The time has come for parents everywhere to face the formidable task of keeping the kids entertained during the school holidays. The good news is that London has come up trumps, with a whole host of fun filled family friendly activities, so we grabbed our trusty pint-sized assistants and hit the town in a bid to bring you this handy summer holiday guide.
Reunite with the Southbank Centre
What: Southbank Centre
When: All summer
Where: Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX
The summer holidays just wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Southbank Centre. The venue and its surrounding area really does offer something for everyone – young and old alike. From punchy performances, interactive installations, DJ-led dancing, and a feast of food; it’s all there!
A particular hit with the kids are the re-imagined red benches, which are in fact works of modern art by Danish artist Jeppe Hein (the same artist who designed the incredibly popular Appearing Rooms fountain at Southbank Centre). Hein’s witty reinventions of the park bench, each one different from the next, are based on research around the topic of proxemics and distance and inspired by traditional as well as modern New York benches, a new series of Modified Social Benches emerged. Their design borrows the basic form of ubiquitous park or garden benches, but is altered to various degrees to make the act of sitting a conscious physical process. The benches question the spatial separations in social situations and challenge the amount of space that people feel necessary to set between themselves and others. The Modified Social Benches NY are intended to break with those behavioural patterns in public space. With its modifications, the benches transform its surroundings into places of social activity and foster dialogue between users and passers-by.
Weekends at the Southbank Centre will be dedicated to their very own Summer Reunion series, with a vibrant programme of music, talks, dance and art, and most importantly, the moments of joy and connection that we’ve all been missing. Expect open-air artworks, and free guest-curated weekends of music, performance and more on the Riverside Terrace and when you get hungry you can explore the food offerings in the diverse and colourful South Bank Food Market.
If you want to catch one of the family shows or activities, such as The Party of Possibilities with Jess Thom, Solstice by English National Ballet, or David Medalla: A Stitch in Time, then make sure you book in advance via the south bank center website.
A Royally Good Time at Buckingham Palace
What: Family Monday’s At Buckingham Palace
When: Every Monday (Monday, 19 Jul 2021 – Monday, 30 Aug 2021)
Where: Buckingham Palace
Family Mondays at Buckingham Palace are running until the end of August. Your little ones can get involved with themed art and craft activities in the Buckingham Palace Garden where they will be encouraged to create their own work of art inspired by their visit to Buckingham Palace.
On the 9th of August, celebrate ‘A Royal Garden’; fun art and craft activities inspired by the kings and queens who have left their mark on Buckingham Palace Garden, on the 16th August, discover ‘A Living Garden’ where your children can learn about the zebras which lived in the garden and can create their own zebra hobby horse to take home. On the 23 August your little Prince or Princess can experience ‘A Sensory Garden’ which is a series of art and craft activities exploring the many beautiful and striking sights, textures and sounds that make Buckingham Palace Garden so special.
In addition to the art and craft activities there are fun family trails to complete.
Ninja Training With The RAF
When: Until 15th August 2021
Where: Royal Air Force Museum
Cost: Adult – £7.00, Child – £5
This summer the RAF is inviting juniors to tackle the Hercules on the ‘airfield’ at the RAF Museum. Hercules is an outdoor obstacle course where your little ninjas can race against their friends or try to compete for the top spot on leader board. They will face the ninja wall, need to crawl under cargo nets and wade through water to get to the finish line.
There will be 18 obstacles in total for your children to tackle, they can compete against members of the family or their friends, or they can compete in groups to see which team is the best. Up to 6 people can take part at any one time and there is a leader board displaying scores at the finish line. The course is open every day at 10.30am and the last chance to take part is at 4.00pm.
The course has been designed for ages 8+, and we recommend that parents and guardians always stay with their children. The course is visible all the way around and has been created to enable parents to take part or follow them round and cheer them on.
If your little one isn’t quite ready for ninja training, then there’s also parent and baby yoga sessions on offer.
Star Gazing at The Planetarium
Where: Royal Museums Greenwich
Cost: Adults: £10, Children £5
The Peter Harrison Planetarium is a 120-seat digital laser planetarium, situated in Greenwich Park, London and is part of the National Maritime Museum. The planetarium uses Digistar 3 software with blue, red and green lasers and grating light valve technology to create a 4,000 pixel strip. Think of the Planetarium as a tour bus of the universe taking you on amazing journeys to explore and experience the wonders of the night sky with expert commentary from a Royal Observatory astronomer. A visit there can fly you into the heart of the sun, transport you to distant galaxies, show you the birth of a star or land you on Mars. Located within Greenwich Park, London’s only planetarium provides a versatile setting for out-of-this-world experiences, including online shows, science sessions for kids, stargazing and astronomy talks. For the pre-schoolers we recommend booking Ted’s Space Adventure; the observatory’s planetarium show aimed at younger audiences. Your young astronomers can explore the Solar System with a bear named Ted (and companion Plant!). Ted’s Space Adventure is presented by an astronomer from the Royal Observatory Greenwich with interactivity, music and rhyme. How cute! Ted’s Space Adventure runs Saturday and Sunday during term time and daily during school holidays. There are two shows a day at 11.30am and 2.30pm.
Pirates and Mermaids
What: Diana Memorial Playground
Where: Hyde Park
Cost: Free Event
A huge wooden pirate ship is the amazing centrepiece of the Diana, Princess of Wales’ Memorial Playground. This children’s wonderland opened on the 30th June 2000, in memory of the late Princess. Located next to her Kensington Palace home, the playground is a fitting tribute for a Princess who loved the innocence of childhood. Over 1,000,000 visitors enjoy this free playground each year. Kids love to play, explore, dash about, and let their imaginations soar in this magical space. There is a sensory trail, tee-pees a beach around the pirate ship and various toys and play sculptures, all set against a lush backdrop of trees and plants. There’s plenty of seating so the grownups can relax too. The design has created an area where less able and able-bodied children can play together and seeks to provide for the physical, creative, social and educational development of your children. Inspired by the stories of Peter Pan, the playground encourages children to explore and follow their imaginations, learning whilst they play.
Young Farmers Will Love This
What: Vauxhall City Farm
Where: 165 Tyers Street, SE11 5HS
Cost: Entry by donation
Vauxhall City Farm is one of the oldest and most central city farms in London being located within earshot of Big Ben and in the shadow of MI6. The farm is open Tuesday – Sunday, 10.30am – 3.30pm (Entry by donation). Throughout the summer the farm is offering a weekly Saturday morning club called Young Farmers which inspires young people, aged 8-14 to get involved in all aspects of the farm and take part in some great indoor and outdoor activities. It’s a real opportunity for those taking part to increase their knowledge of animals, nature and the environment whilst developing their personal, social, and practical skills. You can also get your children involved in their Summer Club which this year incorporates farm-themed books for inspiration. Designed for 7 – 12 year olds, the club is FREE and will provide, not only the basics of working on the farm, but also literacy support across a range of well-known titles. The club will run on weekdays from 10:30am – 2pm, beginning on the 26th July and ending on the 6th August. Sessions last 3.5 hours and are free to any children who qualify for Free School Meals. You can book as many or few dates as you wish (subject to availability)
Jump For Joy At Flip Out
What: Flip Out
When: All year
Where: Multiple locations across London
Cost: Starting from £13.50
Sometimes it can be tough to convince your children to step away from the screen and get active but Flip Out provides parents with the perfect solution. Not only is bouncing great fun, it is also 68% more efficient than jogging! London E6’s Adventure Park is the Biggest & Best venue, with over 50 Trampolines, London’s First Indoor Cave, a 30ft Ninja Slide, a Lazer Maze, Dodgeball, Stunt Box areas, Basketball, Ninja Obstacle Course, High Ropes as well as themed party rooms. There’s a dedicated toddler area complete with soft play and ball balls and bigger trampolines for the older kids and adults. We can confirm that our minis went crazy for Flip Out and that we, like most parents there, particularly appreciated the supply of tea and coffee from the café.
All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.
What: Harrods Chocolate Hall
When: Harrods is open 11am to 7pm
Where: 87–135 Brompton Road Knightsbridge London SW1X 7XL
Cost: 1 small chocolate costs approx. £1.70p
Ok we know it’s not the healthiest of choices, but as treats go, this one tops it! Harrods is so quintessentially ‘London’ and the mouth-watering food halls are heaven. We let our little ones choose 2 small chocolates each and then we explored the Harrod’s toy department. On a rainy day in London the iconic store gave us somewhere to go and put a huge smile on the face of our minis. Another chocolatey destination in London is M&M’S World London. In the heart of Leicester Square, this store is actually the world’s largest candy store at 35,000 square feet spread over four insanely colourful, M&M’S-filled floors. The mind boggles.
Feed Their Curiosity At V&A
What: Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser
When: Until December 31st
Where: Victoria and Albert Museum
Ticket price: £20 (under 12’s go free)
Take the whole family on an enchanting journey into Wonderland with the immersive exhibition, exploring the origins, adaptations and artistic reinventions of ‘Alice’s Adventures…’ across time and media. Discover how Lewis Carroll’s stories have inspired creative minds such as of Salvador Dali, Walt Disney and Tim Walker over the last 150 years and experience the evolution of Alice’s adventures; from manuscript to a global cultural phenomenon. ‘This show is guaranteed to make every visitor leave smiling like a Cheshire cat’
See The World Through A Seafarer’s Lens
What: Exposure: Lives at Sea
When: Open every day
Where: National Maritime Museum
This is one for the budding marine biologists in the family. It’s a new exhibition at the National Maritime Museum which shows the myriad ways life can be spent at sea. From the large-scale panoramic to the intensely intimate, Exposure: Lives at Sea captures both the extreme environments and everyday sights of our seas and oceans today. This exhibition is a curation of photography taken around the world, from the reefs of Mexico to the isolation of Antarctica. Curator Laura Boon is fascinated by the versatile experiences of those who spend months of the year at sea, often out of contact with loved ones. She identifies six subjects who work worlds apart from one another – both geographically and professionally.
Bump Into Friends At Somerset House
What: Dodge At Somerset House
When: Tuesday- Sunday, until the 22nd August.
Where: Strand, London, WC2R 1LA
Cost: Starting from £5 per person/per ride
Your children will be full of smiles when you take them to this turbo-charged activity at Somerset House this summer! It’s a thrilling open-air experience in their spectacular courtyard featuring dodgems with a difference and a delicious selection of food and drinks. We think Dodge is the perfect setting to celebrate quality time with family and friends once more. You can ride dodgems as you’ve never experienced them before, helping to generate an interactive musical composition by award winning Somerset House Studios artist Anna Meredith who has teamed up with fellow Studio’s resident and Bafta-winning sound artist Nick Ryan.
The Somerset House courtyard is open and free to visit, and walk-up visitors will be able to enjoy the Dodge experience, subject to availability. However, we advise that you pre-book your table to avoid disappointment. (All advance bookings include a dodgems ride and a drink!)
Parents be aware that there is a height restriction of 1.1m (1m 10cm) for riding the dodgems and children between 1.1m (1m 10cm) and 1.3m (1m 30cm), must be accompanied by an adult. Advance tickets can be booked up to 10am on the day before your visit. Some tables will be available for walk-up bookings every day.
We hope you enjoyed this blog post as much as we enjoyed writing it. Wishing you all a fantastic summer with your loved ones, in London. Don’t forget to hop over to instagram and hang out with us there!
You can find us at @londonlivingblog.