life of its own.
21 – Find little treasures at your feet at the National Gallery.
22 – Play “I spy” from the top of the London Eye. Have a look in the trees around it too close to Halloween, Christmas and Easter, they always are decorated for the occasion.
23 – Coming to London for the first time and would really prefer to follow a guide? London Incognito has a special tour for children (the website is in French but they are London based and will do it in English, obviously) and can also prepare an à la carte one if your prefer.
25 – Still on the Harry Potter theme, did you know there is a Harry Potter dedicated shop in King’s Cross? Yes, near platform 9, of course. Yes, they do sell wands.
26 – Thirsty? Try one of Giraffe‘s smoothies. they are served with a giraffe stirrer that the kids love to collect.
27 – If you still have a little time before jumping in your Eurostar, stop at Drink, Shop and Do, just a 5mn walk from St Pancras. This vintage inspired tea room has board games available – ideal on a rainy day.
28 – Let them have a miniature London.
29 – Every summer, Southbank installs a disappearing/appearing fountain. The walls are made of water of different height, changing all the time. Children love to jump through and through. As for the Somerset House, do plan a towel and change of clothes.
30 – Walk through the tree tops at Kew Gardens.
31 – Indulge in a Duck Tour – those buses will take you, yes, you read that right, on the Thames too.
32 – Go street art hunting in Shoreditch.Kids tend to find a lot more treasures than their parents!
33 – Little Venice hides a puppet theatre on a narrowboat. Amazing performances that will charm the whole family.
34 – On a rainy day, I often go to the V&A childhood museum. Free, 3 floors of toys collection, interactive games, a sandpit with lounge chairs on the top level and a reasonably good café. What is not to be liked?
35 – More central but still a gorgeous time-defying atmosphere, try the Pollock’s toy museum. The cardboard theatres are particularly amazing.
36 – Have lunch at Richard Branson’s restaurant in Kensington. The roof terrace offers a pleasant garden for the summer and you will even meet (real) flamingos there.
37 – The word opera usually does not bring much cheerfulness from a child. But take them on the backstage tour to see the dancers practising, the costumes, the machinery behind it all and they are sure to be fascinated. Amazing how many floors the building hides too! One Sunday a month, there also is family day with lots of workshops for the little ones.
38 – In Kensington Gardens, a playground dedicated to Lady Di is Peter Pan themed – huge pirate ship sailing on a sea of sand, musical instruments, wooden animals. Free, there often is a queue at week-ends but it is so worth the wait.
39 – In Hyde Park, another memorial to Diana offers a large circle of water where water flows as in a river. As it is not very deep, children can allowed to splash around and parents usually sit in the inside disk of comfortable green grass.
40 – Wow them. In this cinema, you can order your dnner from your seat and eat it during the movie.
41 – A favourite child’s sentence when faced with walking around town is sure to be – are we there yet? So anything that can distract them along the way is good to take. On Tower Bridge (and often on the Millennium one too), look out for locks on the side grids. Those are left by lovers in memories of their trip there. The keys are to be thrown in the river. The affluence of those varies as the Town Hall regularly clean those out.
42 – Have you heard of geocaching? Fans hide a little box with a message around the world and there are plenty to find around London. Some even are boxes with little treasures to exchange. Just register on the website, get the GPS/map coordinates and work out the clues. A great way to get little ones more familiar with historical milestones.
43 – At Discover, the whole family plays at inventing stories.
44 – In this Islington café, parents can finally have a break. Thought by two mums, it has everything from babies and toddlers food to a box full of disguise to keep the kids busy. Lots of activities and even kids discos.
45 – The Royal Parks are fun for running, jumping and picnicking. But if you fancy a slice of countryside in the city, try the cute Phoenix Garden close to Tottenham Court Road or Roots and Shoots close to Waterloo.
46 – Sometimes, London walls have ears. Well, this one close to Covent Garden has.
47 – Along Gabriel’s wharf on Southbank, when tide is low, is a piece of sandy beach. You can go mudlarking or just see artists create huge sand sculptures.
48 – Going to the movies with a baby? Impossible. Well, the Picture House in Greenwich has thought of parents and offers special sessions.
49 – The Ghost bus tour is quite a fun option for lovers of spooky stories. This double decker repainted black will drive you all over town. No big scare but a lot of laughs.
50 – Take them to the last floor of the Greenwich Maritime Museum: boys love, love to try and park their boat on the simulator.
51 – Follow the steps of the 101 Dalmatians.
52 – They’re longing for a pet but you neither have the space nor the time? Here is an easy compromise: Lady Dinah’s emporium, the first cat café in London. We loved the one in Singapour. Feline fascination guaranteed.
53 – Every Saturday, get those roller skates out and spend a disco time with the family (children are welcome from the age of 5)
54 – The Barbican proposes a do-it-yourself adventure trail for families. And it’s free.
55 – Check out the Museum of London too for free kids workshops every week-end. Click here for the program.
56 – The Duck Tour, this fun bus that can also float on the Thames, has a James Bond theme.
57 – To avoid the dreaded “Are we there yet?” question, get them one of those fabulous London maps. Fun. Indestructible. Even rain resistant.
58 – Hooray! 10 kids friendly restaurants in London to make your life easier.
59 – In Shoreditch, a fence is dedicated to these locks on which people leave their initials, a message. Go on, turn them into street artists!
60 – Feel like an afternoon tea? The Milestone Hotel has cleverly thought of one for kids too. They can wear a chef’s hat and apron, go down to the kitchen, meet the cooks and decorate their cupcakes. Their eyes will sparkle and you… can indulge in your own adult version in peace.
61 – Walk along the Thames but on the Hammersmith side. No or very little traffic, beautiful views, ice creams vans, gardens, pubs with terraces. Fantastic on a sunny day.
62 – Rediscover Kensington Palace, reopening after two years of work. Imagine a beautiful fairytale book – magical indeed. Drawers contain little treasures, art displays are amazing, playing cards give you little clues to interact with characters in costumes and learn fun anecdotes, walls sometimes whisper secrets.
63 – Going for a stroll around the Olympic Park? Have a closer look at the benches there…
64 – Not always easy to keep kids quiet in a restaurant. They need to be on the move! Try Bounce – in Holborn, so not far from the British Museum. they have quite a number of ping-pong tables which should make the all family happy.
65 – Love the Biscuiteers crunchy creations? Rejoyce. They have opened their first café in Notting Hill. Choose your favourite shape, decorate, enjoy! The kids should be pretty busy adding funky colours and you should have plenty of time to drink your coffee.
66 – At Scoop Gelato, close to Covent Garden, ice creams are guaranteed without artificial colouring or fake flavours. It’s all about creaminess and real taste. The kids will love the cones with sprinkles and you can also have it served on pancakes or waffles.
67 – Are your kids learning French? Jeu de piste à Londres is a sweet book on the capital.
68 – Going to the Charlie and the chocolate factory musical? One Aldwych, nearby, does an amazing afternoon tea on this theme if you want to add to the magic.
69 – Did you know the Barbican hides a lovely conservatory at the heart of its concrete structure? Free, open every Sunday.
70 – The Saatchi Gallery is kids friendly with its wide spaces, let alone it’s free. It’s never too early to initiate the kids to contemporary art and inspire them. Its restaurant, the Mess Gallery, offers a nice terrace where they can continue to run and jump and play without annoying anyone. No traffic either. And they do a really good afternoon tea at a great price too!
71 – Sometimes, it is worth spending a few more minutes in public transport. The Dalston Eastern Curve Garden is one of these fab surprises, a really relaxed, kids friendly place with lots of corners to explore and even toys for kids to play with. Just cross the street when getting out of the overground and you’re there.
72 – And The Orbit, this funny tower overlooking it all too. There is a super cool playground too. And lots of space for kids to run, cycle, climb. Oh, and watergames in the summer too so do plan a change of clothes.
73 – I always thought that The London Dungeon was more for over 18. I have just tried it with my almost 9 year old daughter and she loved it. We equally screamed and laughed. She wanted to go back as soon as she stepped out!
74 – If you are at St Pancras tube station, do take the light tunnel! The colours change as you walk through. The kids love it.
75 – Escape the buzz of Covent Garden (great on your own, sometimes too much with kids!) and sit in the garden of St Paul’s church. Theatreland being nearby, it has also been nicknames the Actors’ church as the latter often come here before the plays. A number of benches are dedicated to them. Have a look inside the building too. On the left side is a miniature stage, which different lights can be actioned.
76 – Revisit London with the brilliant album by Steve Antony – The Queen’s hat. Very sweet, a touch of Mary Poppins and a great way to think of their favourite milestones!
77 – The Soho Hotel projects children movies every Saturday in their private super comfy screening room. With a lunch buffet, popcorn, ice cream and prosecco.