Panic set in for thousands of parents up and down the country when the last day of the school term arrived. Now, they had the responsibility of finding ways of entertaining their children for SIX whole weeks. This is a feat that can be difficult at the best of times, but add to the fact that cash is in short supply right now, and…well, you get the picture!
In a bid to save the pennies many families are opting out of travelling abroad this year. But there are still lots of fun activities that families can enjoy for a reasonable price or for free in London.
Battersea Park Children’s Zoo
This great zoo is perfect for small children. There are lots of animals to keep your young ones entertained, such as otters, talking mynah birds, sheep and cheeky monkeys. You can bring your own picnic with you if find their cafe a bit pricey. Queenstown Rd, SW11 . www.batterseaparkzoo.co.uk. Nearest train station: Battersea Park.
Crystal Palace Park
Crystal Palace Park has a maze, a children’s play area and a café as well as enough open space to wear out the most energetic children! Open air concerts are sometimes held here in summer also. Thicket Rd, SE20 www.bromley.gov.uk). Nearest train station: Penge West or Crystal Palace rail
Does your child have a penchant for wandering off? At Queen’s Park wardens are much more visible than their equivalents in London’s larger parks. There’s a playground with a giant sandpit and adjacent paddling pool, a miniature farm, a nature trail and a pleasant, refurbished café. There’s also a programme of lively kids’ entertainment at the bandstand. Kingswood Avenue, NW6. Nearest train/tube station: Queen’s Park.
The first-floor gallery will be the most interesting for your child and includes original artwork loaned by publications like the Beano and the Dandy. There’s a cartoonist in residence and lots to make and do. Visit the museum’s website for details of cartooning and animation workshops. 35 Little Russell St, WC1. www.cartooncentre.com. Nearest tube station: Holborn.
London Wetland Centre
A 105-acre city wildlife area of lakes, reedbeds and marshes created by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. A three-storey tower gives excellent views of the wild areas. Facilities include a theatre and a children’s adventure centre. Free guided tours take place twice a day. Queen Elizabeth’s Walk, London, SW13. Nearest tube station: Hammersmith then Duck bus (283)
The Horniman has a marvellous natural history gallery and huge collection of around 1,600 musical instruments. There are plenty of activities for families, including a nature trail, weekend workshops and a hands-on base where children can touch museum objects. 100 London Road, London, SE23 www.horniman.ac.uk. Nearest train station: Forest Hill.
London International Gallery of Children’s Art
This art gallery goes a long way to helping young people appreciate art. It contains art in all its forms created by children from all over the world. Waterlow Park Centre, Dartmouth Park Hill, London N19 5JF. www.ligca.org. Nearest tube station: Archway. 10am-4pm Fri-Sun, other times by appointment.
Pumphouse Educational Museum
The Young Archaeologists Club (for nine- to 16-year-olds) meets on Saturday of each month at the Pumphouse Educational Museum in Rotherhithe to discuss all things digging. Activities include walking the Thames foreshore to collect objects that have washed up, identifying bones and mosaic-making. Lavender Rd, SE16. www.thepumphouse.org.uk. Nearest tube station: Rotherhithe.
Royal Air Force Museum
Does your child love planes? Then this is a perfect day out for them. attractions include 80 aircraft on display, an interactive area and a simulator ride. In the Aeronauts Gallery visitors can take a pilot aptitude test to discover whether they are the ‘right stuff’. ‘Milestones of Flight’, a permanent exhibition in the museum’s new silver barrel-vaulted, stainless steel-clad building, includes some of the most important RAF aircraft along with classics from the USA, Germany, Japan and France. Grahame Park Way, NW9. www.rafmuseum.org.uk. Nearest tube/train station: Colindale tube/Broadway rail.
The Peter Harrison Planetarium makes a visit to the Royal Observatory worthwhile. It has an advanced laser projector and presentations specifically aimed at children. Most are suitable for kids over six, with special shows for children aged three to six at weekends and during the holidays. Greenwich Park, SE10. www.rog.nmm.ac.uk. Nearest train/tube stations: Cutty Sark DLR/Maze Hill rail.
Barracudas www.barracudas.co.uk, runs day camps throughout London incorporating activities as diverse as quad-biking, jewellery-making, archery and karaoke. Alternatively, your child could learn circus skills at The Circus Space (Coronet St, N1, www.thecircusspace.co.uk), in-line skating with Citiskate , www.citiskate.co.uk, or scuba diving with London Scuba, www.londonscuba.com .
Let your children know just how hard it is slaving away over a hot stove only to have them turn around and say ‘yuk!’ to your efforts. Let them get stuck into a shift at Acton’s Kids’ Cookery School (107 Gunnersbury Lane, W3; www.thekidscookeryschool.co.uk . I don’t think they will complain about your cooking so much after that!
Dulwich Picture Gallery runs an award-winning education programme for budding artists of all ages and abilities. Classes for seven- to ten-year-olds are on Saturday mornings, 11- to 14-year-olds can head along on Thursday evenings, and 15- to 18-year-olds can take classes on Tuesday evenings. There are also free drop-in classes.
Elsewhere, similar classes run at the National Portrait Gallery (www.npg.org.uk ) and National Gallery (www.nationalgallery.org.uk ). And the ever-attractive Camden Arts Centre (www.camdenartscentre.org ) runs two-day holiday courses in anything from clay to mixed media. Somerset House (www.somersethouse.org ) runs free (ticketed) art workshops on Saturday afternoons, as well as occasional ‘studio days’ for older children. Dulwich Picture Gallery, Gallery Rd, SE21. www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk . Nearest train station: North Dulwich or West Dulwich.
Little Angel Theatre
Does your child have a flair for the dramatic? Take them over to Islington’s Little Angel Theatre – London’s only permanent puppet theatre since 1961. Summer shows commence on Aug 9. Most productions are aimed at audiences aged five and over. The Saturday Puppet Club runs over ten weeks, and culminates in a show for family and friends. 14 Dagmar Passage, N1. www.littleangeltheatre.com . Nearest tube station: Angel.
Pineapple Performing Arts School
The renowned Pineapple Performing Arts School offers a drop-in street dancing class on for eight- to 16-year-olds every Saturday; you just need to turn up and pay six quid. It’s a great way to either keep the kids fit, or drain them of excess energy. For the really keen there are also summer schools in street dance and musical theatre, for nine- to 17-year-olds. 7 Langley St, WC2. www.pineapplearts.com . Nearest tube station Covent Garden.
This is a beautifully designed kids’ theatre which puts on daily shows (10.30am, 2pm) and runs school holiday workshops. 240 The Broadway, SW19 www.polkatheatre.com . Nearest tube station South Wimbledon.
Camden Town’s revamped Roundhouse features a high-tech set of studios and rehearsal spaces that are ideal for creative children. Courses range from rap to contemporary dance, film and TV to experimental drama; there’s even the chance to be a presenter on Roundhouse Radio, broadcast over the internet. Brochures and enrolment forms can be downloaded from the website. Chalk Farm Rd, NW1. www.roundhouse.org.uk . Nearest tube station: Chalk Farm.
Tricycle Theatre and Cinema
The Tricycle Theatre is renowned for their children’s shows; they have a wonderful workshops on weekdays, with everything from prop-making sessions to interactive whodunnits, as well as holiday workshops and youth theatre. Tricycle Theatre and Cinema, 269 Kilburn High Rd, NW6 (7328 1000/ www.tricycle.co.uk ). Kilburn tube.
Brockwell Lido (Dulwich Rd, SE24. www.brockwelllido.com is a great location for swimming set amid the greenery of Brockwell Park; Tooting Bec Lido (Tooting Bec Rd, SW16; www.wandsworth.gov.uk is quite awe-inspiring (and has a paddling pool).
Now, we realise that these examples are all London based, but if you are coming to London this summer (which according the national press 1 in 5 of you are planning to!), this list should give you an idea about some idea about some of the things you can do.
For those of you that are further afield, please put your suggestions below as we all need to find ways to keep our kids entertained!