“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life, for there is in London all that life can afford.” When Samuel Johnson made his far-too-often quoted statement about London, it is unlikely he knew then that London would, over time, evolve into a city as compelling for toddlers as for the adults shepherding them. From West End plays bringing literary magic to life, to immersive art exhibits, here is Jr’s guide to toddler-approved things to do in London this summer.
This toddler-approved guide to things to do in London this summer, is adapted from the author‘s original article for Live Mint Lounge, accessible here.
Things To Do In London This Summer With A Toddler
The West End, London’s theatre district, is synonymous with family-friendly shows from the long-running Lion King to Matilda and Wicked. Most plays and musicals are suitable only for children of at least seven years and above, but a timely string of summer productions are entrancing for even the most fidgety two- or three-year-old.
Our top pick this summer is The Tiger Who Came To Tea, a theatrical reimagining of Judith Kerr’s timeless picture book about an anthropomorphised tiger who invites himself over to tea at little Sophie’s house. The surreal story is enlivened with songs, comical moments galore and interactive audience participation.
The Tiger Who Came to Tea | Theatre Royal Haymarket, 18 Suffolk St, London SW1Y 4HT | https://trh.co.uk/whatson/the-tiger-who-came-to-tea/
Nestled in Hertfordshire, Willows Activity Farm is a family-oriented farm helping you swap screentime for wholesome fun and outdoorsy adventures. Try everything from tractor rides and geese obstacle races to bottle-feeding lambs and handling baby animals. There are also a number of enticing playgrounds, including one inspired by the enchanting world of Peter Rabbit.
Willows Activity Farm | Coursers Rd, St Albans AL4 0PF | https://www.willowsactivityfarm.com
Immersive Art Exhibits
Immersive art exhibitions for children are an emerging trend, reflecting the Instagram and TikTok effect. The great thing about immersive art is that it has a much wider appeal, captivating the attention of young children too, by both introducing them to art and encouraging interactions with the works. Immersive exhibits are a welcome change for parents who struggle to keep their kids from getting too close to masterpieces at “don’t touch” galleries.
Frameless in Marble Arch frees art of frames in a colossal 30,000 square feet multi-dimensional space. Over forty artworks from artists as different as Munch and Monet, entrance viewers through animated projections and music. It is not surprising to see babies crawling all over the surreal works projected onto a mirrored floor, whilst tots twist and run between the works covering every spare inch of surface.
Frameless | 6 Marble Arch, London W1H 7AP | https://frameless.com
Over in King’s Cross, David Hockney: Bigger & Closer at The Lightroom also draws in three-year olds with a larger-than-life exhibition of the iconic works of one of the greatest contemporary artists of our time.
David Hockney: Bigger & Closer (not smaller & further away) | 12 Lewis Cubitt Square London, N1C 4DY | https://lightroom.uk
London’s many museums offer toddlers an introduction into a broad range of subjects from history to transport.
At The London Transport Museum, children can don a uniform and drive a bus or even sail a Thames nipper, as they discover different modes of transport. The All Aboard Playzone is a highlight, with mini vehicles galore and opportunities to dress up for interactive role play.
London Transport Museum | London WC2E 7BB | https://www.ltmuseum.co.uk
The free-to-visit Royal Airforce Museum (RAF) is a must for those fascinated with airplanes. Not only can the kids experience RAF’s innovative technologies, they can also participate in interactive games, including a Flight Simulator.
Royal AirForce Museum | Grahame Park Way, London NW9 5LL | https://www.rafmuseum.org.uk
Then of course, there is the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum, neighbouring each other in South Kensington. The former proves that learning can be fun through a series of immersive activities, running the gamut from astronomy to chemistry and medicine. It can be particularly challenging to tear toddlers away from The Wonderlab at The Science Museum, which is not unlike an interactive science playground.
Science Museum | Exhibition Rd, South Kensington, London SW7 2DD | https://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk
As for the Natural History Museum, toddlers could spend the best part of a day wandering through a volcano and discovering the world of dinosaurs and other fascinating creatures.
Natural History Museum | Cromwell Rd, South Kensington, London SW7 5BD | https://nhm.org
Wildlife From Around The World
The London Zoo ought not to be missed. Giraffes, zebras, tigers, lions, hippos and penguins are just a few of the two thousand animals comfortably at home in the heart of London’s Regent Park. There’s even a petting zoo, play area (complete with water play) and toddler-friendly dining options to round off the visit.
London Zoo | Outer Cir, London NW1 4RY | https://www.londonzoo.org
At the end of the day, there is nothing like the simple pleasure of stumbling upon one of London’s many play areas, open to all. Our favourites include the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens and the adventurous play ground in Holland Park.