I’ve been thinking about this for a while now as I do like to be busy in the holidays. As with schools all our daily groups close down and we have to find our own entertainment which can be tricky if you don’t know where to look! It can also be very expensive keeping those little minds occupied and while it’s ok to have a treat now and again, every day can prove just too much so I’ve compiled a list of some of the things we really enjoy and that can be done absolutely FREE in. (I’ve also added in a couple of treats you might like to think about at the end, something for a budget and a big blow out too)!
You can also take a look at our February Half Term listings for kids in London.
So, for the totally FREE in London, here are three ideas for three complete days out taking in as much as you possibly can! I’d also like to point out that with all of the free attractions you can take your own lunch, something I feel very strongly is important because otherwise the day gets far too expensive.
KEEPING COSTS DOWN AND WANT TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF FREE LONDON. WHAT’S ON OFFER?
Day Out Number 1
The Science Museum, South Kensington – District Line
We go to the ‘Science Museum’ all the time and never get bored, we sometimes while away hours upon hours trawling round everything and going back to the bits we love the most and other days we just pop in to have a play in the ‘Basement’ which is set up especially for under fives. With a whole area for them to play, explore and try out experiments suitable for their age it’s a fabulous day out in itself forgetting that there are floors upon floors and displays upon displays of other things to keep the little ones (and the big ones) entertained. While you’re there check out one of the ‘Bubble’ talks which are not only fun, interactive and educational but suitable for children of all ages. Upstairs the ‘Launch Pad’ is also designed for little minds but for slightly older ones this time. With lots of hands on experiments as well as more ‘talks’ there really is something for everyone. For the rest of your time there my favourites have to be the human body exhibition, the area where your photo can be taken and aged up down or changed in sex and I simply love the household goods from bygone times not least because there is a ‘Baby Daisy’ vacuum cleaner donated to the Museum by my own Grandmother on view.
What else can we do on the same day?
When visiting the ‘Science Museum’ why not check out the ‘Natural History Museum’ next door. A stones throw away and with a world of entertainment for little ones it’s certainly not one to be missed and it definitely won’t be forgotten. Dinosaurs, stuffed animals, fossils… This really is for any little explorers you might have and despite it not being as hands on and interactive as The Science Museum it’s still a great day out for the children! A short walk away from both museums is the ‘Princess Diana Memorial Playground’, a playground like no other you will have ever been to. In Hyde Park and right next door to ‘Kensington Palace’ it’s a lovely central location from which you can start or finish your day. In summer children can splash about in the water feature but in winter it’s like an enchanted garden, a BIG one. There may be a small queue in busier times but it’s worth the wait and your offspring, no matter how old they are will NOT be disappointed! From a giant pirate ship to Tee Pee tents, tunnels and tree houses, this place has it all!
Day Out Number 2
The Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green – Central Line
This is a great little place to stop by and feed your own nostalgia as well as being given the opportunity to show your children what you were playing with when you were their age. With so many toys from other eras it’s a treasure trove of interesting finds but it doesn’t stop there. There is always an exhibition or two which will capture your little ones attention (at the moment it’s ‘Magic Worlds’ where children can delve into the realms of fantasy, illusion and enchantment with the major new exhibition revealing how magic has been embraced for hundreds of years) and a program of events which are full to the max for half term. There are of course the regular features too like the rocking horses, a little ones play area and a sensory zone! Plenty of interactive play to wear the children out and thoroughly have a good time!
What else can we do on the same day?
After the ‘Museum of Childhood’ why not hop on the tube a couple of stops to Stratford, home of the Olympic stadium and the new ‘Westfield Shopping Centre’ which also has surprisingly great facilities and play areas for the kids as well as a brilliant viewing platform of the work in progress for the games. You could pop in for a bit of retail therapy before taking the kids to your next stop of the day. Next try out the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) which is actually a bit of a treat in itself and I have yet to meet a child who doesn’t like to sit at the front and pretend to be driver! Either alight at the next stop, Pudding Mill Lane, and take a walk along the Green Way where you will be able to view the stadium up close in all it’s amazing glory or just watch as it goes by from the window of the train and head on to West India Quay, home to the ‘London Museum of Docklands’. I always head here when in the area because it’s a simply fascinating museum and you can book a slot for their magical soft play area for the children to have a run around in. It’s actually a little bit more than just soft play with lots of hands on and interactive games and display, our favorite being the real river where you can build a dam; you could easily spend more than just your allotted hour which is why we go back time and time again. While you wait for your time slot neither you nor your children will be disappointed with everything else on offer and will enjoy learning about the history of the docks in the extra special way that it is provided!
Day Out Number 3
Coram’s Fields, Holborn – Central Line or Russell Square – Piccadilly Line
I can’t shout about this hidden gem enough! Open all year round from 9am till dusk, ‘Coram’s Fields’ is a 7 acre playground in central London and should not be missed by any visitor to the area with a little one to entertain. In the summer months your children will have a ball splashing in the water areas but that doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy the whole experience right now because there’s so much to do here in this tranquil setting you won’t be able to drag them away! From the extensive playground to the mini farm they will be entertained for hours and imagine having all that space to run and jump around in while you watch over them from one of the many benches. They also have a children’s centre where you can drop in for play sessions no matter where you live, just check out the website for times. There’s always loads going on here, I doubt you’ll be disappointed with your choice to visit! ‘Coram’s Fields’ is a charity and relies on donations to keep running and what a worthy charity it is!
What else can we do on the same day?
A short journey by bus or tube or even a fairly light walk could see you heading for the ‘Southbank Centre’ where there’s always treats in abundance for visitors of all ages. We constantly go back to see what’s going on and it’s always lively and full of fun, be it in the height of the Summer holidays with fountains to run in and out of or Christmas time and ablaze with twinkling lights for the festive markets, the ‘Southbank Centre’ is the place to be! This half term (from 10th – 26th Feb) they are playing host to the ‘Imagine Children’s Festival’ amongst many other things and here you can have all the fun of the fair at the ‘Imagine Children’s Funfair’. With this being a FREE event there’s no reason not to let the children enjoy the traditional carousel and vintage fairground activities, including an Austin J40 kiddies’ ride and original 1950s helter skelter and hoop ‘la stalls! Also close by to Holborn is the beautiful ‘Somerset House’ and here all throughout the year a program of events for families to enjoy together run at the weekends. During half term they are excelling themselves and offering their young visitors the chance to join in with various different family workshops. One on offer is ‘Imaginary Menagerie’ where your little people can construct their own weird and wonderful beasts and mythical monsters after exploring the sculptures and paintings of such creatures in The Courtauld gallery. (For dates and times see the website).
How About a Couple of Treats?
Discover Children’s Story Centre, Stratford – Central, Jubilee, DLR and East London Lines, £4.50 Adult/Child £16, Family of four, Under 2s FREE
I write about ‘Discover’ so much I feel like I’m their ambassador but I can’t help it, it’s just SO good! Based around books and with the bones of the museum being focussed on the story trail this place could be mistaken for somewhere quiet to read but please! Save that for the library because at ‘Discover’ they bring your children’s favourite books to life! Jump, dance, play, climb, sing, hop and of course… read! Do literally what you like here and let your kids run wild! From outside in the wonderful story garden where there are slides, climbing walls and giant musical instruments as well as tree houses, space ships and much more to inside where you can get crafty, hide in tents and press buzzers and buttons while performing in a puppet show, running over a trip trap bridge or dancing on lights in the floor there is something to keep every child occupied. Choose a book and run with that theme, choose lots of books and combine them or make up your own stories to play games around, whatever your fancy you’ll be thrilled to bits you came. I take everyone I know and will continue to do so because having been once you’ll be going back for more and buying an annual pass (These start at just £25) because it’s one of the BEST things to do in London! Downstairs is where they have an exhibition which changes every so often. For the moment it’s ‘Monsterville’ where monsters from books bring the area to fever pitch as the children run round fishing, have their ‘monster’ hair done in the beauty salon and serve up yucky treats from the ice cream parlour! Half term might be your last chance to catch the wondrous ‘Monsterville’ because as of March it’ll be changing so don’t miss out! Spend an hour, spend 3 or spend the whole day! It’s worth knowing that you can either take lunch with you to eat in their dining area or enjoy something from the reasonably priced café. During half term the brilliantly entertaining team will be hosting various different activities including many story telling events, art and crafts and special workshops with authors and illustrators so do check out their website for more info!
Blow Out Treat!
Lollibop’s Mini Disco, Ministry of Sound, Elephant and Castle – Northern and Bakerloo Lines, 12-5pm £10 pp or £15pp on the door (for ages 3 – 10 years), Booking line 0844 844 0444 or online with Ticketmaster
The ‘Lollibop Festival’ comes to London once a year in the summer and is the only festival entirely dedicated to little ones. Just as with an adult festival there is live music, dancing, food and attractions galore and do you know, it was one of the best days out we have ever had so when we left after our magical day knowing it would be another year before we could experience some ‘Lollibob festival’ glory again it was with a little sadness in our step. Imagine our delight then, when we heard about the disco they are specially hosting for this half term! Kick off the kid’s holiday with a banging start and head down to what will undoubtedly be a brilliant day out for the whole family! DJ’s Dick and Dom will be pumping out the tunes while special appearances will be made by favourites such as Scooby Doo! Plus there’ll be loads of activities during the day such as beat boxing and hula hoop workshops, dance games, live music, story telling, bubble shows and entertainers! If it’s even a smidgen of just one hour’s worth of the normal festival it’s gonna be a sure fire winner and you’d be mad to miss it if you can help it! (There will be a facility to purchase drinks and snacks on site)!
Well, after all that if you haven’t managed to find something to tickle you taste buds for half term I’ll eat my hat as they say! Also, don’t forget all the best of the rest London has to offer from City Farms dotted all over the place with FREE entry, ‘Kids AM’ film screenings at ‘Vue Cinema’s’ across the Capital (costing from just £1.50 per ticket for adults and children) and all the other wonderful and FREE museums of which there are plenty… Happy holidays!