London’s Best Free and Affordable-ish Events and Activities for Children this Christmas
I love being in London for the holidays, primarily because people who don’t like London leave. The buses run quickly, the tube and trains are not crowded, strangers smile and give warm “good mornings”. On the three nicest days of the year, December 24th-26th, it feels like only the kindhearted Londoners are out and about enjoying the peacefulness of home.
If you are in town, take the kids to some performances (read through, there are good-value and free events) make some art, and sing some carols.
Soho Theatre, Funz and Gamez: If you see one show this season, see Funz and Gamez. This is some of the best family entertainment this season. The show is brilliantly funny … for all!!! It’s the prefect way to laugh off the stress, the hustle and bustle and enjoy a good chunk of happy therapy with the kids. (Jane’s review coming along shortly). Family tickets from £30 (2 adults, 2 children) or £10 per person.
Unicorn Theatre: The leader in quality children’s theatre has three shows on this season. Scrunch is experiential theatre for babies – 6-18 month olds can go to their very own, baby-centred performance . £10 for 1 adult and 1 child, each additional grown-up £5. The Fourth Wise Man is a heart-warming story based on the nativity, tickets are £10-£16 ages 4+. Lastly The Nutcracker and King Mouse (£15-£22), ages 8+. Bookings for family tickets (2 adults, 2 children) receive a 20% discount.
V and A, Pop-up Performances: This is one of the more relaxed venues for small children and the events are well-attended, but you can always find a seat. Come and see a free performance of the Nutcracker with your little ones Monday 29th December – Friday 2nd January 11am, 1pm and 3pm. Free, all ages
Southbank, Oily Cart – There was an Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe: for children ages 3-5, a silly story about mixed up shoes for very young theatre goers. The show is complemented with live music. Tickets £14 for adults, £7 for kids and showing lots of matinees 18th December – 24th and then again 27th December – 4th January.
Little Angel Theatre, Jabberwocky: Classic childhood tale of a young puppet leaving home and f.inds himself alone in the forest. For ages 5-adult. £12 kids and £14 adult, family ticket £48
Puppet Theatre Barge, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: Head over to Little Venice and watch a magical retelling of the classic tale with puppets whilst floating on the canal. This is so special and excellent value. Tickets £8.50 kids, £12.00 adults. Running December 27th– 4th January 3pm daily.
Peacock Theatre, The Snowman: The Snowman magically retold as a ballet, complete with flying snowmen – a wonderful production to inspire the most reluctant of children with an appreciation for ballet. Tickets start at £15 and a family ticket is £100.
Cadogan Hall, Peter and the Wolf and The Snowman: take the kids to this family concert to listen to Prokofiev’s classic introduction to the orchestra and then the orchestra will accompany a screening of The Snowman complete with live singing. A few tickets remain, £20-£30.
Unique and Convenient Santa’s Grottos
King’s Cross, Santa’s Floating Grotto: Join Father Christmas and his elf on a 45 minute canal ride on a festive narrowboat cruising from Kings Cross to Camden and back. Tickets are £10 for adults, £8 for children ages 3-15. Children under 2 go free if they sit in the adults lap, mince pies and singing. Running daily, leaving on the hour from 11am – 5pm until Tuesday 23rd.
Museum of London Victorian Grotto: Running daily until Tuesday 23rd, you can book your place to meet with this period Santa in a vintage setting. There are loads of interesting events on at the Museum of London to work into your visit.
Duke of York Square Santa’s Grotto: I really enjoy this innovative grotto as not only is it free, it allows you to tick the box of visiting Father Christmas without having to queue uncomfortably in a crowded store. You can schedule a time to see Father Christmas or just show up in Duke of York Square and see if they have any availability. You can shop a bit, the kids can play in front of the Saatchi Gallery and then you can all head down The Kings Road for shopping and a play in St. Luke’s Playground. Open daily 10am – 5pm, until Tuesday 23rd.
Monkey Music Chelsea
Monkey Music Chelsea is now offering classes in Pimlico. This specialist music class for infants and young children is the perfect Friday morning activity for babies and toddlers. Read more about Monkey Music for you and your child. Please ring 0208 767 9827 or email Chelsea.firstname.lastname@example.org to book your place – regular classes commencing January 2015
Christmas Carols for Families:
St. Paul’s Cathedral Carol Service: Bring the warmly welcomed (and perhaps warmly dressed) children to St. Paul’s to listen to carols by performed by the Chamber Choir. This very special, iconic events will also be televised by big screen in Paternostre Square (a perfect way to enjoy the service in a more relaxed way) Tuesday 23rd and Wednesday 24th 4pm. Free, all ages
Lauderdale House, Christmas Sing-along: a very child-centred way to enjoy some Christmas carols in a lovely setting. Monday 22nd, 5pm, free, all ages
Trafalgar Square, Carol Singing: Weekdays from 4-8pm and weekends from 2-6pm, there will be carol singers in Trafalgar Square through 23nd December. Free, all ages
Museum Activities and Events
Royal Museums Greenwich, Planetarium: Fully embrace the long winter nights and take the kids to see a fantastic planetarium show. £6.50 adults, £4.50 kids, £20 family ticket, some shows specifically for children. Book in advance to avoid disappointment.
Wallace Collection, Cracking Christmas: Monday 22nd, 11am-1pm. Come to the education centre and make your very own Christmas cracker. Free, all ages, drop-in.
Natural History Museum, Investigate Room: Do not miss a chance to take your kids to the Investigate Room (ideal for children over 3, check out my review of the Natural History Museum Investigate Room). Open from 3:30 18th and 19th December, open from 11am through the school holidays.
Museum of London, Holiday Events: Head down to the Museum of London for loads of interesting activities for the kids over the school holidays including learning how curators investigate historic objects, A Christmas Carol storytelling, hands on exhibits and more.
National Portrait Gallery Christmas Family Art Workshop: Sunday 21st December, 2-4pm. Head over to the Portrait Gallery and take part in an activity learning how people have celebrated Christmas from Tutor times until now. Ticket required for the event and allocated an hour before the start, free, ages 3+
V and A: Imagination Station – come and explore Russian theatre from the turn of the centary sets by contributing to an enormous collaborative set made from cardboard. Free, drop-in, all ages, 10:30-5pm Saturday 27th December – Sunday 4th January.
National Gallery Family Events: Events for the Under 5s Monday December 29th and Tuesday 30th December various times. Holiday Art Workshops for all ages – Sunday 28th – Tuesday 30th December, 11am and repeated 2pm. Great activities for all, no booking but spaces allocated on arrival up to one hour before the session start.