The Top 10 Free Things to do in London With Children
We know having children in London can be expensive, so here's our round-up of the best family-friendly activities the capital has to offer which won't break the bank.
1. Hang out with ring-tailed lemurs at Golders Hill Park Zoo
Technically part of Hampstead Heath, Golders Hill Park is a haven of tranquility with its beautifully designed gardens and stunning grounds. It also boasts a bandstand, croquet lawns, tennis courts and a children's play area. Perhaps the most exciting for little visitors though, are the butterfly house, deer park and free zoo. Your little animal lover will be able to meet a whole host of exotic birds and mammals, including ring-tailed lemurs, coatis and kookaburras.
The park is open from 7.30am to dusk, closing at 4.30pm in winter (the zoo is open whenever the park is).
2. Explore your creative side at Cass Art
Known for its low prices, Cass Art stocks a fantastic array of artist materials in its outlets around the capital. However, budding Picassos will really love their free kids' activity tables which run every Saturday morning in their Islington and Hampstead branches. Children must be accompanied by an adult, but sessions are drop-in and all materials are supplied free of charge. The tables do have limited capacity though, and spaces will be allocated on a 'first come, first served' basis.
3. Watch the pelicans have their lunch at St. James' Park
The central lake at St. James' Park is home to lots of different species of wildfowl, including the famous pelicans who have been resident since the 17th century. The pelicans are fed between 2.30 and 3pm every day (though they have been known to snack on the occasional pigeon when feeling particularly hungry), and are more than comfortable in front of an audience.
4. Do some pond dipping at Camley Street Natural Park
A real hidden gym, Camley Street Natural Park is a small but thriving green space that was once home to a former coal yard. Located in the heart of King's Cross, it hosts a whole range of free family activities such as pond-dipping and nature-watching sessions (although sometimes booking is required). There are also some great picnic spots onsite so make sure you pack some sarnies. Open all week from 10am to 4pm in the winter and until 5pm in the summer.
5. Fly around Coram's Fields on a zip wire
One of the most child-friendly spots in London, adults aren't even allowed in to Coram's Fields unless they're with an under 16. The park is set on the site of the old Thomas Coram's Foundling Hospital, which was established in the 18th century as a sanctuary for unwanted babies. Today, children can play in the enormous sandpit, paddling pool (summertime only) and explore the vast array of climbing frames, see-saws and swings in the beautiful walled garden. There's also a city farm (home to goats, chickens, rabbits and birds) and adventure playground complete with a zip wire, tunnel slide and lots of climbing equipment made from natural materials. You can also visit their under 5s' drop in centre every weekday morning, which runs a different set activity depending on the day of the week. The park is open all year round from 9am until dusk.
6. Play shopkeepers at the National Maritime Museum
Babies and young children will love the new and super fun 'Ahoy!' gallery at the National Maritime Museum. The play area features a pretend beach, a model of a ship deck and cabins, an air hockey-like cannon fire game and a fantastic 'fish shop' with rows of pretend fish, cash tills and shopping baskets. Older siblings will be entertained by the nearby All Hands gallery. Open from 10am to 5pm every day (apart from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day).
7. Get up close and personal with the dinosaurs at Crystal Palace Park
Is your little one obsessed with our prehistoric friends? So were the Victorians, and the 'Dinosaur Court' at Crystal Palace Park was immensly popular when it was first unveiled by Benjamin Waterhouse-Hawkins in 1854. Take your own mini paleontologist along to see the five dinosaur sculptures lurking around the trees by the lake . The models still fascinate young children - but remember, no climbing allowed. The park opens at 7.30am and closes at dusk.
8. Hear a story while riding a magic carpet at the National Gallery
If your little one doesn't quite have the patience for walking around and looking at paintings, try one of the National Gallery's 'magic carpet' storytelling sessions instead. Every Sunday morning, parents and children are invited to listen to stories inspired by one of the gallery's paintings (depending on where the magic carpet has landed that day). They have a great range of creative early years workshops too.
9. Find a real fossil at the Grant Museum
The Grant Museum of Zoology is full of all sorts of cool stuff, although not for the squeamish; jars of specimens, skeletons and mounted animals, including examples of creatures that are now endangered or even extinct (think jars of tiny moles, huge elephant skulls, anaconda skeletons). Wander around as you please or join one of the free drop-in hands-on family sessions (details on their website). Open 1 - 5pm, Monday to Saturday.
10. Go on a bike ride at Epping Forest
Originally conceived as a royal Tudor hunting ground, Epping Forest is the largest green space within the M25 and still just as beautiful today. It's a great cycling spot, the City of London website has a great map or for something a little easier head towards Leyton and for Wanstead Flats. Forest centres host regular events to help even the youngest visitors enjoy the forest.
Do you have any other great free activities you love to do in the city? We’d love to hear them! Send them to us on Facebook and Twitter, and remember to follow LEYF Nurseries for more tips, tricks and ideas about parenting and early years childcare.