Been to the Science Museum too many times before? Or running out of things to do with the kids in London? We’ve come up with some different ways to keep the little ones entertained this half-term, so there’s no need to panic! There are plenty of opportunities for getting creative, trying new sports or chilling with a coffee in a child-centred café.
Woosh down the world’s longest tunnel slide
The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park has a bunch of family activities to get involved in. For the really brave, the ArcelorMittal Orbit provides an opportunity to climb 114.5m up into the sky and then woosh back down at speeds of up 10 15mph. The structure is the world’s longest and tallest tunnel slide and has fantastic views of the Olympic Park. If you’re not such an adrenaline junkie, the 2012 Trail will have you re-living the spirit of the London 2012 Olympic Games and perhaps you will be inspired to try one of the many sporting activities available at the park. At the Copper Box Arena, you’ll find badminton and basketball, whilst the Lee Valley VeloPark gives a chance for older kids to experience BMX and mountain biking courses. For smaller kids, there’s the Tumbling Bay Playground with wobbly bridges, rock pools and tall treehouses to explore.
Learn the fascinating uses of plants
Kew Gardens has three events this half-term which will broaden your understanding of Thai plants. Learn how plants are used in silk dying processes and try it out for yourself. You can also dress up in traditional Thai dress, or wander through the gardens and learn about rice, bananas and ginger that are crucial to all our favourite Thai dishes. As well as these temporary workshops, Kew Gardens have some amazing installations. The Hive is a multi-sensory experience of what life is like as a busy buzzy bee. The Hive’s sounds and lights are triggered by the real bees living in one of Kew’s many beehives. Or get a new perspective of the gardens in the forest canopy on the Treetop Walkway.
Light up your day at God’s Own Junkyard
The creations and collections of Chris Bracey, a.k.a the Neon Man, will brighten up your day. Kids will love this colourful and quirky nirvana of all things neon. God’s Own Junkyard features retro displays, old movie props and Hollywood’s flashing lights. See if you can spot the pieces of the collection that have featured in blockbuster films such as Batman and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Within the junkyard, there’s also the Rolling Scones Café, which offers cream teas and cakes to be enjoyed in the surrounding sea of neon.
Find out what inspired your favourite authors
At the Museum of Childhood, there are always plenty of free ways to have family fun. Don’t miss out on the museum’s Michael Morpurgo exhibition, which closes on the 28th of February. The exhibition showcases rough drafts, notebooks and manuscripts of classics such as War Horse and Farm Boy which follow themes of war, animals, and friendship. Illustrations from his books are on display and there’s even a chance to meet the West End life-sized horse puppet from the award-winning stage adaptation of Morpurgo’s much-loved classic. Or just in time for half-term, the Dream On exhibition explores the imaginary world between sleep and wakefulness as objects come to life whilst you’re not looking, which to us sounds like something out of our childhood favourite Toy Story.
Get creative in a bookworm’s paradise
Little bookworms can enjoy learning, playing and making up stories at the Discover Children’s Story Centre. Help Hootah the space alien on his planet Squiggly Diggly with his mission to find new stories. The Story World trail will have imaginations running wild with all sorts of peculiar characters inspiring kids to create their own stories. The bookshop on the ground floor is one of London’s best children’s’ bookshops. However, for another opportunity to acquire new reading material for half-term, try out a book swap. Spend time deciding which books you no longer read and take them along to book swaps at the Unicorn Theatre or ArtsDepot on the 10th of February and pick out some new favourites.
Brunch at the bustling Bear and Wolf Café
Bear and Wolf café has a large space for your bambino to play while you enjoy a brilliant brunch. Sip on delicious coffee without worrying what the little ones are up to. This place is always busy with families so there’ll be no dirty looks if your child kicks off in the middle of the café: those people wouldn’t last long in this café! But great play and great food should keep everyone happy.
Get involved at Imagine Children’s Festival
The South Bank Centre’s annual Imagine Children’s Festival is run by kids for kids. The event will be hosting some of the kids’ favourite authors and personalities. Greg James and Chris Smith will be running a super action-packed event about their award-winning, debut book Kid Normal. There will be games, singing and the opportunity to help create a brand new superhero story. For younger ones, the Revolting Rhymes event will have them giggling as classic fairy tales are twisted by Roald Dahl so that Cinderella and Jack (and his beanstalk) become the best of friends.
Climb to the top of “London’s Only Lighthouse”
What used to be a store for wooden buoys and sea marks is now a trendy Container City full of artist studios, shops and little cafes. However, most importantly, Trinity Buoy Wharf is home to “London’s only Lighthouse”. Although it is named the only lighthouse, there are a few others hidden away. One of these is a lightvessel, right in the very same harbour. The lighthouse contains a Longplayer, which is a piece of music played on a computer that started in 2000 and will continue until 2999. Go up to the top of the lighthouse to listen to the Longplayer and take in the views across Canary Wharf and North Greenwich. To add some extra excitement to the trip, arrive by boat from O2 QEII Pier to Trinity Buoy Wharf Jubilee Pier and maybe even head back via the Emirates Air Line.
Play with artefacts at The Horniman Museum
The Horniman Museum is unusual in that many of the artefacts can be picked up, tried on or played with. The collection includes a seemingly random selection of collections including natural history, anthropology, musical instruments, butterfly house and aquarium. The museum’s new, award-winning exhibition, Colour: The Rainbow Revealed, explores the ways in which colour shapes our world. There are interactive games and an Art Machine to create your very own masterpiece. Not had enough colour for one day? The Butterfly House lets you get up close with hundreds of vibrant butterflies. In addition, there are signs dotten around with amazing facts about their life-cycle and behaviour for you to discover.
Sing-a-long with the Sound of Music
Liven up the cinema experience with a sing-a-long at the Prince Charles Cinema. On the 18th of February, the cinema will be screening a sing-a-long of the Sound of Music. Get practising your “do, re, mi’s” and enjoy this family favourite. Join in as everyone sings to the hills and don’t worry, you don’t need the voice of Julie Andrews, no one will notice if you can’t hit those high notes. If singing isn’t your thing, the cinema is also showing other family classics such as the Muppets Take Manhattan and Spirited Away during the half-term week.
Hopefully, we’ve got you feeling calmer about how to keep the kids entertained this half-term. Some of the things to do with kids that we’ve mentioned will need you to book, so don’t miss out!
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