London is a huge city, but being the capital, it’s also a city which is packed with plenty of things to see and do for all the family.
The problem is, if you’re living in London, you might not want to do battle with large crowds of tourists on a regular basis, especially if you have the weekend off work and you’re looking to enjoy a little family time with your children.
The good news is that there are plenty of activities you can enjoy with your child which don’t involve huge crowds or large price tags. Whilst it’s a good idea to show your children the local tourist sites, helping them to understand the history and culture of the city you calling home, it’s also ideal to mix this up with local activities, to cultivate that local community feel. In this case, your child will also meet other children who live in the area, and make new friends.
The activities you choose really depend upon the borough of London you live in, but we all know that public transport is quite easy to use, so you can get around without much trouble.
To give you an idea of some of the best local activities for children in London, let’s check out 8 top suggestions and then go on to talk about how you can stay up to date on new activities and events which pop up from time to time.
8 Local Activities For Children in London
Kew Gardens, Children’s Garden
The best thing about Kew Gardens in general is that it feels a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city, so it’s ideal for a chilled out day off with the kids! The Children’s Garden itself is huge, giving your children plenty of space to run off some steam. They’ll also be able to learn about different plants and nature as they explore, enjoying slides, trampolines, hammocks and all manner of other fun-filled activities along the way.
The highlight is without a doubt the canopy walk which is around 4 metres high and features a 200 year old oak tree.
Children’s Garden is suitable for children between 3 to 9 years of age and you can buy tickets either on the door or online.
Battersea Park Children’s Zoo
This is a spot ideal for children of any age, and has plenty of space to roam and learn. Despite the name ‘zoo’, you’re not going to find lions and tigers here, but it’s a great place for your children to learn about items they’re more likely to come into contact with, such as birds, otters, and a few reptiles too. There are feeding opportunities and plenty of spaces which are designed for active learning, with interactive games and activities to enjoy.
Children under 3 years of age are admitted for free, however you will need to pay on the door or online for children over that age, and adults too of course.
Kensington Gardens, Diana Memorial Gardens
One of the most popular spots in London overall, but also a place where children will adore running of energy, playing around, meeting other children, whilst also giving you a place to relax at the same time.
Located next to the hugely impressive Kensington Palace, you can expect crowds, however this is one of the best playgrounds for children who may have a disability of some kind, as the playground is designed for all children to enjoy inclusively. You’ll no doubt have seen the huge and iconic pirate ship which the playground is built around, with nods to Disney’s Peter Pan. On a sunny day, be sure to head off on the sensory trail as a family too.
Diana Memorial Gardens is ideal for children from 1 to 12 years of age and the good news is that it’s totally free!
Kyoto Garden (Holland Park)
A fantastic spot for a picnic and a day out as a family, Holland Park itself is one of the top spots in London. However, within the park you’ll also find the beautiful Kyoto Garden, which is a wonderful and tranquil spot for children to explore.
Here you’ll find peacocks wandering around the grounds, so it might be worth ensuring that your children are aware of this before you go, and telling them not to approach these majestic creatures! Despite that, there is also a beautiful waterfall, lights strewn around the trees, and a huge pond of koi carp fish.
Kyoto Garden is ideal for chilled out Sunday afternoons, however Holland Park in general is the ideal spot for families to enjoy the fresh air, and hopefully the good weather. This attraction is also free to enter.
You might think there aren’t going to be any farm-related activities for children in a city as big as London, but you’d be wrong! Mudchute Farm is a little slice of the countryside, despite its close proximity to central London. Located close to Canary Wharf, you’ll need to head over to the Isle of Dogs to visit this wonderful spot for children.
You’ll find more than 100 small animals and birds here, and the other plus point is that it’s a working farm which welcomes donations to keep it running. Whilst it’s free to enter, it’s a good idea to leave a little change in the bucket as you leave.
Children will love spotting the animals, running around and checking out the views over the city. Why not take a picnic and soak up the sun as you do so, with animals running around you in the process!
V&A Museum of Childhood
Children love toys, so why not mix in some education and toys at the same time! Adults will also love this spot, as it’s a journey through time, looking at various toys which children used to commonly play with over the years. Put simply, this is a great day out for all the family. The huge village of dolls houses (more than 150!) Is a must see too.
If you visit during the summer months and any school holidays you’ll probably find specific events going on, so be sure to check ahead of time on their website to see if there are any special exhibitions to see for yourself.
The museum is close to Bethnal Green and is ideal for children aged 3 years and upwards. It’s also free to go inside and look around, making it the ideal option for a rainy day.
Royal Observatory & Planetarium
Every child needs to visit the Royal Observatory & Planetarium at least once, especially if they live nearby! This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, such is its importance, and the views over the city are fantastic. Of course, this is where the Greenwich Mean Time line is to be found, which teaches your child about time zones too.
Check out the Royal Observatory Gardens, which are ideal for the summer weather, and these are free to visit. The Planetarium itself is fantastic and both kids and adults alike will love learning about space and time.
This attraction is free for certain parts but you will need to pay for some of the premium exhibitions, such as the cinema inside the Planetarium.
Head to Fenchurch Street and visit a huge public garden, high up in the sky! Kids will adore the fact that they’re so high up and you also get to take in the amazing views from the viewing platform. On the 35th level you’ll find beautiful gardens and places to sit, with restaurants too. This is a good spot for older children to enjoy a lunch with their parents.
It’s free to go inside and up to the Sky Garden, however if you choose to eat, obviously you’ll need to pay extra.
How to Stay up to Date on Local Activities
Now you know a few of the best spots for children in London, how can you stay up to date with specific events that might be occurring ad-hoc, or new attractions that are opening all the time.
London is a huge and busy city, and that means it never stands still.There are always new things opening, things closing, and events which can help to boost a child’s education, without them even knowing. Learning whilst playing is the best way for a child to expand their knowledge!
There are several ways you can stay up to date with specific events, but social media is certainly where its at these days. Sign up to local groups on Facebook to learn about new events happening at the weekends or during summer holidays. You should also check local events boards around the city and head online to specific websites.
Because London is so large, its hard to pinpoints specific events beforehand. You need to be aware and sign up to newsletters to get the 101, to avoid disappointment!
Your child’s school will probably have an events board, and this is a good place to learn about very local groups and attractions you can visit, but never underestimate the power of word of mouth too!
The Importance of Exploring The Local Area
London is a city which is packed with history and culture and walking around you can hear echoes of the past. Children can learn a huge amount simply by getting out and about with their parents and learning about the local area. Even the playgrounds and gardens all have history, so why not learn a little yourself before you take your child to a specific spot and then tell them about it when they’re there.
By doing this, you’re helping to build up a genuine interest and appreciation for the city they live in, something which is often lacking when you’re around something every day. It’s easy to become complacent and forget that you’re actually living in a spot which has so much history and culture at every corner. In order to boost your child’s education and help them to learn to be tolerance and open-minded of different cultures and nationalities, simply head off for a walk around the city and allow them to soak up the feel.
London is a special city and a child can learn a lot by living there. However, it’s important to make an effort to get out and see the iconic sights, and not stay home or simply play in the garden.
You might not want to head out and do battle with tourist crowds at spots like the London Eye or the Tower of London on your day off, and that’s perfectly understandable, however visiting them once is a must do. These sights make up the very core of London’s history and allow your child to really soak up what the city means, now and in the past.
From there, you can focus your attention on the more local activities which allow them to meet other children and form bonds of friendship with their peers. There are countless playgrounds around London, most of which are free to enter. We already mentioned the Princess Diana Memorial Playground at Kensington Palace, which will allow your child to mingle with children from all over the world, such is the popularity and iconic status of this spot.
Simply walking down the street and heading to the local playground to run off some steam is a great idea, because it teaches your child about exercise, the importance of fresh air, and also allows them the opportunity to practice their social skills with other children. Of course, this also allows you to meet other parents in the local area, building up your support network too.
London is a fantastic city to live in as a child, but it really depends upon their ability to get out and really see it. As their parent, or parents, the responsibility is on your shoulders to allow them to explore the city in safety.