04 Jul Top Eight Child-Friendly Museums in London

By Anton Constantinou

Summer in London is upon us. And with school holidays just around the corner, the time has come to get planning for the weeks ahead. Given how unpredictable British weather is, you’d be wise to have a couple of indoor activities up your sleeve. Because, as every parent knows, being cooped up inside can spell mischief and tantrums, which is not fun for anyone. Why not go educational and visit a museum?

In London alone there are more than 200 museums, many displaying priceless artefacts and works of art. With so many exhibitions running throughout the year, there really is something for everyone, whether your family loves fashion or marine life.

Museums offer an excellent learning experience for children whose concentration might otherwise be lost in a classroom. Large-scale models and bright cabinet displays make for playful interaction, allowing information to seep in easily. Most of London’s museums are well set up to receive children, regardless of their age, and during the holidays run many activities aimed at families. Here are eight of the best to visit in the capital on your next city break:

1. Horniman Museum

Children love animals. And the Horniman is full of them. This anthropological museum invites kids to observe the skulls and skeletons of everything from birds to monkeys. It features both a nature trail and an aquarium containing tropical fish. There’s even a music gallery in the basement boasting playable instruments. Parents will simply adore the landscaped gardens on-site.

Highlights include:

The Robot Zoo exhibition
Animal walk
Nature trail

Address: 100 London Rd, Forest Hill, London SE23 3PQ
Admission: FREE (permanent collection); admission charge applies for aquarium
Opening Times: Daily 10am – 5.30pm, except 24 – 26 December (Museum); Monday – Saturday: 7.15am – sunset (Gardens)

More information: horniman.ac.uk

2. Old Operating Theatre Museum

There’s plenty to satisfy a child’s natural curiosity at this old operating theatre in London Bridge. Visitors enter via a steep wooden staircase, and are greeted with all range of weird and wonderful relics, including surgical instruments and pathological specimens. The museum offers a number of educational sessions, and is great for older children.

Highlights include:

Guided walks
The Apothecary tour
Drop-in art sessions

Address: 9a St Thomas St, London SE1 9RY
Full price adult: £6.50
Concession: £5.00
Under 16: £3.50
Family (2 adults and up to two children under 18): £15.00
Opening Times: Daily 10.30 am – 5pm

More information: oldoperatingtheatre.com

3. Geffrye Museum

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Many children dream of time travel. At the Geffrye Museum, kids get a glimpse into England’s interior design past of furniture, textiles and decorative arts. Those with an interest in the arts will adore this place. On the first Saturday of every month, the museum hosts a number of craft activities and free quizzes for 5-16 year olds, along with family days in summer.

Highlights include:

The Kids Zone
A walk through a Victorian house
Summer garden tours

Address: 136 Kingsland Rd, London E2 8EA
Admission: FREE, except for ticketed events
Opening Times: Tuesday – Sunday: 10am – 5pm

More information: geffrye-museum.org.uk

4. V&A Museum of Childhood

The clue is in the name – this museum’s mission is all about helping young people make sense of the world. It’s the largest institution of its kind in the world, and the toys and costumes it contains are both designed for and by children. Currently underway is an exhibition called ‘Seen But Not Heard’, which explores the movement from primary to secondary school, and the changes that come with it.

Highlights include:

Dolls’ houses
Must-have toys
Summer camps

Address: Cambridge Heath Rd, London E2 9PA
Admission: FREE
Opening Times: Daily 10am – 5.45pm

More information: vam.ac.uk/moc/

5. Science Museum

Turn your little smarty pants into a nutty professor with a trip to South Kensington’s Science Museum. Its games, simulators and interactive exhibits are sure to leave children feeling inspired. Famous items include Stephenson’s Rocket and the world’s first jet engine. We highly recommend the Robots exhibition taking place at the moment.

Highlights include:

Dolls’ houses
Must-have toys
Summer camps

Address: Cambridge Heath Rd, London E2 9PA
Admission: FREE
Opening Times: Daily 10am – 5.45pm

More information: vam.ac.uk/moc/

6. Natural History Museum

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Also in South Kensington, on Cromwell Road, is the Natural History Museum. Many families come here for the dinosaurs alone, but the Darwin Centre and giant rotating globe are just as exciting. Watch those little eyes light up at the discovery of fossils, volcanoes, butterflies and creepy crawlies. The museum is great for a day-out with toddlers as it offers a range of fun-filled activities and games, as well as high chairs and simple, healthy food.

Highlights include:

‘Dippy’ the Diplodocus
A stuffed polar bear
A ‘Lucky Find’ chunk of gold

Address: Cromwell Rd, Kensington, London SW7 5BD
Admission: FREE, except for ticketed events
Opening Times: Daily 10am – 5.50pm, except 13 July and 24-26 December

More information: nhm.ac.uk

7. British Museum

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The British Museum is where you’ll find some rather special Egyptian mummies, located in rooms 62-63 of the Roxie Walker Galleries. Kids have the opportunity to see them up close, and are also taught how to decode Ancient Egyptian documents. The mummies form the basis for a child-friendly trail of the museum, which takes you all the way from Easter Island to Rome.

Highlights include:

The cat mummies
The Easter Island statue
Activity trails

Address: Great Russell St, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 3DG
Admission: FREE, except for ticketed events
Opening Times: Daily 10am – 5.30pm, except 24-26 December and 1 January

More information: britishmuseum.org

8. London Transport Museum

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A visit to the London Transport Museum is like stepping back in time to the Victorian period, as you hop on-board an old train, or marvel at the sight of a horse-bus. Between the toy models and the tube posters, there’s plenty to engage young minds here. Children and young people under the age of 18 go free. Visitors have the option of going behind the scenes with an exclusive family tour of the museum’s depot in action.

Highlights include:

Vintage buses
Old medals, badges and stamps
Singing and stories

Address: Covent Garden Piazza, London WC2E 7BB
Adults: £17.50
Concession: £15.00
Opening Times: Monday-Thursday, Saturday and Sunday: 10am – 6pm (last entry 5.15pm)

More information: ltmuseum.co.uk

Grace Tebbutt

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