Gobaby App’s Family Guide to Free and Affordable Summer Activities in London
If you are out and about with a pushchair in London over the holidays, download the best London Baby App to date: Gobaby App. All London Underground and DLR stations are listed with their push-chair navigation explained in detail through four simple icons. Once you get the hang of the icons, you can tell by a glance if the station is step-free, has more than 10 steps, has a lift or requires an escalator. For nervous mothers like me who find the escalators intimidating, but happy to bump the pushchair down a small flight of stairs to get on a lift – this app is INGENIUS and the best £1.49 you will ever spend.
Further, over 1,000 nappy changing restaurants and retailers are listed. Even better, each restaurant listed has an icon indicating if they have high chairs and children’s menus. Worried about downloads or your battery dying while you are out? Search neighbourhoods in list format or view your saved destinations without needing internet access or draining your battery. Check out The Gobaby App review on London-baby.com and Gobaby App’s review in London’s Evening Standard.
I hope you find this quick guide to Central London family summer fun useful. My goal has been to put together a list of the less-publicised, interesting activities that have some cultural or educational merit. My kids and I have been to nearly all of these events listed and found them worthwhile.
Royal Academy of Art: There are lots of activities at the RA this summer. Firstly, they have Family Gallery Tours on Sundays through 28th July starting at 2:30. Next they are hosting several art workshops where booking is required; these will take place Wednesday 24th, Friday 26th, Wednesday 31st July and Thursday 1st, Friday 2nd August, then Wednesday 14th and Thursday 15th August. These workshops are £10 for adults (friends of the RA £5) and £3 for children they take place from 11am – 1pm, ages 5+. These workshops are hands-on and artist-led. On Sunday 11th August there is a free, drop-in workshop for families, 11am-2pm.
V&A: Take your pick at the V and A (and keep in mind they have the lovely courtyard fountain that children are allowed to play in). Pop-up Performances: Saturday 20th and 27th of July discover the backstage world of Kylie Minogue from her headdresses to her corsets. Saturday 3rd and 17th August The Boys who Sat on the Dragon Throne: the story of the 2 year old emperor, Pu-Yi. Saturday 10th August, How the Mice Got Rid of the Cats: a storytelling performance about princes, carpet merchants, cats and clever mice. Saturday 24th, Monday 26th and Monday 31st Dragons, Lions & Football, learn the significance of the three lions in crests, football and more. The Imagination Station: Monday 13th – Friday 30th August: Share your museum memories and seal them in a bottle.
Somerset House: Free Family Workshops: Explore the exhibits by engaging in a range of art and craft activities. Saturday 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th and 31st August, noon-3pm, free, drop-in, ages 6-12 years old. There is a gorgeous fountain court where the kids can play anytime during the holidays; bring a towel as the kids will get soaked.
Buggy Bootcamp, Hyde Park: Join Kerri Holland and the nicest group of new mums and dads, Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:30am. Meet at the pedestrian bridge near the Serpentine Café (not the big bridge past the Lido) and bring the little ones along. Fantastic Value £6 for a one-off class and great fun.
Holland Park: Bring your kids to take part in fabulous activities where they explore nature, play games and make a quality craft and keepsake. The sessions run 10-noon and 2-4pm, for 5-10 year olds these costs £4.10 for RBKC residents and £5.20 for non-residents. There is a four hour sessions for 8-12 year olds, this is drop-off – you can leave them and run down High Street Ken, this session costs £7.70 for RBKC residents and £9.20 for non-residents. These have to be booked and paid for in advance but are exceptional value and great, wholesome fun for the kids.
Serpentine Lido: There is hidden oasis for families right in Hyde Park. This is the perfect place to go when you have little ones and don’t want to keep track of them a very crowded area. Don’t get me wrong, the lido still gets very busy, but in comparison to the other water play areas, it is much more manageable. The lido has a very small paddling pool, a sand pit, climbing frames and a large picnic area; this is really good for kids under 5’s, but older kids have a good time, too. On Fridays, they might have Punch and Judy shows and other entertainment. You can bring a picnic or buy food and drinks (including beer and wine) from the café there. Entrance £4 per adult, £1 per child, children under 3 are free. Family ticket before 4pm is £9.
Isis Education Centre: Family Discovery Day: Wednesday, August 7th, 11am-3pm. This new, amazing centre is Hyde Park will be hosting a session of pond dipping, craft making and newt-spotting. It is worth the trip simply to see the building, it’s an ingeniously designed nature centre. Free, drop-in, all ages. Thursday August 8th, Underwater Family Explorer! Family Workshop. Use nets, trays, microscopes and magnifying glasses to learn about the world in water. Adults £10, children £6
National Portrait Gallery: The NPG is running family art workshops all summer long. These are mostly drop-in arts and crafts activities. Of particular note, Tuesday 27th August the activity will be making 3D sculpture with plastecine; Wednesday 28th will be working with oil paints; Friday 30th will be make a portrait t-shirt. Workshops running from Tuesday 5th August – Friday 9th; Monday 12th-Saturday 17th; Monday 19th – Friday 23rd and Monday 26th – Friday 30th. All free, drop-in, for some events tickets will be allocated one hour before the start.
Westminster Abbey: On Tuesdays and Wednesdays this summer head over to the college yard at Westminster Abbey and partake in a variety of events like “knight school”, “Westminster safari” and loads of other events. Starting Thursday 25th July and ending Tuesday 20th July, 2:30 – 4:30. Free, booking suggested as there are only 40 places per session.
Kensignton Palace: Kensington Palace is putting on “Fun Fridays” this summer, July 26th; August 2nd, 9th, 16th, and 23rd from 11am – 4pm. The cost of entry is £15 per adult, but children go free. On a busy museum day, this is well worth the money as Kensington Palace is far less crowded than the other museums and the children’s activities are very well organised and supervised.
Geffrye Museum: From Tuesday 30th July – Friday 16th August, The Geffrye Museum will be running their famously fabulous workshops for children. The activities are always interesting with the children making a quality product to take home. Children will make flowerpots, birdcages, bugs … the activities all sound curious and imaginative. Basically there are 10:30am workshops and 2-4pm; with sessions for children 5+ and 2+, older/younger siblings are welcomed at all. Sessions are held in a light-filled room. Sessions are drop-in with only 24 allowed in each session. Tickets are allocated up to 1 hour before the start.
Wallace Collection: There are lots of interesting activities on at the Wallace Collection including proper water colour, sculpting and digital photography workshops for 10+ (£22 per day-long, artist-led instruction). For little ones, there is The Little Draw drop-in family workshop Sunday 4th August 1:30-4pm. Friday 9th August there will be an artist-led workshop exploring Eid al-fitr for children ages 5+. Thursday, August 15th and Friday August 16h the Wallace Collection will host art trails and family fun from 2pm-5pm.
Camden Arts Centre: Head over to Camden Saturdays throughout August and join artist Laura Eldret from 2-4:30. Ms. Eldret will be leading workshops where children will be responding to the works of Jockum Nordstrom and Emma Hart. Workshops are drop-in and free.
Royal Albert Hall: Tuesday 30th July and Thursday 1st August, come and Discover Sport at Royal Albert Hall. Children ages 5-11 (not suitable for children under five) will learn about the first sumo wrestling event held outside Japan and make their own Japanese cushion to take home. Tickets must be purchased in advance, £3.50. Tuesday 20th , and Thursday 22nd come and Discover the Orchestra at Royal Albert Hall and make some festive bunting to take home. Ages 5-11, tickets £3.50
Whitechapel Gallery: Saturday 10th August noon-4pm, family fun day for all ages: throw a pot with Viktoria Redman, create stories for plants, learn about farming and horticulture – an all-around fantastic day of interesting learning. Free, all ages. Then, Saturday 17th August, 10-noon, attend the Urban Ecology Bird Stroll, take a bird watching tour of East London, free all ages.
Ragged School Museum: On Wednesdays and Thursday from 31st July – 29th August, from 10am – 5pm head over to Tower Hamlets and dive into Dr. Bernardo’s world of Victorian philanthropy and learn about the other side of the Victorian prosperity. See a Victorian classroom, an East End kitchen and take part in different craft activities. The museum is easy to get to via public transit and the kids learn loads.
National Gallery: Join the talented staff at the National Gallery this summer and explore the imposing world of oil paintings with your kids. For older children, 5-12, there will be artist led, family workshops on Mondays and Tuesday at 11am and 2pm. For the under-five’s, there will be Stay and Play sessions where the little ones look and talk about one of the museum paintings; also on Mondays and Tuesdays. In addition to these events, the regular Sunday art workshops for the 5-12 and Magic Carpet Rides for the little ones will be running through summer.
Next week I will be sending out and posting a Children’s Summer Theatre Guide, so watch this space.Tweet