London Top Ten for Kids

Children and the London Eye
Maxine Clarke is a first-time parent and part-time copywriter for Holiday Extras. She is looking forward to many happy travels with her partner and their little boy.

Top Ten Kids in London

[February 2008]

Now there's no denying we are happy yet rapidly ageing parents, my partner and I have thrown ourselves into planning some entertainment for drizzly weekends and school holidays with nieces and nephews.

In a different time we lived in London and filled our evenings and weekends with friends, expensive restaurants, uber-cool bars, plays and exhibitions. Removing the rose-tinted spectacles however, the most cultural thing I did on many Saturdays was drag myself out of my East London hovel as far as the corner shop for Heat magazine and a muffin.

But the opportunities were there and I loved London. In our new lives the big smoke still comes up with the goods. London is fantastic for children and here are my top ten activities for passing time with little ones in tow.

1 Even the journey can be fun. Riding on a train, taxi or London bus, taking the tube or DLR (and pretending to be the driver) or traffic and train spotting will keep many little people entertained. Not quite as inspiring for parents unfortunately.

2 The newly-reopened London Transport Museum in Covent Garden is ideal for those getting more serious about transportation. It explores the link between transport and the growth of modern London and features costumed characters as well as special activities during school holidays such as building a bus. 'London's Transport in Miniature' runs on Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 March 2008 at The Museum Depot at Acton. There'll be demonstrations of steam and electric train collections on the Museum's miniature railway.

3 For tots who love Harry and the Dinosaurs there's no better place than the Natural History Museum. See the big softy Diplodocus, slightly scary super-sensing T.Rex and life size model of a blue whale. Every day there are talks, behind-the-scenes tours, a science discovery centre and Explorer backpacks available. Running until 20 April, Ice Station Antarctica is a temporary interactive exhibition (charge applies).

4 Sharks, stingrays, moral eels and piranhas are just a selection of the 400 species on display in over 2 million litres of water at the London Aquarium. The multi-sensory journey includes a pool where your little fish can stroke friendly creatures, feeding sessions and regular talks. From Saturday 9 February to Sunday 24 February, Captain Pugwash and his crew will be in residence.

5 Further along the South Bank is the Tate Modern, a brilliant building in itself for older children to explore, and well set-up for families with children. The 'Start' team organises exciting games for the over-fives to play in the galleries and will be running special activities during half term week. On Saturday 23 February 'What Can the Matter Be?', a talk and demonstration, will uncover some of the secrets behind the gallery's collection.

6 The London Eye provides a welcome retreat from the hustle and bustle of the South Bank for half an hour. Located opposite the Houses of Parliament, you will travel at a stately 0.6 miles per hour - twice as fast as a tortoise sprinting according to their website. Kids will love the cool capsules and you can see as far as Windsor Castle on a clear day.

7 Let your crazy monsters run wild and let off steam in one of the capital's green spaces. St James', Green, Hyde and Regent's parks are all easily accessible by public transport and you might even get the chance to lie down quietly for a while.

8 The well-established London Zoo is nestled within Regent's Park and offers a new £5.3m enclosure called Gorilla Kingdom, the Ambika Paul Children's Zoo, Butterfly Paradise, Meet the Monkeys and Clore Rainforest Lookout just for starters. The Zoo recently won the 'Kids Love London' award among a number of others at the Visit London Awards.

9 The wide open spaces of the park, the National Maritime Museum, the Royal Observatory, a lively market, high street shops and restaurants make Greenwich one of the most family-friendly boroughs to visit. Along with riverside walks, independent boutiques and bistros, the Old Royal Naval College and university buildings you will easily fill a happy day here.

10 You can't fail with a West End show and a night in a nearby hotel - The Sound of Music, Billy Elliot, The Lion King, Dirty Dancing are all available now. And you can add afternoon tea, a pre-theatre dinner or a London attraction to your theatre booking. Madame Tussaud's, the London Dungeon, the Eye, London Zoo and a River Pass are just a selection of the attractions available from £9.50 per adult and £4.50 per child.

Living within an hour's drive of our capital, we are so lucky to have all this on our doorstep. I hope that our little man grows up feeling part of this wonderful city - and will one day nurse a few hangovers there just like his mummy and daddy.

by Maxine Clarke