50 Family Days Out in London

  1. Turbine Hall, Tate Modern

    It’s not hugely known but you can enjoy top class Family Contemporary Dance Days & Shows at The Place, Euston. The Place is home to London Contemporary Dance School, Richard Alston Dance Company, a 280 seat theatre, and they host an annual Summer festival, courses and workshops aimed at boys – it’s not all about football you know.

  2. You are always welcome to join a  Culture Club Group Trip. There are theatre tickets at really reduced prices, and the door is always open for personal concierge services for consultation. I offer itenaries, museum tours, sporting tickets, birthday parties, all with a cultural bent. The list is endless. Contact me on sian.gwilliam@me.com, and I’d be happy to help.
  3. Whitstable Beach
  4. The Foundling Museum explores the history of the Foundling Hospital, the UK’s first children’s charity and first public art gallery. In 1971, the charity was registered as an adoption agency, offering a specialist service to find adoptive families for the most vulnerable childcare. It’s a charming museum, with a sweet cafe, and bang next door to a great playground.
  5. Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool, Tate St Ives … you’ve not lived if you haven’t been Tate-d. Check out what’s on right here.
  6. How about a Tour of Lords Cricket Ground the ‘Home of Cricket’, with afternoon tea for the hungry. Perfect for a trip with the grandparents, or a birthday treat for a sport loving child. Find out more on Culture Club here.

    Mountview Summer School
  7. The Royal Society is a Fellowship of many of the world’s most eminent scientists and is the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence. I think it’s only good manners to have paid them a visit, after all they are getting on a bit.
  8. You love London and you love life don’t you ? Well here’s a way to satisfy both at the Museum of London. They offer daily activities, storytelling, creative packs, a great shop, cracking location, and it’s free. Say no more.

    Views from The Shard
  9. The House of Illustration offers what is says. It’s in a perfect location in Kings Cross, 2 mins from a million things to do. They also offer brilliant workshops. We have tried and tested them, and they get 11/10 from us.
  10. If I said, it was the fastest in her day, has incredible history, and smells of old fish, what would you say ? the Cutty Sark. Well done. 10 points for you. Grab your Oyster card, and jump on the boat there. That’s your day sorted then.
  11. It’s never dull at The National Theatre. Check out the family events schedule, and discover the skills and secrets behind productions at the National Theatre: have a go at designing a costume; learn how our actors perform realistic fights on stage. That’s before you’ve even seen a ground breaking piece of drama (dahhhling).

    Mini Eco DIY Craft
  12. You made that up, I don’t believe you. You must have been hanging out at the Discover Story Centre in Stratford then. The place where families, storytelling, and authors all come together in one gooey icing blob.
  13. The RA (Royal Academy to us ruffians) is the best secret in town, when it comes to art workshops. It also is the best located museum for families, as you can skip over to Green Park for some fresh air, after exercising your brain cells at their latest exhibition.

    Willy Wonka Afternoon Tea
  14. Fancy yourself as the next Calvin and Hobbs artist? Then take the kids to a workshop at The Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury please. Please tell me how it went, as we haven’t made it there yet, and we are keen for a mini review.
  15. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is right by Regent Street and Regents Park, and serves kids of 8+ well. They offer workshops, and family days. Keep an eye on their what’s on pages, as they offer interesting courses for younger ones in the holidays.

    Meet this Sailor on the South Bank
  16. How about a free film at the BFI on the Southbank. They also run cracking weekend film sessions for families, workshops, holiday courses and it’s located next to The National Theatre. You’ll feel inspired hearing the thespian types discussing Rufus Norris’s Artistic Direction around you.
  17. The Fulham Palace holds on tightly to over 1300 years of English history, and aims to become one of Great Britain’s most loved and inspiring historic houses and gardens. They have fun kids workshops, garden walks, and tours. Find out more here.
  18. Do you like the idea of really fun free art, design, craft, and baking workshops for children and young people aged 2 – 16. Then head over to the Geffrye museum in Hackney please.

    The Royal Court
  19. A visit to Dennis Severs House is both a breathtaking and an intimate portrait of the lives of a family of Huguenot silk-weavers from 1724 to the dawn of the 20th Century.  It was Dennis Severs’ intention that as you enter his house it is as if you have passed through the surface of a painting, exploring with your senses and imagination a meticulously crafted 18th Century world. (At least you will have something to tell Grandma, other than about M&M world, on your holiday postcard).
  20. Do you know any budding Knights in shining armour? If yes, get them down to one of the family events at Westminster Abbey pronto, before they are beheaded, and it’s all your fault.

    Museum Family Activities
  21. Take a 40 second descent in the ArcelorMittal Orbit Slide, the world’s tallest and longest tunnel Slide as well as experiencing breathtaking views of London from two observation platforms.  Book here.
  22. Visit The National Portrait Gallery. With over 1,000 portraits of famous people to discover from the majestic portraits of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I in the Tudor Galleries to the pop stars and artists in the Contemporary galleries – the National Portrait Gallery is a perfect place for all the family to visit.
  23. All Muggles will love this one. How about a visit to The Harry Potter Shop in the Kings Cross Station, before you queue for your photo at platform 9 and 3/4? There are also Harry Potter walking tours, bus tours, private tours not forgetting the tremendous Warner Bros Experience and Tour in Hertfordshire.

    A Harry Potter Fan
  24. Any kids who will ever take an English exam, really should at least take a look at, and even better join in with some family fun at William Shakespeare’s Globe in Borough.
  25. The Wallace Collection, is one of those places that often appears on the ‘secret places to hang out in…’ lists of rather influential and fashionable London types. It might have something to do with the fact that it’s a stones throw from Marylebone and Selfridges, but also because it hosts very civilised drop in and draw sessions for kids during holidays, and at the weekends.
  26. Adult and Kids alike always have a good time at the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. Their drop in craft sessions are brilliant, the museum shop is ace, and that’s before you’ve checked out the latest exhibitions, played with Punch and Judy, and the indoor sand pit, danced with a larger than life robot, and rocked on a horse.

    Days Out with English Heritage
  27. Those high energy kids might want to see what is happening at The Exploration Society. They offer the best ever adventure days/weekends/ camps. You can choose from sailing, kayaking, mountain biking, and woodland adventures, and these are before you have seen what you can have for ‘main course’.
  28. No child in Chelsea can survive their childhood without at least a weekend spent parading around the National Army Museum. It’s an institution for South West Londoners, and is especially popular with those who own small soldiers and officers.
  29. Trapeze & Circus lovers could try a private class or summer workshop with x-professional trapeze artist Genevieve at her Circus Glory school in Primrose Hill. It’s a special kind of person that can hang up side down on a large lolly stick.

    Ham House
  30. The British Library in Kings Cross hosts a FREE Family Programme that runs from July to September, 2017. We like South Asian Stories Friday 28 July, 2017 (12.00 – 13.30), it’s free, drop in and suitable for ages 5 – 11. This workshop is run in partnership with The Place and coincides with a free dance performance, 14.00 – 15.00, taking place outside on the Piazza. Everyone is welcome to watch.
  31. National Maritime Museum, Ahoy! Children’s gallery (Free) Ideal for ages 0-7 & The All Hands children’s gallery for 6-12s at National Maritime Museum is free and open daily. 10.00-17.00 weekends, holidays & Tuesdays | 14.00-17.00 on other weekdays |  Ahoy gallery is closed 3 July – 27 September
  32. Book tickets for family shows at the Underbelly Festival 2017, Southbank. For theatre and dance lovers, The Tap Dancing Mermaid (10 June) blends puppetry and dance to fantastical effect, and Metta Theatre’s Jungle Book (1-24 August) melds hip-hop dancing, spoken word and creative design to create a contemporary, urban, politically aware reinterpretation of Kipling’s classic.
  33. ExpeRimental from the Royal Institution is a series of short films that make it fun, easy and cheap to do science at home with children aged 4 to 10. The films give you lots of ideas for kids’ activities that will help you explore the world around you, question and experiment together. They show you how to do the activity and how to make sure adults and children get the most out of it.

    Fun at the Tate Modern
  34. You can join the family orchestra and chorus at the Proms family orchestra and chorus. There are many workshops that allow you to play or sing alongside professional musicians, whatever your age or ability (suitable for ages 7-plus). Some sessions will be focussed around highlights from the 2017 Proms season and by Oklahoma!
  35. There are lots of book-ish events happening across the UK at Foyles. You could start with a peek of mad crazy fun at the Adventures in Wonderland event on Sat 29th July, 2-3pm at the Charing Cross Road Foyles (free). It’s a preview of the theatre show that is happening at The Vaults, Waterloo.

    Wild Times on Hampstead Heath
  36. Or try Maisy the Mouse Picnic on Thursday 3rd August 2017 1pm – 2pm Royal Festival Hall (Free). Meet Maisy the Mouse and enjoy stories, activities and some picnic treats. They will be serving sweet and savoury treats, you can take part in Maisy-themed activities and reading a selection of Maisy titles.
  37. In September, you can go wild with washi and join in the fun with a Foyles MT ‘washi’ Masking Tape workshop to celebrate London Design Week. Saturday 16th September 2017 11am – 12:30 Noon 107 Charing Cross Road (Free Event).
  38. There is a new fish in town that wants to meet you. At the Natural History Museum, your place on the planet might feel different standing next to the remains of the largest animal that has lived on this planet. The skeleton of a blue whale is the star of their new exhibition Whales : Beneath the Surface. “More than 100 specimens from the Museum’s collection will be on display together for the first time, from parts of a colossal blue whale to a small harbour porpoise”. Natural History Museum, London SW7 (020 7942 5000), to February 28

    The British Museum
  39. Musical theatre fans can check the latest list of all the best shows in town here, in an earlier post I wrote for the lovely people at MyBaba. We fully recommend 42nd Street, Matilda and Carole King the musical (which is about to end it’s West End run and go on tour) for the Mums.
  40. I have put together a round up of some of the most popular Kids Theatre, Dance & Art Summer courses. Although many of these have limited places, and get booked up early, they also offer term time classes. If you have recommendations, or know of schools I can include, please let me know.

    See Matilda the Musical
  41. You might want to treat your Grandma to a really lovely afternoon tea, so here is a list of the Best Family Friendly Afternoon Teas in London, that might help you decide where to take her.
  42. You could take a trip to a National Trust property. They own some of the best beaches in the land, 59 villages, 49 churches and a gold mine (The Dolaucothi Gold Mines). Their teams conserve butterflies, bats, wildlife and plants. It doesn’t stop there, they also own four coastal World Heritage Sites.

    The V&A Childhood Museum
  43. If you have a Saturday morning free, you can often grab an early morning movie for next to nothing at your local cinema. If you need a little help, here is a list of some of The Best Cinema Clubs for London Kids in town.
  44. A great way to spend a morning or afternoon is to take a trip backstage around one of London’s many beautiful theatres. Not only will the tour tickets cost little more than a sandwich, you will get the chance to peek into the dressing rooms and tread the boards where many famous actors spend their time feeling sick with nerves.
  45. Grab a view from The ShardCheck : ‘the weather’. Check : ‘your footwear’. Check ‘you are definitely not Acrophobic’. Head over to The Shard at London Bridge and fly up to floors 68, 69 and 72, and you will be at almost twice the height of any other viewing platform in the capital.

    Inspiration at Granary Square, Kings Cross
  46. Take a cycle ride around the Capital. If you’re keen there are superhighway route maps you can follow. I would try out  the Wandsworth to Milbank one. Starting at the legendary ‘The Alma’ pub bang opposite Wandsworth Rail station with a pint of something cold, and a decent lunch. Then hire your bikes, pedal through Battersea, across Chelsea Bridge, and end up at Millbank. You get 5 points for every civil servant you spot, 75 points for any lost soldiers on horseback looking for sugar lumps, and 150 points if you pull up next to Prince William ‘undercover’ on his motor bike!
  47. It would be remiss of me not to mention that over the Summer the gates of Buckingham Palace are opened to the public for visits. You can buy tickets for admission to The State Rooms, Buckingham Palace, The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace and the Royal Mews. There are child friendly activities, audio tours and art trails and more. Read more here.
  48. English Heritage champions history, and the historic places that make our nation quite a good one. With every visit (and entrance fee) to an English Heritage site, of which there is an incredible list of 400 across the country to choose from, you will be protecting the future of our heritage, so for that reason, amongst many, we would like to give each and every one of the English Heritage team a proper round of applause.

    The Cutty Sark
  49. Let’s go for a DIY craft at home today. All you need is a smooth floor and+ A balloon+ Some glue (strong enough to glue plastic. You can use plasticine as an alternative)+ An old drink bottle lid (with a valve)+ An old CD then you are ready to make a balloon hovercraft. with the brilliant Mini Eco blog.
  50. How about a picnic in one of the capitals secret gardens? You could start with Inner Temple, one of London’s four Inns of Court. It is a tranquil three-acre garden with stunning rare trees, herbaceous borders and sweeping lawns. It is usually open to the public from 12.30-3.00 each weekday. There are more here

    Fun at the Southbank
  51. If you’re not exhausted and need a break from the city, here are 5 brilliant beaches within a train journey from London Town to choose from. Start with Whitstable, Camber Sands, Brighton, Frinton on Sea and West Wittering.

Best London Summer Drama & Art Camps

Do you want to win a Tony Award, RA scholarship, or would you prefer a BAFTA? These are the questions you should be asking at tea time, if you have found that you are now managing the career of your mini-award winning actor or artist

As I know time is money, and I want to save you both, I have put together a round up of some of the hottest Theatre, Dance & Art Summer courses. Although many of these have limited places, and get booked up early, they also offer term time classes. If you have recommendations, or know of schools I can include, please let me know. I have a limited time to get this together, so your comments would be great to have.

image credit : Unicorn Theatre

DRAMA, MUSIC & PERFORMING ARTS

SYLVIA YOUNG THEATRE SCHOOL, MARYLEBONE

Ages 7-18yrs : Musical Theatre, Dance, Drama

Holiday School offers a number of sessions in varying styles. Theatre Skills Course 7-18 years & Musical Theatre Course 10-18 years.  Students do not have to audition to take part in Holiday School.

ARTS EDUCATIONAL SCHOOL, CHISWICK

Ages 4-15yrs ; Drama

Book your child in for a fun packed week this summer. Each course promises loads of creative activities and new experiences to try, all in a fun and welcoming environment. All courses are taught by experienced ArtsEd tutors and industry professionals, encouraging confidence, creativity and performance skills.

(image credit : zoonation dance company)

UNICORN THEATRE

Ages 7-11yrs ; (Drama, Dance, Puppetry workshops)

Get on stage and make your own show! Our popular week-long workshops are back for the Summer holidays. These intensive, fun and sociable holiday workshops are led by experienced professional theatre-makers, and culminate in a performance on the Unicorn’s stage to family and friends.

LONDON SCHOOL OF CAPOEIRA

(not holiday, term time)

LSC classes for children are structured for the absolute beginner and also for the regular student. The lessons are taught by Capoeira masters, Master Marcos and Master Silvia of the London School of Capoeira with 50 years teaching experience between them and have updated CRBs. Together with an assistant, the master will encourage the children to develop their physical abilities through the training of Capoeira.

LYRIC THEATRE, HAMMERSMITH

Ages 7 – 25yrs; Dance, Multi Arts, Music, Film – Digital – TV, Theatre

Imagination will play a key part in this one week course where you will use drama to create the future you want and turn it in to a performance. The future’s bright, the future’s yours.

WEST END STAGE, CENTRAL LONDON

Age 8 – 21yrs ; Musical Theatre

West End Stage is the UK’s leading theatre summer school based in the heart of London. This amazing week-long course is led by West End stars and gives you the chance to perform at Her Majesty’s Theatre – home to the world famous Phantom of the Opera. An exciting mix of drama, singing and dance classes, as well as exclusive West End masterclasses and a trip to a West End musical.

(image credit : Mountview)

MOUNTVIEW THEATRE SCHOOL

Ages 9-16yrs & Older ; Acting, Musical Theatre

Experience three-weeks of triple-threat musical theatre training at one of the UK’s top musical theatre drama schools. Mountview has been training West End and Broadway stars for 25 years. Join us and be among the next generation of musical theatre talent. Or choose from weekly acting and musical theatre courses for younger children. Children will spend the week with fantastic directors learning the skills used by professional actors on stage and screen and get a taste of life behind the scenes at drama school.(image credit : Mountview)

THEATRE TRIBE

Age 8+yrs; Musical Theatre

Theatre Tribe is the UK’s leading holiday camp provider for Musical Theatre training. Inspired by a huge passion for the performing arts, Theatre Tribe welcomes students from all over the world who love the theatre and who wish to immerse themselves in the exciting world of show business.

NATIONAL YOUTH THEATRE 

(Ages 11-14) ; Theatre/ Drama

This six day course is the perfect introduction to the NYT’s approach to ensemble theatre making. Using story-telling, chorus, character and song, you will develop your talent working as part of a company. Ideal for those who are already taking part in our Saturday classes, or those who would like to get involved for the first time. On the final day there will be a sharing of your work to friends & family. Classes will run over six days, 10am – 5pm

STAGE COACH

Ages 6-18 yrs – Theatre, Dance, Singing

Students will sing, dance and act their way through five exciting action-packed mornings. Students will make new friends, build confidence, stay entertained and achieve something really special.  Students will learn a variety of numbers from popular West End productions such as Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Shrek and many more! On the final day they will perform a unique and brand new production to family and friends.

LAMDA

Ages 18+

THIS INTENSIVE EIGHT-WEEK SUMMER SCHOOL IMMERSES STUDENTS IN THE WORLD OF SHAKESPEARE AND HIS CONTEMPORARIES; EXPLORING THE CHALLENGES, CONNECTIONS AND THRILL INVOLVED IN PERFORMING THIS TYPE OF WORK. VALIDATED BY THE UNIVERSITY OF KENT. Students on this course train in small groups, guided by the same experienced tutors and industry professionals who lead LAMDA’s full-time training.

DANCE CAMPS

SYLVIA YOUNG THEATRE SCHOOL

Ages 10-18yrs; Musical Theatre

Our musical theatre courses offer a truly hectic week of rehearsals where students will dance, act and sing in preparation for a studio style workshop performance on Saturday which parents are invited. The course is open to anyone aged 10-18 years. Students are grouped according to age and will present excerpts from musicals. Each group has a production team consisting of a Director, Musical Director and Choreographer.

ZOONATION DANCE SCHOOL

(Term time only)

I had to include info about our favourite hip hop dance school. They offer Saturday classes for kids of all ages at their North London studio, and over in West London too. Check the website for the details.

  • Under 8’s Class   9 – 10 AM
  • Beginners A+B Class  10 – 12 PM
  • Intermediate 1 + 2 (2 X 1.5 Hour classes)  12 – 3 PM
  • Intermediate 3 + Advanced (2 X 1.5 Hour classes) 3 – 6 PM

PINEAPPLE ARTS

Ages 8-16yrs ; MUSICAL THEATRE and STREET DANCE SUMMER SCHOOLS

Two intensive courses each lasting 5 days, both courses include a certificate, a t-shirt and a performance at the end of the week for all students!  Musical Theatre and Street Dance students get to perform all the routines they have been working on in a Spectacular Showcase at the end of each week at one of Central London’s prestigious venues Logan Hall!

image credit : Hamstead School of Art

ART & DRAWING

ART ACADEMY

The Art Academy is a wholly independent art school based in central London, offering a wide range of art education programmes to a very diverse group of participants. Alongside the long-term courses (3-year Diploma in Fine Art, 1-year Fine Art Foundation and 2-year Certificate courses) it offers evening classes, part-time study, and weekend and short courses.

HAMPSTEAD SCHOOL OF ART, HAMPSTEAD

Ages 8+yrs

The school offers a brilliant wide range of courses. Choose from experimental drawing and painting, watercolour workshop, and comic book workshops… there are lots more too.

CAMDEN ARTS CENTRE

MINI ARTISTS

MINI PICASSOS

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Best Family Friendly Afternoon Teas in London

Best Family Friendly Afternoon Teas in London

So it’s the simple things in life that matter right ? Well I have a feeling that at least 50% of the planet can’t make a really good (builders in my case) cup of tea, so with that in mind, I’m sharing tips from the top people in the business. Fortnum’s of course.

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Here is a simple digest of what works.

  1. Fill the kettle with fresh water from the tap. Yes, your grandmother was right: water that has been boiled already will affect the taste of the tea.
  2. As it approaches the boil, warm the teapot by rinsing it out with hot water.
  3. Treat the teapot to one rounded teaspoon (yes, or caddy spoon) of tea leaves for each person and one extra spoonful ‘for the pot’. That’s the orthodox rule, though many these days find it a little strong. You’re in charge here.
  4. Just before the kettle water boils, pour into the pot. It doesn’t need to be stirred.
  5. Leave to infuse for three to five minutes, depending on taste. Serve, using a tea strainer.
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This photo is from their Charlie and the Chocolate afternoon tea,that finishes on 20/11. It was too good a photo to leave out though!!

Winter Wonderland Afternoon Tea at the Chesterfield Hotel, Mayfair

This season (from Monday 21st November) The Chesterfield Mayfair Hotel will be celebrating the sparkling lights and festive delights of Hyde Parks Winter Wonderland with afternoon tea inspired by the magic of Christmas. Begin with a warming shot of mulled wine before making a choice of their tea from one of the hotel’s 18 loose leaf teas which will include a special Chesterfield Christmas blend full of aromatic spices.

A selection of delicious finger sandwiches will complement the sweet treats which include: Mulled wine macarons, Christmas tree chocolate pot, Cranberry and vanilla cheesecake, Red Velvet cupcake, Salted caramel and chocolate parcel and if you’re not full by now just thinking about it, a Clementine mousse snowball as well.

Address: 35 Charles St, London W1J 5EB

Tube station: Jubilee, Piccadilly & Victoria lines – Green Park Station

Opening Hours: 1:00pm – 5:30pm daily

Reservations: +44 (0) 20 7491 2622 or meetch@rchmail.com

Prices : tbc

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The Berkeley London Designer Afternoon Tea

The Berkeley’s legendary designer afternoon tea, Prêt-à-Portea, is inspired by the themes and colours of the fashion world. The menu of mouth-watering delicacies with a fashionista twist is transformed every six months to follow the changing seasons in fashion.

Address: Wilton Pl, London SW1X 7RL

Tube station: Piccadilly line – Hyde Park Corner

Prices: from £45 without champagne, and from £52 with champagne

Opening Hours: 1.45pm – 5.30pm Monday-Thursday / 1pm – 5.30pm Friday – Sunday

Reservations: through the Berkeley Hotel webpage

Dress Code:
Elegant smart casual; no shorts, vests, sportswear, flip-flops, ripped jeans or baseball caps.

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BB Bakery’s Afternoon Tea Bus Tour

B Bakery specialises in Afternoon Tea with a French Twist – L’Afternoon Tea. Enjoy Afternoon Tea either at their glamorous Tea Salon, Brigit’s Bakery, in Covent Garden or on the move on the unique  B Afternoon Tea Bus Tour. Or why not on the River Thames on the B Afternoon Tea Boat Tour?

Another option is to enjoy Afternoon Tea at home, in the office or in the park with our B Afternoon Tea Delivery and B Afternoon Tea Picnic. They offer gluten free, vegetarian and halal Afternoon Teas to suit everyone.

Address: Pick up at 12:30pm and 3pm from 8 Northumberland Avenue

Pick up at 12pm, 2:30pm and 5pm from Victoria Coach Station

Reservations: book online on the bbbakery bus website. https://pay-here.co.uk/BBbakeryBus/

Opening Hours: daily departures at 12pm, 12:30pm; 2:30pm, 3pm and 5pm.

Prices: £45 for adults and £35 for children under 11 years

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Browns Hotel, Mayfair

Browns are offering a festive traditional afternoon tea throughout December, The English Tea Room will be serving the award-winning Traditional Afternoon Tea with a festive twist, to the accompaniment of the resident pianist playing well-known Christmas carols.

Prices £55 per person Monday to Friday, and £65 per person on Saturdays and Sundays (served with a glass of Ruinart NV Champagne) Served with a glass of Ruinart NV Champagne – £65 per person | Served with a glass of Ruinart Rosé Champagne – £68 per person. It will be served from 12 noon – 5.30pm Monday to Sunday

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Four Seasons, Park Lane

Starting on November 26th the Four Seasons Amaranto Lounge will be serving a Festive Afternoon Tea, accompanied by their resident pianist playing seasonal melodies. It will be served daily between 1:30 pm to 6:00 pm from November 26th to January 2nd (excluding Christmas Day) the festive afternoon tea includes a complimentary glass of champagne per guest.

Prices £55 per person excluding service charges.

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The Ritz, Christmas Afternoon Tea 

The legendary Afternoon Tea in The Palm Court takes on a special festive theme this year accompanied by carol singing (excluding Christmas Day). On Christmas Day, Father Christmas will visit with presents for all the children, at the 11.30am, 1:30pm, 3:30pm and 5:30pm sittings of Christmas Afternoon Tea.

Every adult will receive a glass of Champagne and every child a Ritz teddy bear (yeay!). Christmas Afternoon Tea is served from Saturday 26th November to Friday 30th December 2016 at the 1:30pm, 3:30pm, 5:30pm and 7:30pm sittings.

Prices at £75 per adult / £49 per child (up to age 15).

To Book, call the Reservations Team on +44 (0)20 7300 2345or email dining@theritzlondon.com

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Fortnum and Mason

The tradition of taking tea and that little bit of something between lunch and dinner has long since been a feature at Fortnum & Mason. Their tranquil Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon was opened by HM The Queen and has since become a stylish destination for the most traditional of afternoon teas. If it’s a super special occasion you can even say it with champagne by having your own special message printed on the label of a bottle, and have it hand delivered to your table. Now that’s what I call a treat.

Address: 181 Piccadilly, W1A 1ER

Days and times: Monday to Saturday 12-7pm; Sunday midday to 6pm
Cost: £44 – £48 dependent on choice of tea

5 Family Things To Do at the Tate Modern

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1. BESPOKE FAMILY TOURS

It goes without saying you should book onto one of the bespoke Tate Tour events I am running at My Culture Club. You can choose from family friendly private tours for under 5’s, for older kids and then for everyone (1 hr in duration). I run them monthly, and the next ones are in May half Term on June 3rd. There is a baby-friendly one at 10am, and one for kids aged 6+ and their parents at 11.30.

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2. SONIC TRAILS & THE DRAWING BAR

Get out your mobile device and check out Sonic Trails. Click, play and go on a sound journey through the gallery. Inspired by the artwork you’ve seen on your visit? Or, take a break and get creative at the Bloomberg Connects Drawing Bar, near the café on Level 1.

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3. EXHIBITIONS KIDS GO FREE UNDER 12

Family tickets are available for all their special exhibitions. Where under 12s go free (up to four per parent or guardian). If you’re wanting to be super organised, you could download this map, and plan your time around the museum. Then again, you could be like us, and enjoy a freestyle run around, and hang out in the shops for most of your time perusing the brilliant kids and art books.

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4. SPECIAL FAMILY EVENTS

Check the website here for the special family events that are happening at the museum. There are often free daily activities, workshops which allow you to explore different ideas about contemporary art with invited artists and educators.

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Pick-up the latest free, artist-designed activity and explore Tate Modern’s spaces and art displays in new ways, with exciting ideas to get you talking and creating in the galleries together as a family. Choose from activities that take you through art displays, from the Tanks to the Start Gallery and many of the spaces in-between.

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5. FOOD

This should probably be the first thing on the list, tips on where to eat. At the moment (May 16) the Tate Modern Cafe is currently closed for refurbishment. The Kitchen and Bar on Level 6, will provide a family-friendly casual dining experience with a menu consisting of bar snacks and small plates serving well-known English and international classic dishes such as fish and chips and spaghetti bolognaise. There are small espresso bars around the museum, where you can grab a drink and snack. Kids can eat for free in the cafés when an adult buys a main course from the menu.

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SOCIAL MEDIA

I want to hear what you think of Tate and our My Culture Club Tate Tours. Tweet your chirpy messages and check out Tate Kids to use your Tate inspiration to make your own creations and share with kids around the world. I’d love to hear from you on any of the wizard-y media ways below …

Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Pinterest

 

The 5 Best My Culture Club Family Events To Book Now

” The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain”. – Dolly Parton.

Ok, Ok, so this is a little biased, but you can’t blame a girl for trying. I’ve been getting my head down recently, setting up my events and concierge company My Culture Club.

In a nutshell, the site will offer curated group events, often at a fraction of the published price. The aim is to get like minded people to make friends, and help families and all of us to get out and about and make the most of the exciting things to do in London and around. Call me your Social PA, your Culture Girl, or your private tour guide, I’m fine with all of the above and more.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, good and bad, I would be over the moon if you could spare 5 mins to tell me what you think of the idea, and if there are any improvements I can make.

Here is a pick of 5 of the events you can book now, there are more on the site. Leave me a comment any which way to request your tickets. EmailFacebookInstagramTwitter.

Hope to see you at an event soon. Sian xo

1. AURORA ORCHESTRA, AGATHA THE PIRATE : KINGS PLACE, SUNDAY, 8 MAY 2016 : 11AM (AGES 0-4) From £5

Join Aurora for a swashbuckling treasure hunt adventure with Agatha the Pirate. With brand new chamber arrangements of music by Béla Bartók, audiences will meet a host of glimmering jellyfish, sail the high seas and play hide-and-seek with a wonderfully wicked parrot.

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2. BABY FRIENDLY PRIVATE TOUR, TATE MODERN, SE1 (AGES 0+), 10-11AM, FRIDAY JUNE 3RD, £15 PER FAMILY

I’m excited to be working with the team at the Tate, and hosting this baby friendly private tour at the Tate Modern. The tour will focus on the display Material Worlds wing. Come along with your kids and bring friends, make friends or just get out of the house to soak up some culture.

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3. SEPTIMUS BEAN (AGE 4+), SHOW & WORKSHOP, UNICORN THEATRE SE1, SUNDAY JUNE 26TH, 11AM, FROM £12.50

Septimus Bean has invented a very great machine but is yet to work out what it is for. With the help of the king and court, he finds out lots of things that it isn’t for and one unexpected thing that it is utterly perfect for.

This comical, rhythmical and inventive show, based on the much-loved book, will be a highly enjoyable performance for the summer months. We need little inventors to stick around after the show and help us build the magical machine! We’ll be pasting, painting, drawing and sticking – it will get messy.

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4. FAMILY FUN DAY: IMAGINATIVE INVENTIONS, THE ROYAL INSTITUTION, SUNDAY 15 MAY 2016, 11-4PM, (ALL AGES), FROM £9.50

From the ancient Greeks to the modern day, inventions have shaped the way society has grown and the world has progressed, with many of these important developments invented right here at the Ri. Hear from Adam Hart-Davis, get hands-on, see demos, and explore the amazing inventions that have shaped our modern world.

Family Fun Day activities are suitable for 6-12 year olds though older and younger siblings also very welcome.

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5. GIFFORDS CIRCUS, (FAMILY) CHISWICK HOUSE & GARDENS, FRIDAY 8TH JULY 5PM, FROM £19.50

Giffords Circus was started in 2000 by Nell and Toti Gifford. They wanted to create a small traditional circus company that would bring the magic of circus back to British audiences. Since then the pair have been touring with a troupe of performance artists, musicians, horses and wagons producing unique circus shows and experience, loved by all the family, young and old. Giffords tour much of rural Gloucestershire, South West and Festival

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and one for luck … MATILDA THE MUSICAL, CAMBRIDGE THEATRE, (AGE 6+) TUESDAY 6TH & 7TH SEPT, 7PM (&7.30pm)

Matilda The Musical is the multi-award winning musical from the Royal Shakespeare Company, inspired by the beloved book by the incomparable Roald Dahl. Winner of over 50 major international awards, including 13 for Best Musical, Matilda continues to delight audiences in London, Australia, on Broadway and on tour around the USA.

 

 

Architecture Tours at The Southbank Centre (Age 8+)

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This March, April and June 2016, you can take a 1 hour architecture tour around the Southbank Centre. The tour will focus on its 20th-century (Brutalist) architecture.
The centre itself was completed in 1968 on the site of the 1951 Festival of Britain. Its name The Southbank Centre was adopted during the Festival of Britain (over the local less attractive name of Lambeth Marsh).
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Visitors to the South Bank Exhibition with the Dome of Discovery in the background
The Festival was created by The Royal Society of the Arts in 1943, to commemorate the centenary of the 1851 Great Exhibition. It’s centre piece was the Southbank Centre.
In 1945 a government appointed a committee to plan how fairs and exhibitions could promote the UK’s export industry. 
They initially planned to hold an international exhibition, but it was too costly an idea, so the Festival of Britain was created in its place.
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1951 South Bank Exhibition. Taken from The Victoria Embankment and shows the Skylon and Dome of Discovery.
As London was in need of redevelopment due to the effects of WWII, the festival was designed to promote a feeling of progress and recovery, and display the better quality design that would be happening in rebuilding Britain’s towns and cities.
Gerald Barry, the Festival Director, described it as “a tonic to the nation” as it demonstrated the contribution made by British advances in science, technology and industrial design.

The Skylon (photo above) was scrapped in 1952 on the orders of Winston Churchill, who saw it a symbol of the preceding Labour Government. It was demolished and sold for scrap after being toppled into the Thames.

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 Royal Festival Hall c1959 and the now-demolished Shot Tower

The tours explore the whole Southbank site and uncover the creative and functional design of their buildings. Each tour is unique and the route taken varies depending on the day’s activities and events.

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Meet at the Ticket Office at Royal Festival Hall and are £8.50 (£7.50 concessions)book online or by phone via the link at the top of the feature.

April

Thursday 7 & 21, 6pm
Thursday 14, 5.00pm
Saturday 2, 12.30pm
Saturday 16, 23 & 30, 2pm

May

Thursday 5 & 12, 6pm
Saturday 7, 14, 21 & 28, 2pm

June

Thursday 2, 16 &30, 6pm
Saturday 4, 2.00pm
Saturday 11, 18 & 25, 2pm

For ages 8+

TICKET OFFICE AT ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL
SOUTHBANK CENTRE
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A Family Day Out at The Wallace Collection (& Private Tour)

The Wallace Collection is a national museum in an historic London town house. situated bang in the middle of Central London close to Marble Arch and Oxford Street. If you’re looking for a gallery that is slightly hidden away from the tourist trail, yet still packs a punch in terms of artefacts, then add this to your list.

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Join us for a Private Tour

Come and join us, there’s a specially curated 75min private tour of the museums ‘highlights’ in the diary for My Culture Club members on June 7th (£15).

Enjoy curated events for small groups of like minded people at the Bus Stops new members club. It’s a chance to catch up with your friends, care for your grey matter and network at the same time (if you fancy it). Sign up to the club for email alerts now (free membership during the launch period, link above).

12743981_10153619261826865_1316735929300161232_n.jpgFrançois Boucher, Venus, France, 1754.

The History

The museum was established in 1897 from the private collection mainly created by Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford (1800–1870), who left both it and the house to his illegitimate son Sir Richard Wallace (1818–1890). Richard’s widow thankfully, bequeathed the entire collection to the nation. The collection opened to permanent public view in 1900 in Hertford House, and remains there to this day. A condition of the bequest was that no object should ever leave the collection, even for loan exhibitions

The Collection

The Collection numbers nearly 5,500 objects and is best known for its quality and breadth of eighteenth-century French paintings, Sèvres porcelain and French furniture. Its 25 galleries are unsurpassed displays of French 18th-century paintingfurniture and porcelain with superb Old Master paintings and a world class armoury.

The Great Gallery has been described as “the greatest picture gallery in Europe.” It reopened in September 2014, following a two year refurbishment with a new hang and a reconfigured ceiling allowing natural light in.

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Drop In Family Fun

They run drop in activities, where the kids can try on armour at any time in the Conservation Gallery, pick up a free trail at the Information Desk. Choose from ‘Warrior Kings!’ or ‘Looking for the Owners’. It’s also worth trying out the children’s audio guide available from the Information Desk (price: £3)

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Weekend & Holiday Events

The events team run a range of weekend and holiday events. The Little Draw charity run a drop-in art workshop held in the galleries on the first Sunday of each month from (1.30-4.30pm). They also run School Half-Term and Holiday Activities and Special Day Events which take place approximately four times per year (at the weekends). Expect a full entertaining day of talks, craft activities, hands-on sessions and all round creative fun. Check on line with the museum, or drop me a line at the Bus Stop to find out what and when if you fancy (I’m nice like that).

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The Wallace Restaurant

Their rather bright and airey Peyton and Byrne restaurant is open for breakfast, lunches from 12pm, afternoon teas complete with vintage champagne, and late dinners on Friday and Saturday evenings. It might be a haunt for the odd business lunch during the week, but don’t be shy about crashing the party. Peyton and Byrne are a decent bunch, and they know by now how to look after the likes of us.

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Deaf Visions; These pioneering activities are led by Deaf artists and art historians with an interpreter on hand for hearing activities. Keep across the website for details of what is in the event schedule.

Address

Hertford House, Manchester Square
London, W1U 3BN, United Kingdom
Telephone +44 (0)207 563 9500

Admission Free, Open 7 days a week, 10am – 5pm. Closed 24 – 26 December

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Events coming up in March & April 2016

06 Mar 1:30PM All Ages The Little Draw
29 Mar 10:30AM 6+ Pixel Art
29 Mar 2:00PM 6+ Pixel Art
31 Mar 10:30AM 9-13 Painting Portraits
03 Apr 1:30PM All Ages The Little Draw
08 Apr 11:00AM 5+ Badge of Honour
Map

Visiting by bus

Numbers 2, 10, 12, 13, 30, 74, 82, 94, 113, 137, 274 all stop nearby.

Visiting by rail

Marylebone Rail Station is approximately a 10-15 minute walk.

Parking

Parking on nearby streets metered until 6.30pm. A selection of car parks can be found nearby. To reserve a disabled persons’ parking space, please call +44 (0) 207 563 9524. Parking map.

Visiting by Tube

The nearest tubes are Bond Street (Jubilee & Central Lines), Baker Street (Circle, Hammersmith & City, Jubilee, Bakerloo and Metropolitan Lines) & Oxford Circus (Bakerloo, Central, Victoria Lines), whcih are all 10-15 minute walk.

Access

For visitors with an Assistance Dog, Marble Arch is the nearest tube with stairs. (click here for access options).

The Wallace Collection is conveniently located in Central London, just a few minutes walk from Oxford Street, Baker Street and Marylebone Village.

 

10 Places Where Kids Eat Free in London

Ok, so there’s a catch here … it’s that the grown ups have to fill their boots as well, in order to let the small people get their free grub. Well I’m all for that, we deserve to eat, drink and be merry after all. It’s also one of the most important social and fun things to do as a family, or with friends, so let’s take advantage of the kind restauranteurs out there, and take take take. It is Lent after all.

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PIZZA BUZZ  (kids eat free on Sundays)

PizzaBuzz is a new member of the elite London Pizza Mafia. They launched in July 2015 in a new development just off City Road called Alphabeta. It’s a shiny, bright and airy space complete with huge wood-fire ovens, and a create-your-own approach to pizza making, where you choose your bases, (ethically sourced) toppings, sizes and then your pizza is cooked in a record breaking 150 seconds.

Your young pizza lovers can choose from a Little Beez 6” pizzas, meal deal with a fun filled goodie bags packed with healthy juices, puzzles, colouring sheets, crayons and play clay. (for kids 12 years and under) Little Beez 6″ pizza, dough balls, Mamoo ice cream

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DIM T 

You can find this noodle restaurant in Hampstead, Highgate, London Bridge, Victoria, Charlotte Street, Winchester and Whiteley’s Shopping Centre in Bayswater. It’s Bento boxes, mini chow mien or Japanese friend rice on the kids ninja menu. Whilst adults get to choose from healthy noodle soups or stir fries, as well as a good choice of asian favourites from curries to crispy duck with pancakes.

Kids Eat Free from Monday 15th to Friday 19th February  from 3-6pm. Receive  two free meals from our kids menu for every adult main course purchased. Offer isn’t valid in our Winchester or Whiteley restaurant or on takeaways.

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THE REAL GREEK (Around Town)

There are six branches of The Real Greek across London, including both Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City, and they serve modern Mediterranean cuisine that’s popular with all of the family. The best day to treat the offspring is on ‘Family Sundays‘ as you get a free kid’s meal for every £10 spent by an adult. The offer is for children under 12 and is for a kid’s meal from the Kid’s Menu.

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HIX Restaurants (Around Town)

We love a Hix Fix as a treat. The team and Mark himself not only believe in decent, quality food, they also quote that “Food and Art are the perfect marriage”. A statement that runs through the heart of the events at mycultureclub.me too. Also impressive is that the the kids eat free at the weekends, and between 4-6pm on weekdaysThe ‘Calves Menu’ here is the most impressive kids food we have been lucky to try.

INFO : Monday to Friday 4pm – 6pm, and on the weekends from 12pm – 6pm (except on Saturday at Chop House it is only between 5pm-6pm) for all children under 10 years old when accompanied by a dining adult at the following HIX restaurants : Tramshed & Soho & Chop House.

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BODEAN’S (Soho, Clapham, Tower Hill)

This is a truly American BBQ dusty and finger licking small chain where kids eat for free between 12-3pm for every full priced adult meal purchased. 

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SOPHIES Steakhouse (Fulham, Covent Garden) 

Kids eat free at the Covent Garden restaurant on Sundays. The ‘special of the day’ is the ultimate Sunday Roast, which is as good as you get at home. Go online to their website and down load the voucher here.

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TATE MODERN (Southwark)

Kids can eat for free* in the café when an accompanying adult buys a main course from the menu.*Valid at lunchtime only for children aged 12 or under, for one child eating with an accompanying adult in either the café or the restaurant on level 6. Subject to availability.

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BRITISH MUSEUM

Take a visit to the Gallery Cafe (which is tucked away to the left of the entrance as you come in from Covent Garden) they also offer a ‘kids eat free’ deal.

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Barbican KITCHEN (City)

Kids eat free with a paying adult per meal here. Were haven’t eaten in the Kitchen, but last time we were in the area, we had a cheeky look at what was on offer, and the menu looked delicious, interesting and freshly made. It’s also a great place to hang out with the kids, and let them run or play hide and seek. Not ideal for teeny people though playing outside as there is a large pond, which might make you feel nervous if your kids aren’t wearing life jackets.

Smollenskys (Strand & Canary Wharf)

The restaurant on The Strand has been around since I was a kid myself. It is a real institution where kids can choose from free burgers, goujons or pasta before 7pm on weekends with a paying adult.

5 Places Where Kids Go Free in London

These offers are in place for half term and school holidays, so check with the venue to see if the freebie is still in place before you make your plans.

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1. ArcelorMittal Orbit, Kids go free with every paying adults (£10 advance booking or £12 on the day) taking a ride to the top of the UK’s tallest sculpture. So why not head over to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and see the new slide being built close up (scheduled to open this Spring).

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2. The View From The Shard allows Kids to go free too, this half term from Monday 15th – Sunday 21st February. Get your free tickets here and don’t forget to check the times of sunrise and sunset to make the most of the stunning views of the Capital.

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3. It’s free fun for Chinese New Year this Sunday where everyone will be ready to celebrate the Year of the Monkey. The celebrations start at 10 am with a parade along Charing Cross Rd and Shaftesbury Avenue. There’ll be the iconic Chinese lion dances, martial arts and stage performances as well as the popular parade of floats plus music, dance and acrobatics.

Trafalgar Square’s programme will kick off with the Chen Brothers Flying Lion Dance, plus a host of visiting artists from China. There will be fun activities across central London, including Charing Cross Road, Leicester Square and Chinatown plus craft stalls, Chinese food stands and activities.  Don’t miss the grand finale as pyrotechnics illuminate Nelson’s Column (scheduled for 5.20pm) to round off the celebrations in Trafalgar Square.

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4. London Childrens Book Swap on Saturday 13th Feb, has gathered a selection of kid friendly venues to take part in this mass book swap. Some of the venues are also hosting craft sessions and activities. At the William Morris Gallery the kids can also join artist Sba Shaikh and make and decorate a fabric book bag to store their favourite book in. The  Geffrye Museum also has sessions where the kids can also use inspiration from the museum’s collection and the museum’s favourite book, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, for some fun tea-themed activities. Also the Polka Theatre (showing Not Now, Bernard until 21st Feb), will be playing along.

Venues joining in; Discover Children’s Story Centre, artsdepot, ArtHouse Crouch End, Barbican Children’s Library, Barking Library, Chisenhale Art Place, Hoxton Hall, Dagenham Library, Jacksons Lane, Polka Theatre, Rich Mix, Shoreditch Trust, Southbank Centre, Unicorn Theatre, V&A Museum of Childhood and the William Morris Gallery.

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5. On Saturday, Feb 21, The National Gallery will host a full day of Chinese New Year, related family-friendly activities. They will include interactive demonstrations of Chinese instruments and Chinese storytelling sessions, alongside puppet-making classes and play sessions for toddlers. Admission is free but advance booking is recommended.

A Family Day Out at London’s V&A Childhood Museum

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V&A Childhood Museum, Bethnal Green (Tube : Bethnal Green) Open daily 10.00-17.45 (last admission 17.30)

The V&A Museum of Childhood houses the UK’s national collection of childhood-related objects, one of the finest in the world.

 

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The Bus Stop Kids and I have spent a lot of time in the museum over the years. It works for us, as it serves a decent espresso (which was harder to find in the good old days of 2013) and it’s especially good for the under 5’s.

As well as the Benugo cafe, the Childhood Museum is a wide open space filled with stations around the museum that keep the kids entertained, whilst you check your phone for alerts from The Economist ones (not Kim Kardashians latest instagram post).

They offer hands on fun like dressing up, daily craft sessions, giant robots to cuddle, real rocking horses for those that love horses but hate the mucking out, a mini sensory disco, as well as an indoor sand pit complete with Punch and Judy show.

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We also love the toy/ book shop, the garden (for when the sun is out), and sometimes get the kids to concentrate on the fantastic collections of toys, dolls houses (like Grandma used to have), and then theres the brilliant current exhibitions they offer throughout the year.

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I’ve listed whats running currently (Jan 2016) so you can keep up to date. If you make the trip, I’d love to see your photos. You can share and tag your instagram photos #busstopkids or leave me a comment below.

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Exhibition : The Clangers, Bagpuss & Co

19 March  – 9 October 2016. Oliver Postgate’s voice and Peter Firmin’s puppets shaped the childhood memories of millions since they started collaborating in the 1950s. Here you’ll see Bagpuss, the Soup Dragon and ogle Noggin the Nog. As well as telling the story of Bagpuss and The Clangers, the exhibition will go behind the scenes of some of their other creations; Pogles Wood, Nogin the Nog and Ivor the Engine.

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Exhibition : The Tales We Tell

14 November 2015 – 3 July 2016. This exhibition presents a rare insight into Warli, a tribal art form from Western India. Drawing on a store of tribal memory, myths and everyday life, it has evolved from restricted ritual drawings into an applied art in the process of transition. The Tales we Tell: Indian Warli Painting is part of the V&A India Festival. 

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Exhibition : It’s a Hard World for Little Things

9 January – 17 July 2016. Children Carrying Heavy Objects is a series of six large-scale drawings that depict children and the burdens that they carry.

The images explore children’s absolute will to survive in a sometimes-hostile adult world and reflects the plight of children on a global and domestic scale; the show features local children and others from around the world.

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Exhibition : On Their Own: Britain’s Child Migrants

24 October – 12 June 2016. An exhibition telling the heart-breaking true stories of Britain’s child migrants who were sent to Canada, Australia and other Commonwealth countries between 1869 and 1970. An estimated 100,000 British children were sent overseas by migration schemes, which were run by a partnership of charities, religious organisations and governments, and claimed to offer boys and girls the opportunity of a better life in Britain’s Empire overseas. Many migrants never saw their homes or their families again.

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Museums Activities for Kids (during term-time only Monday to Friday).

Animal Magic, 14.00 : Sensory storytelling for children aged 5 and under, inspired by well-loved animal tales.

Art Smarts, 14.30-16.00 : Kids can get creative with the drop-in arts and crafts sessions, and make an amazing piece of art inspired by the Museum to take home. For all ages.

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Museums Activities for Kids (during term-time only Saturday and Sunday & Summer holidays: Saturday  – Thursday)

Animal Magic, 10.30 : Sensory storytelling for children aged 5 and under, inspired by well-loved animal tales.

Explore, 11.15-11.45 : Object-handling, demonstrations and have-a-go sessions that let children get up close to childhood objects and toys.

Telling Tales, 12.00-12.30 : Interactive storytelling featuring popular children’s tales. Children can help tell the story using sounds and props.

Art Smarts, 14.00-16.00 : Kids can get creative with our drop-in arts and crafts sessions, and make an amazing piece of art inspired by the Museum to take home. All ages.

For details of special events and activities during the holidays see the What’s On pages.

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Montessori Family Packs

A selection of Montessori Family Packs for children age 5 and under are available to borrow from the Information Desk for 1 hour. You will need to leave a form of ID (e.g. a passport or driving licence). Each pack contains a map, activity suggestions, storybooks and toys to touch.

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Other Events in 2016

Chinese New Year  : Saturday 13 February :11.30 – 16.30 

Join us to celebrate Chinese New Year with both traditional and modern instrumental dance performances. Take part in Chinese Opera mask and lantern making, as well as costume and calligraphy workshops.

London Children’s Book Swap : Saturday 13 February  11.00 – 16.00

Calling all book worms! London Children’s Book Swap returns for the 5th year running. Bring your old books to trade for another person’s favourite read. Join in the fun to recycle and renew your personal library.

Make Do and Mend Critters workshop

Soft toy owl

Wednesdays 30 March and 6 April 
10.30, 12.00, 14.00, 15.30

Join maker Cherene Hamilton to upcycle everyday textiles into weird and wonderful creatures. Book now £5 (with parent/carer) Ages 5-12

Dragons and Unicorns Puppet Workshop

Monday 28 March – Friday 1 April
10.15, 11.45, 13.45, 15.15

Join illustrator Frances Barry in making beautiful 2D moving paper puppets inspired by The Clangers, Bagpuss & Co exhibition.

Cosmic Shoebox Workshop

Monday 4, Tuesday 5, Thursday 7 and Friday 8 April
10.30, 12.00, 14.00, 15.30

Use your imagination to create a wonderful character inspired by the exhibition and work with artist Amy Brown to bring them to life.
Book now £5 (with parent/carer) Ages 5-12

 

10 Best Free Family Restaurants in London

Hello dearest Bus Stop family. Here is a feature I wrote for the MyBaba.com parenting blog last week. I’m sharing the love over here, as we’re not ones for cutting back when there are turkey and mince pie pizzas to be enjoyed.

“My Baba is packed with expert advice and information on all aspects of fertility, pregnancy, motherhood and parenting.” Take a look at their jam packed site, you’ll surely find something out you didn’t know.

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I’m always on the hunt for family-friendly restaurants in London, and it’s often a topic we’re asked about. Guest blogger Sian Gwilliam from mycultureclub.me gives us the low-down on the hot spots for family food this festive season. 

Hix (Soho, City, Smithfield Market, Bankside, Mayfair, Lyme Regis, Selfridges)

BRITISH FOOD

We love a Hix Fix as a treat. The team and Mark himself not only believe in decent, quality food, they also quote that “Food and Art are the perfect marriage”. A statement that runs through the heart of the events at mycultureclub.me too. Also impressive is that the the kids eat free at the weekends, and between 4-6pm on weekdays. The ‘Calves Menu’ here is the most impressive kids food we have been lucky to try.

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When at Hix Bankside, our ‘foodie’ 9 year old goes straight for the glenarm minute steak with chips (£8.50) whilst our vegetarian 7 year old favours the Fillet of fish with Tiptoe Farm potatoes and spring greens (£7.50), with a live jazz band at the weekends, and a bottomless brunch on Saturdays, we’d be foolish not to share the Hix love with you.

ps.  Also on the list for fans, is trying a fish dog from their pop up posh fish finger van HIX’S FISH DOG. Often to be found at farmers markets and Summer Festivals across the UK.

INFO : Monday to Friday 4pm – 6pm, and on the weekends from 12pm – 6pm (except on Saturday at Chop House it is only between 5pm-6pm) for all children under 10 years old when accompanied by a dining adult at the following HIX restaurantsTramshed & Soho & Chop House

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Pizza Pilgrims (Soho, Exmouth Market, Carnaby Street)

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If your family like Pizza, why not make a special trip to Carnaby Street, and tell them a little story on the way. It’s a tale about 2 brothers (lets call them Thom and James) they had decent but boring jobs in the City (I put that bit in for dramatic effect!), and then had a (cheesy) dream. They loved Neapolitan pizza so much they bought themselves a 3-wheeled Piaggio van and took a 6-week holiday around Italy, researching, grating, and squashing the finest pizza ingredients along their travels.

This journey was the beginning of the Pizza Pilgrim dream becoming a reality.

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In that very same van they travelled in, once home they then installed an Italian stone pizza oven inside it, and popped it up in Leather Lane market feeding the hungry office workers. Soon, their fresh, doughy and moorish pizzas became the talk of pop up town, and the rest they say is a piz-za history (!). They also managed to write and publish a book at the same time as flipping those bases, you can see it here.

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There aren’t any baby chairs at this little street food joint-turned-pizza restaurant, but children often enjoy sitting and eating their slices at the football table.  Pizzas start from £7 for a Margarita, and they offer a perfect range of mini ice cream cones £3.50, blood orange sorbet £4.50 and a decent Affogato for £4.

This Christmas they have a Brussel sprout and pancetta pizza on the menu and were running an offer of 1/2 price pizza if you took in a decoration, why not pop a little reindeer in your pocket and try your luck!  Their hashtag for the insta happy is ‪#‎merrycrustmas‬

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Honest Burgers (Oxford Circus, Peckham, Notting Hill, Camden)

BURGERS

Tom and Phil met in 2010 whilst working at a Brighton restaurant. Soon after, they bought a small marquee and decided to go it alone serving burgers at festivals and events. After meeting Dorian, Tom moved to Brixton in 2011 and within a few months they’d signed a lease on a tiny unit in Brixton Village.

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The kids menu is a mini version of the adults one (just as we like it), they just serve smaller portions. The mini burgers come with the rosemary salted chips, and cost 50% less than the grown up meals. Popular extras include cauliflower, shallot and sweetcorn fritters.  They have gluten free options too, just ask for it honestly.

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Maroush (Knightsbridge, Bayswater, Edgware Road, Ken Church Street, Oxford St

LEBANESE/ EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN

Lebanese families love socialising, and spending quality time with their friends, often enjoying a debate or two over a traditional coffee (Kahwah). It’s a way of life to share food, which is why they serve small plates of different dishes.

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Choose from vegetables, poultry or lamb and spectacular fresh fruit and juices. The staff always entertain the kids, and welcome everyone with open arms. You can sit at the bar and have a quick service of wraps, meze and juices, or table service.

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Don’t expect kids menus, just let the kids share with you, and make sure you don’t expect them to eat everything if it’s your first visit. They will soon follow suit, but will best learn from example once they realise that it’s all delicious.

We often get Shawarma chicken wraps £7.50 for our eldest, and hummus and flat bread (£5.75) for our smaller one. Main courses are around the £15 mark. The fresh juices are totally divine £3.50. Ask for advice with the ordering if you need it, the staff will be more than willing. If you have room, treat yourself to a Baklawa with your coffee – a small delicious mouthful.

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Hare & Tortoise ( Bloomsbury, Ealing, Putney, Kensington, Blackfriars, Chiswick) 

JAPANESE/ RAMEN

We are secret experts when it comes to testing out family Japanese restaurants. Asian food is at the top of our list, and although we don’t get down to SW London so much these days, our kids know their Maki from their Ikura Gunkun across town.

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It’s not a cheap habit to support, but if you start the kids off with a bowl of steamed rice, then they should have less room for the salmon and tuna sashimi.

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We are fans of the Hare & Tortoise chain, and mainly go to their Brunswick Centre restaurant after a trip to Corams Field playground, or browse around the shops if its raining (again).

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It’s a no frills experience, where the staff usher you in, and you won’t wait long for your food. We are fans of everything from the edamame (£3.30), gyoza (£3.50), sushi, ramen(£6-7), roast duck and rice (£7.10), noodle dishes (£6.80) and if were not counting calories the tempura is welcome too.

Go easy on your ordering lots of dishes, and like I said, don’t let the kids order off the menu if they know their sushi well, or you’ll be broke as a sashimi dish alone can cost £8. Try ordering an adult rice or noodle dish and ask for small bowls to share it out. The staff are always obliging.

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Wahaca (Southbank, West End, Westfield W12)

MEXICAN STREET FOOD

All the Wahaca restaurants are happy to have the kids in tow. They are fun, and brightly designed spaces. Our elves are mad for the ceiling hanging swing chair in the upstairs of the Charlotte Street restaurant.

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Co-owner and Masterchef winner, Tommi Miers is a great chef, author, presenter, mum and supporter of food education, She has made a big effort to keep her menus healthy, natural and sources ingredients locally wherever possible.

Prices are £5.25 for the kids menu offering a taco or quesadilla and a drink (hibiscus water is a favourite), with an extra £1.20 for an ice-cream.

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I didn’t tell you that they also do the most delicious and luxurious churros with chocolate did I? Def not one for sharing with anyone, and a time to lead by a very bad example as parents! A happy and easy restaurant for any time of day. Enjoy.

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Also, Kids EAT FREE at these family friendly restaurants ….

Bodean’s (Soho, Clapham, Tower Hill) is an American BBQ dusty and finger licking small chain where kids eat for free between 12-3pm for every full priced adult meal purchased. 

Belgo (Covent Garden, Bromley, Camden, Kingsway) The best ever Belgian moules & frites in town, with great chicken, fish, pasta and ‘real’ sausages for the non-mussel lovers.

EASTER OFFER at BELGOS

Belgo Easter offer available between Monday 21st March & Sunday 10th April 12pm to 6pm (2016)

1 free kids meal from the specified kids menu for every full priced adult A La Carte main meal ordered. They recommend you book in advance at Belgo.com to avoid disappointment as offer is subject to availability. State you saw the offer ONLINE to qualify.

For full T&Cs visit Belgo.com. Not valid in conjunction with any other offer or promotion. Belgo withholds the write to withdraw this offer or promotion at any time. Not valid with any cash substitutions.

Sophie’s Steakhouse (Fulham, Covent Garden) Kids eat free at the Covent Garden restaurant on Sundays. The ‘special of the day’ is the ultimate Sunday Roast, which is as good as you get at home. Go online to their website and down load the voucher here.

Tate Modern Kids can eat for free* in the café when an accompanying adult buys a main course from the menu.*Valid at lunchtime only for children aged 12 or under, for one child eating with an accompanying adult in either the café or the restaurant on level 6. Subject to availability.

British Museum. Take a visit to the Gallery Cafe (which is tucked away to the left of the entrance as you come in from Covent Garden) they also offer a ‘kids eat free’ deal.

You can also take a look at these other family friendly places ; Westfield Mall ‘Kids Club‘ members get lots of food offers within the restaurants as well as;  Pizza Express lots of 2for1 offers if you sign up to their site, Dim T (Noodles & Dim Sum), Wagamama (noodles, stir fry & ramen), Rainforest Cafe (American), Giraffe (International), Yo Sushi (Sushi), The Butlers Wharf Chop House kids eat free during various school holidays (booking required), Eds Easy Diner (Burgers, big fries and milkshakes) and our family favourite mexican for nachos and burritos Chipotle, with friendly staff and a super quick order at the bar service.

At newly launched bespoke pizza restaurant Pizza Buzz in the City on Worship Street, they are offering a new kids menu called LittleBeez. For kids 12 years and under, they get a Little Beez 6″ pizza, dough balls, and Mamoo ice cream for £6.95 (plus a goodie bag too!), and in January  2016 kids will EAT FREE.

If you need to book for a special event like a private room, or birthday party you can use these handy websites (that often run special offers too). Square Meal or  Toptable. You can also read more about the Out to Lunch campaign set up by the Sustainable Restaurant Association here.

Sian is a Mum of two hungry, sporty and creative girls aged 9 and 7. She lives in Camden and is married to a successful comedy writer, who steals all his material from the kids. She runs popular culture family blog www.creativebusstop.com and has recently launched mycultureclub.me a concierge and members club for curious grown ups and kids. 

She organises group cultural & fun events in London. She does all the ground work, and finds out the best events not to miss in town. Sign up online for free membership for a limited time, www.mycultureclub.me. 

A Family Day Out at the V&A Museum

The V&A (Victoria & Albert Museum) in South Kensington should be a ‘schoolroom for everyone’ – said Henry Cole the first director of the V&A. It is pretty wonderful in every sense, bags the biggest and most popular exhibitions in the design world, and has unrivalled collections of contemporary and historic art and design.

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The Museum was established in 1852, following the enormous success of the Great Exhibition the previous year. Its founding principle was to make works of art available to all, to educate working people and to inspire British designers and manufacturers

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It houses some of the world’s greatest resources for architecture, fashion, photography, theatre and performance, sculpture, contemporary design, ceramics, Asian art and design, furniture, textiles, jewellery, metalwork and many more. It is Open daily 10.00 to 17.45 and admission is free.

 

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Pop-up Performance: The Nutcracker (Free, drop in, All ages)

Mon 28 December 2015 – Thu 31 December 2015  – 11.00, 13.00 & 15.00

Discover the enchanting world of The Nutcracker with contemporary dance performances. Suitable for all the family. Location: Lecture Theatre, Suitable for all the family,

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The Imagination Station Decoration Making (Free, Drop In, Ages 3+)

Mon 28 December 2015 – Mon 4 January 2016. 10.30 – 17.00

Create imaginative seasonal decorations and decorate our tree. Location: Level 1, Medieval & Renaissance, Room 50a.

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Pop-up Performance Workshops : The Nutcracker (Free, drop in, All ages)

Sat 2 January 2016 – Mon 4 January 2016, 11.00, 13.00 & 15.00

Discover the enchanting world of The Nutcracker with interactive movement workshops.

Back Packs & Agent Animal Bags

There are always pop up shows, interactive workshops, and drop in craft sessions for families running at the museum. During the holidays the team put on seasonal activities. If you miss the shows, you can ask for a back pack or agent animal bag (for the under 5’s). The bags are full of goodies which will entertain your kids. They will be led around the museum, and can enjoy fantastic stories, games and multi-sensory materials. 

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The Fabric of India exhibition (ends 10 Jan)

The exhibition is great for anyone interested in Art & Design, Design & Technology. The Fabric of India exhibition provides an in-depth insight into the rich diversity of handmade Indian textiles. Spanning the 3rd century to the present day. It explores the social and cultural dimensions of textile production, and opens up discussion points around the manufacturing industry and global trade.

Adults £14, under 12’s free, 12-17 years £9

EUROPE 1600 – 1815 ; Opens 9 December

Also opening this week, is the newly refurbished collection of 7 galleries displaying 17th and 18thcentury European art and design

See some of the most magnificent works held by the V&A, including spectacular examples of textiles and fashion, painting and sculpture, ceramics and glass, furniture and metalwork, prints and books. Many objects were made by Europe’s finest artists and craftsmen for the period’s most discerning leaders of taste such as Louis XIV, Marie Antoiniette, Catherine the Great and Napoleon.

(List of Adult Events are here)

 

5 Fun Family Things to Do in Kings Cross 

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If you haven’t made a trip to the newly developed area around Kings Cross station, you should try to. It’s on the London map in a big way. It has been redeveloped (of course by influential architects, developers and businesses) with a conscience. It’s also now the home to the good and the great (and the slightly eccentric) with Central St Martins being based there as well as Google HQ, The Guardian, The House of Illustration, Kings Place, a few narrow boats, some noisy wet kids, and of course a few start up/graphic design style companies dotted around. Due to it’s grandeur, I have to share a little of it’s history with you…

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Queen Boudicca

Kings Cross was a location that may have been the site of the legendary battle between Queen Boudicca and Roman invaders. FYI, The story goes that the final resting place of Boudicca, the warrior queen of the Iceni, is under Platform nine at King’s Cross Station. 

Great Northern Railway

It’s urban development really made a mark in 1849 when the Great Northern Railway (GNR) purchased land for the station to the south of the canal and land to the north for its goods station and steam locomotive depot. This move ensured it was naturally linked to the industrial cities in the North of England by rail, as Kings Cross station (as we know it) was officially opened in 1852. For all of you who were day dreaming in your history O’level (surely no one reading this has ever passed a GCSE?!), this area is a solid example of how London changed during the industrial revolution – right?! So after the havoc of wartime and the Nationalisation of 1948, the transport of freight by rail suffered a speedy decline.

Channel Tunnel Rail Link

Now I’m going to fast forward to the C21st! In July 2001, construction work started on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and the restoration and extension of St Pancras Station. Since then, the area around King’s Cross has seen an investment of over £2.5 billion on transport infrastructure.

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St Pancras International Terminus

In 2007 the new St Pancras International terminus opened. The Midland Hotel was restored and reopened as St Pancras Renaissance. The area has also seen an incredible flow of investment into world-class buildings such as the Francis Crick Institute and King’s Place (Cultural and Arts venue). These changes have acted as a catalyst for further development and have helped change perceptions of King’s Cross.

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Kings Cross Now

The area is vibrant, full of wildly dressed art students, local families, bearded boys on bicycles and still quite a lot of builders as construction of the area is ongoing. Here is a pick of the 5 best things you can do, at pretty much any time of year. Let me know how you get on, and dont forget a change of trousers for the little ones with you, I bet you a fiver that you cant stop them running in and out of the fountains, and loving every minute.

1. Run in the Fountains at Granary Square

As you can tell, my #busstopkids (see my instagram) and their adorable friends totally love this past time. I think the pictures say it all, so I’ll let you experience the rest for yourself when you go.

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2.  Swim in the Kings Cross Outdoor Swimming Pond Club

So far we have only had time to swim in this outdoor natural bathing pond once, but we will be back, even if it makes us grab some wetsuits, and have flasks of hot chocolate on stand by to fend off the hypo-thermia when we get out! Now we mention it, we are quite proud that we have swum in the UK’s first ever man-made fresh water public bathing pond. You cant tell from the photos, it’s 40 metres long, and entirely chemical free. Which is why it feels like you are swimming in a big bath, surrounded by sweet flowers, without the duck poo and beer cans when you usually go wild-city swimming!

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The water is purified through a natural, closed-loop process process using wetland and submerged water plants to filter the water and keep it clear. The pond is surrounded by wild flowers and grasses that change with the season.

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What’s more the pond is open Monday-Friday from 6am-dusk, and Saturday-Sunday from 8am-dusk, BUT you have to purchase tickets for designated sessions throughout the day. Prices range from £3.50 to £6.50 for peak swims and non-swimmers will be able to visit the pond at a discounted rate.

3. Eat and Drink in the SKIP GARDEN

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It’s properly lovely. Home grown food, made with love and attention. The staff are gorgeous, so is the coffee, it has to be worth a visit. It’s also 10x better than the places on the high street, as this garden supports local kids, retired gardeners, wannabe architects and lots and lots of insects.

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More action from the skip garden…

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4. Join in with a Kings Cross event, like The Classic Car Boot Sale

This weekend will see at least 100 classic and historical vehicles cruising into King’s Cross for a Classic Car Boot sale, curated by Hemingway Design. It will be a weekend humming with vintage attitude, and all about having a cup of tea, a dance and looking very tidy. We went to the same car boot sale at the QE2 park last year, and totally loved it, so I can recommend you swing by, and check out the gingham action.

5. The House of Illustration

Founded by our very own Roald Dahl loving ‘Sir Quentin Blake’, the House of Illustration is the UK’s only public gallery dedicated solely to illustration. It is the place to see, learn about and enjoy illustration in all its forms; from advertisements to animation, picture books to political cartoons and scientific drawings to fashion design. Check the latest exhibitions and events here.

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Naturally the team promote new illustration talent, and commission new work. They also have an interesting illustrator-led educational events program. There are talks, drawing classes, publishing events and weekend family fun. Kids just get illustration in a way that they don’t necessarily get other forms of Art, so grace the house with your presence – if even to see the beautiful book shop.

5.5. EAT loads and feel good about it

You can choose from trendy brunch king ‘Caravan’, or the tres healthy The Grain Store, Indian ‘Dishoom’, Oz Breakfast giants, Granger & Co, Vinoteca or have cocktails in the Great Northern Hotel by St Pancras.

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THERE’S MORE STUFF GOING ON ….

Twilight Gardening

Fancy relaxing at the end of a busy day and meeting new people while helping to build the garden of a thousand hands?

Come to the Skip Garden on Wednesday evenings from 5pm – 7.30pm for a Twilight Gardening session. You will work alongside the Global Generations gardeners who love to share their knowledge on growing food in the middle of the city.

Each session ends with a beautiful home-cooked meal prepared with love by the Skip Garden Kitchen team.

Twilight Gardening sessions take place on fortnightly on Wednesday evenings in the Skip Garden.

To book your space email ciara@globalgeneration.org.uk

Take a short course at St Central Saint Martins

Designed in 1852 by Lewis Cubitt, the architect of King’s Cross station, the Granary once stored wheat for London’s bakers. The building has been gloriously restored by Stanton Williams Architects and overlooks the fountains of Granary Square. The college boasts glittering alumni including fashion designers Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen, singer Jarvis Cocker, painter Lucian Freud and sculptor Antony Gormley. The campus at King’s Cross opened in 2011, welcoming 5,000 students and staff

Free Tours of Kings Cross

The knowledgable team at the King’s Cross Visitor Centre will be pleased to give you a free guided tour around the public areas of the development. You’ll learn about the industrial heritage of the area and hear how the development will unfold over the coming years.

King’s Cross Visitor Centre \ 11 Stable Street London N1C 4AB T: 020 3479 1795

KX Bootcamp

KX Bootcamp is a High Intensity Interval Training session based outdoors. The workout is designed to provide a high calorie burn using a variety of different equipment. At Bootcamp, you will be encouraged to test your body and push your limits, but always within your ability levels. The variety of Bootcamp allows you to experience a new challenging session every time – be prepared to flip tyres, throw medicine balls, swing kettle bells and battle with the ropes!

The session is led by Martin Whitelock. His tough but sensible training approach is not your typical military-style bootcamp. Classes are based outdoors in Lewis-Cubitt Square, King’s Cross.

Sessions times are as follows: Tuesdays  6pm – 7pm Advanced & Thursdays 6pm – 7pm Beginners  & Saturdays 10am – 11am Mixed Ability

The Top 10 Best UK Places to Visit

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CONGRATULATIONS LONDON …at the moment, we are top of the tree when it comes to who has the best booty to offer in the department of tourism in the whole of the world. Yes, that is right, dear old Boris and his family of bikes, has to take some credit, as the Mastercard Global Cities Index report recently put London ahead of Bangkok, New York and Paris in the world rankings.

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Its’ still the Europeans who love us most, followed by the Rest of the World, and then the Americans are quite keen too (still looking for Princess Diana tea towels I bet).

Get this stat; 123,000,000 visitors passed through the doors of some of the most famed attractions in 2014, a record 6.5 % increase on the previous year.

It seems the 3 key ingredients needed to bring you popularity in the playground for culture, sticking and craft college, is as follows;

1) In the Museum Dept, book a blockbuster exhibition, think Matisse, Rembrandt, or Alexander Mqueen.

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2) In the ‘hands-on exhibits’ Dept, make sure you tie in your exhibits with the curriculum, or at least have a space large enough to lose a few primary schools, visiting groups of Italian kids and ladies from the Cobham Bridge club.

British Museum, African Textiles exhibition
British Museum, African Textiles exhibition

3) In the ‘I need a rest and don’t want my packed lunch’ Depot, you have to have space for a decent (double espresso essential) cafe, a posh restaurant for the Telegraph readers, and a cracking architect firm that BBC4 will commission a documentary on.

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The National Gallery

So with a small drum roll, here is your list with a few stats (2014) for good measure. For those that don’t like waiting in a queue, (or a full buggy-park) I advise that you set off at the crack of dawn (and book where needed) if you want to visit these attractions in the school holidays.

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1)  British Museum 6,695,213 visitors
2) The National Gallery 6,416,724 visitors
3) Southbank Centre 6,255,799 visitors
4) Tate Modern 5,785,427 visitors
5) Natural History Museum 5,388,295 visitors
6) Science Museum 3,356,072 visitors
7) V&A South Kensington 3,180,450 visitors
8) Tower of London 3,075,950 visitors
9) Somerset House 2,463,201 visitors
10) The Library of Birmingham 2,414,860 visitors

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The visiting numbers are pretty impressive aren’t they? Let me know your favourite spots around town, as I quite fancy building up my own survey of some of those 6 million or so museum lovers out there… firstly, which is your favourite teeny tiny exhibit in The British Museum?

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Tate Modern

If you fancy a bit of Bus Stop Fun, check my Instagram, there’s all sorts of crazy stuff on there from our many days out around town.

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Some of the stats from The very kind BBC Entertainment & Arts section of their website here and from ALVA (Association of Leading Visitor Attractions) here.

Further reading from The Telegraph here.

Images courtesy of Press Dept of Museums and LondonandPartners.com

Watch and Learn Kid President

If you haven’t been introduced to Kid President, then you have now! Here are some facts to impress you; He has 267,000 twitter followers, and 328,000 facebook ‘likes’. He has a New York Times bestselling book. He loves the word ‘Awesome’. Likes to dance a lot. His tip number 63 for starting a conversation, is to “…put sellotape on your nose”. And, if you hadn’t guessed it, a lot of people want to be friends with him, even those in the Whitehouse.

Take a look at his video open letter just for Mums. As he wisely says, “…I love you Mum, and the next time your kid screams, what they are really saying is I really love you Mum, oh! and number 1, put down your phone, unless your kids name is ‘Phone’!”

Join the gang and watch his YouTube channel, read up on his FB page and Twitter account to see what all the fuss is about, and if it rocks your boat, you might even want to buy the book for someone you think is awesome (available from Amazon in the UK).

 

Internet Safety for Kids from the Creative Bus Stop

On the basis that kids grow up very quickly, and ours will all be planning their birthdays at Kim Kardashians Florida Resort before we can say “Thanks for doing the washing up” I have put together a simple list of tips to help us through these exciting times.

During ‘Safer Internet Day’,  The Guardian published these stats from the UK Safer Internet Centre.

According to the Safe Internet Centre report, 26% of British 11-16 year-olds use six or more social networks and messaging apps every week. The most popular individual services are YouTube and Facebook, used by 78% and 74% of this age group respectively. They’re followed by Snapchat (46%), Instagram (43%), Twitter and WhatsApp (both 37%) and Skype and Minecraft (both 32% – the latter game presumably included because children can play it together online).” 

Talk – All the Time

Communication and education is key on this one. Keep talking, sharing and being interested in their online worlds. If kids see that you’re interested and knowledgable about what’s ‘sick’ in tech’ they will want to talk to you about what they are enjoying online. This world for kids (games, social media, websites especially) is a constantly changing place, and it seems to adapt and reinvent itself as quickly as they grow out of trainers.

Common Sense

Kids need to be taught to use their common sense when navigating on-line. Once they understand the risks themselves, they will be able to avoid pitfalls, and check with you if they think they come across something suspicious. You could give your child a list of sites they are allowed to use, and those they are not. Ie. Only read sites with a co.uk, .edu, .org in the URL (although some .org may be dodgy too, so be extra careful). If you arm them with the knowledge they will feel more confident, and also overcome any anxiety they might have about what is right and wrong, after all it’s a minefield of information to take on at any stage of life.

Manners Taketh Mum & Dad Happy

Let them know that the same rules apply for behaviour and manners on-line as they do in real life. If you wouldn’t say something offensive to someone in the playground, then don’t feel it’s OK to say it to them online. The same applies to teenagers if they are thinking about writing on forums, or other ways of voicing their strong opinions . If their comments are published on-line, remind them that they can’t delete what has been posted, and potential employers, universities and so on are able to view it, and might use their online history as part of an application process in the future.

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Infographic from Protecting Your Kids Online here

House Rules : Downloads, Purchases and Pressing send on Instagram.

As parents we need to be ahead of the game! Try and be familiar with what your kids and their friends are playing, reading, and talking about at school. If you don’t know how to use a social media site they are signed up to, sign up yourself and learn how to use it. Also, remind them that it is you who pays the bills and that they aren’t allowed to shop online without your permission.

My 6-year old (who is the biggest tech lover in the house) recently asked for her own instagram account so she could share photos with her Dad. I’ve said I will show her how I set up my account, so I can use it as a way to teach her what is appropriate to post, how to set up her privacy settings, and learn how to delete too. (The age guidance for Instagram accounts is 13 years old. Read more about it from Instagram here.)

Safety Checks 

It’s essential that we discuss with everyone involved, that we all need to be as careful living in an online world, as we are in real life. Think about how we are programmed to put in place safety checks when leaving the house, or crossing the road, and that these are a set of rules we follow. We need to put in place similar ones when we set up our accounts, or register with sites online.

Teach your kids to refer to you if they aren’t sure about something, they shouldn’t just click on a link without asking your advice. If you explain how phishing sites work, and how they disguise themselves so well and try to explain that in one click on a request for more ‘golden eggs for that treasure hunt’, that they could spend a whole years pocket money.

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Google Safe Search

You can click here for an updated list of setting links for social media apps. (parent zone.org.uk)

By enabling SafeSearch via your google settings, you can filter out most of the mature content that you or your family may prefer to avoid. If an inappropriate result does sneak through, you can report it to Google.

YouTube & You Tube Kids Safety Mode

If you’d prefer not to see mature or age-restricted content as you browse YouTube, scroll to the bottom of any YouTube page and enable Safety Mode. Safety Mode helps filter out potentially objectionable content from search, related videos, playlists, shows and films. There is also You Tube Kids, where kids have access to child-friendly content that’s been pre-filtered to take the nasties out. Read about their parent guide here.

Restricted Profiles

You can create restricted profiles to prevent family members who may have access to your tablet from viewing mature content. You can also use restricted profiles for several purposes, i.e. With Parental controls selectively restrict family members from accessing mature content.

Privacy settings

Check your privacy settings at all times, would they want their teacher to see that photo too? Explain that we shouldn’t accept friendship requests from people we don’t know, and to check requests with you if they look to be coming from someone unknown. Also stress that they should never agree to a private chat with a stranger, and never ever post their mobile phone number, personal ID’s (like National Insurance/ Passport numbers) or their home address (which once posted online is available for all to search and see).

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Passwords and Strangers

Remind them why passwords are important, and what happens when your account gets hacked.  When setting passwords they could use long sentences as passwords, these are easy to remember, and harder for others to crack.

It’s better to be honest, by telling them there are strange people around that will try and be-friend them. It should also be discussed that no one should ever agree to meet with anyone they have met online, and even worse if the person asking them to do this tells them to keep it a secret. This is probably one of the most important things to discuss with kids, and in my book the earlier you do it the better.

Protection At All Times

Use antivirus software and update it regularly, (unless you have a Chromebook, which doesn’t need antivirus software). Teach your family not to accept files or to open email attachments from unknown people. Run network scans to help identify vulnerabilities. Also when you share documents with others via a messaging service, get in the habit of creating ‘private’ folders that only certain ‘users’ can access, and remember to delete files when you have finished with them.

Tell Me More

If you have any comments, or tips to share, please do so in the comments box below, it would be great to hear your stories, and know what you have put in place to help your family keep their online worlds safe and sound.

More useful websites;

Common Sense Media & Camden Online Safety & Internet Matters & NSPCC Online Safety & Safety Net Kids & BBC Newsround & Stay Safe Online & Bullying Online & Parenting.com & Saferinternet.org

IMPORTANT

If you have any concerns about grooming, sexual abuse or exploitation on any online app or site, Report to CEOP (the National Crime Agency’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command) at www.ceop.police.uk/safety-centre. If you are concerned that your child is in immediate danger, call 999.  

Note: The different apps regularly update both privacy and safety settings. Go to the app’s help section to check the current procedures. The positions of the settings may also differ on mobile and desktop versions.

image : credit; Visualization from the Opte Project of the various routes through a portion of the Internet : Wikipedia

5 Best National Trust Places near London

We all love The National Trust, and here are a few reasons why. It’s the largest voluntary conservation organisation in Europe. They have over 4 million members, more than the present coalition ruling parties.

They own some of the best beaches in the land, 59 villages, 49 churches and a gold mine (The Dolaucothi Gold Mines). Their teams conserve butterflies, bats, wildlife and plants. It doesn’t stop there, they also own four coastal World Heritage Sites. So it’s a royal Hip Hip hooray for The National Trust.

Here are 5 properties that would like you to visit them, when you’re ready. They won’t be going anywhere, so don’t rush.

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1. George Inn (pub), Borough

This is the last remaining galleried inn in London. Dating from the 17th century this public house, leased to a private company, is London’s last remaining galleried inn.

Did you know? The galleries which front the building were once common on inns, and that many other surviving examples were lost during the Second World War. The original George Inn was destroyed by fire in 1676. Charles Dickens visited the site when it was a coffee house…and it’s mentioned in Little Dorrit

The George Inn Yard, 77 Borough High Street, Southwark, London, SE1 1NH : Telephone: 020 7407 2056

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2. 575 Wandsworth Road, London

575 Wandsworth Road was acquired by the National Trust in 2010, because of the rich and striking interiors created by Khadambi Asalache (1935-2006), a Kenyan-born poet, novelist, philosopher of mathematics and British civil servant. He bought the house in 1981 while working at the Treasury, and over a period of 20 years (from 1986) turned his home into a work of art.

Prompted by the need to disguise persistent damp in the basement dining room, he initially fixed pine floorboards to the damp wall. He went on to embellish almost every wall, ceiling and door in the house with exquisite fretwork patterns and motifs, which he hand-carved from reclaimed pine doors and floorboards found in skips.

The house stands as he left it, with his painted decoration on walls, doors and floors and with rooms furnished with his handmade fretwork furniture and carefully arranged collections of beautiful and functional objects, including pressed-glass inkwells, pink and copper lustreware, postcards and his typewriter.

Book a tour

Due to the delicate nature of the property, tours are limited to 54 visitors a week, in tours of a maximum of six people at a time. Admission charges and a booking fee apply, entry is free for National Trust members, but members still need to book a place. They are closed from from 3 November 2014 to 28 February 2015, and will be taking bookings for March to May from 1 February. You can call our bookings number from that date on 0844 249 1895.

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3. Morden Hall Park, Morden

Morden Hall Park is green oasis in the city, giving you a taste of a country estate with a glimpse of its agricultural and industrial history.

This tranquil former deer park is one of the few remaining estates that used to line the River Wandle during its industrial heyday. The river meanders through the park creating a haven for wildlife. The snuff mills, which generated the park’s income in the past, survive to this day. We’ve renovated the western mill, and it’s now used as a learning centre.

A much-loved rural idyll, the park lies in a built-up area, and some of the surviving estate buildings are used as workshops by local craftspeople and artisans. The renovated Stable Yard is the heart of the park with a café, second-hand bookshop and a living green centre with exhibitions.

Address: Morden Hall Road, Morden, London, SM4 5JD : Telephone: 020 8545 6850

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4. Ham House and Garden (Surrey)

This rare and atmospheric 17th-century house sits on the banks of the River Thames in Richmond. It is the creation of the tenacious Duchess of Lauderdale and her husband, the Duke, who together transformed Ham into one of the grandest Stuart houses in England.

Ham House is internationally recognised for its superb collection of paintings, furniture and textiles, largely acquired 400 years ago. Some of our unique objects include a rare Chinese teapot, said to have been used by the Duchess herself, and the exotic ivory cabinet. The house is reputed to be one of the most haunted in Britain. Some visitors have reported the ghostly aroma of the sweet Virginia pipe tobacco that the Duke smoked after meals in the dining room.

Outside, the open and formal restored 17th-century gardens surround the house. It includes a productive kitchen garden containing many heritage crops, the maze-like ‘Wilderness’, complete with summerhouses, and many beautiful spots perfect for a picnic.

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5. Fenton House and Garden, Hampstead

This beautiful 17th-century merchant’s house is a hidden gem in London, a place of unique charm and ambience.

Lady Binning bought the house in 1936 and filled it with her highly decorative collections of porcelain, Georgian furniture and 17th-century needlework.

The sound of early keyboard instruments and the colours of early 20th-century drawings and paintings add to a captivating experience.

5 Best Backstage Theatre Tours in London

Some of my best memories as a growing kid were theatre related. I played Maria in West Side Story for the Somerset Youth Theatre, spent all my birthdays at West End shows with my old Pa, and just soaked up being close to anyone who came near me with a sparkling jazz hand. The seeds were planted early, and if you know any budding theatre lovers, then why not start via the stage door, like I did.

A great way to spend a morning or afternoon is to take a trip backstage around one of London’s many beautiful theatres. Not only will the tour tickets cost little more than a sandwich, you will get the chance to peek into the dressing rooms and tread the boards where many famous actors spend their time feeling sick with nerves.

If you do get the chance to take a tour, leave me a comment below, to share your thoughts, just a quick rating out of 5 will do. Break a leg, darling.

1. The Royal Court

The tours (usually at 10.30 or 11am) take you behind the scenes of the Royal Court, into the offices and sites where the scripts are read, rehearsals take place and the productions are brought to life. You’ll hear the history of the building, explaining the redesign of 2000, as well as the history of the company and our on-going work with new writers. Tickets £7 or free on Open House Weekends.

2. The London Coliseum

The London Coliseum, commissioned by the great theatrical impressario Oswald Stoll and designed by the flamboyant theatre architect Frank Matcham, opened as a Music Hall in 1904. It is considered to be Matcham’s masterpiece and is a sensational example of Edwardian architecture in the grand style. It quickly became known as ‘The Peoples Palace’; a theatre that was affordable to enter but which would also inspire a sense of wonder and excitement. Each tour lasts approximately one hour and includes quite a lot of walking so please be aware that there are quite a few stairs to climb. Prices for adults are £10 and £8 for kids.

3. The Almeida Theatre

You can find out more about the history of this fascinating building on their theatre tours. Led by an experienced guide, the tours explore the depths of the theatre, including the backstage, wardrobe and technical areas. Your visit will also cover the history of the theatre, from lecture room to music hall and carnival novelties factory. Theatre Tours, Ticket prices: £6 – £7

4. Theatre Royal, Drury Lane 

Through The Stage Door is a unique and enchanting experience – a dramatised tour led by professional actors who inform and entertain, taking you on a memorable journey through the theatre’s history. Meet famous characters including, Garrick, Sheridan, Grimaldi and Nell Gwyne. The tour lasts approximately 1 hour, and are daily at 2.15pm and 4.15pm (Wednesdays at 10.30 and 11.45am). Adults £10.50, Children and Seniors £8.50, groups of 10 or more £8.50 per person. : Family ticket £30.00 (2 Adults and 2 Children)

5. Globe Theatre

The expert guides will take you on a fascinating tour of the iconic Globe Theatre, bringing the space to life with colourful stories of the 1599 Globe, of the reconstruction process in the 1990s, and of how the ‘wooden O’ works today as an imaginative and experimental theatrical space.Tours begin every 30 minutes

6. Palladium Theatre

Guided tours of the nation’s favourite theatre are usually run at 11.30am on the second Friday of each month when the theatre is not dark. Each tour lasts a minimum of 2 hours covering the performance, architectural and social history of the London Palladium.Tickets for the tour are £12 each and the total capacity per tour is 30 people. As there are lots of stairs, the tour is not recommended for the infirm and ladies are advised to wear flat shoes.

7. The National Theatre

The National Theatre is a working building, producing over 20 new productions every year. Preparation for the shows, including rehearsals, prop and costume-making all happen on site. No two tours are ever the same, so come and see what’s happening behind the scenes. Tours last 75 mins, and cost £8.50

10 Great Family Days Out in London

1. A Hampstead Heath stomp with a Pub Lunch 

I’m not sure if anyone who has ever been for a breath of fresh air and a walk on the Heath, hasn’t felt better in some way afterwards. It’s not that complicated really… great views, acres of beautiful countryside (320 hectares/790 acres), an art deco designed Lido, wild swimming ponds, and a few kites for good measure.

There is also Kenwood House sitting on the North of the Heath. Kenwood is a well loved
London institution. Adored by dog lovers, marathon trainers, and welly wearers. The house is run by English Heritage, a former stately home, it dates from the early 17thC. Within the house is an impressive art collection (though I have a feeling the key paintings are on a US Tour at the moment!). These include works from ‘Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough. There are also sculptures by Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Eugène Dodeigne in the gardens near the house, which are famous in their own right.

Once you have stomp’d a little, reward yourself with a hearty lunch at the famous Spaniards Pub. Known as ‘a country pub’ in the middle of London, it’s pretty famous. Word has it that Keats wrote ‘Ode To A Nightingale‘ here (That would have been before the noise pollution from the 4×4’s doing the school run distracted him I think…).

Inside you will find roaring fires, a good wine list and enough real ale, cider and decent food to give most tired legs some rejuvenation. Just don’t leave it until closing to find your way home via the Heath. Plan your return journey by bus to either Hampstead tube (10 mins) or Highgate Village for a night-cap (20 mins by bus).

(sort of) Fact Time  : “Boudicca’s Mound”, near the present men’s bathing pond on the heath, is a tumulus where, according to local legend, Queen Boudicca (Boadicea) was buried after she and 10,000 Iceni warriors were defeated at Battle Bridge.[12] However earlier drawings and paintings of the area show no mound other than a 17th-century windmill. (Wikipedia)

The Shard
The Shard

2. Grab a view from The Shard

Check : ‘the weather’. Check : ‘your footwear’. Check ‘you are definitely not Acrophobic’. Head over to The Shard at London Bridge and fly up to floors 68, 69 and 72, and you will be at almost twice the height of any other viewing platform in the capital.

The view gives you unparalleled 360-degree views for up to 40 miles. Once you have booked your tickets you will be able to choose the time of your visit and can enter The View up to 30 minutes from the time printed on your ticket, that just about give you enough time to finish a bottle of champagne, and post your award winning photography on Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, Google+, oh did I forget you need to take a selfie with that stick-thing too.

If its views you are hankering for, you could also take a trip to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and fly up the ArcelorMittal Orbit. Here’s a feature with some info for you.

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3. Graffiti Street Tour with InsideLondon

Insider London’s Street Art Tour shows you the work of world famous street artists where it’s meant to be seen: on the street.

They’ll show you how street and graffiti art has evolved, showing you everything from an early Banksy piece, to work from heavyweights like Shephard Fairey, Space Invader and Roa, and the latest work from emerging street artists. They’ll also swing by a series of street art galleries to show you how street art is shaking up fine art on a global scale. Read more here.

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4. Tate Modern, Tate Britain, Tower of London, via a Boat Ride 

Walk from London Bridge (tube/rail), or take a tube to across the Millennium (wobble) Bridge to Tate Modern on Bankside. The latest exhibition in The Turbine Hall is the Richard Tuttle : I Don’t Know. The Weave of Textile Language (14 October 2014 – 6 April 2015), It is  the largest work ever created by Richard Tuttle.

If you are hungry for more art you can then either take the Tate Boat (which runs every forty minutes) along the Thames to the Tate Britain. Or just take your Oyster Card to pay for the boat, or buy a Day River Pass, and hop on the other river services that will deliver you to any parts of the Thames. Choose from The London Eye, The Tower of London or further East to Greenwich, for the National Maritime Museum, The Royal Observatory and The newly re-built Cutty Sark. The nearest Pier to the Tate Modern is Bankside, to the right of the museum looking at the river.

Tate Modern Opens : Sunday – Thursday, 10.00–18.00 & Friday – Saturday, 10.00–22.00 & is open for New Year on 1 January, 2015

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5. Grab a Bowl of Ramen or Dim Sum in Town

Those that get out and about tell me that the latest Asian dining fashion is to eat bowls of ramen soup. It is ‘Big In Japan’ as Alaphaville sweetly sang. In Japan it is standard to have a specialist Ramen soup shop on every corner. In the UK we have been a part of the ‘Wagamama’ and ‘Yo Sushi’ crowd for a few years now, but it’s only recently that the UK has embraced the real Ramen dish. This soup is on basic levels a combo of noodles, broth, vegetables (bamboo and bean sprouts a must), meat, and egg.

If you get the chance to eat at a Ramen bar, then go for it, as when it’s made properly, with expertise, and hours and hours of simmering to find the ‘perfect’ broth, then you will be hooked. Your soup will be either made with a chicken, pork or (no bone) broth, and they are likely to be named TONKOTSU Ramen, MISO Ramen, or SOY Ramen. This food is fun and satisfying for any takers. We take the kids all the time, and what we often do is order them each a bowl of steamed rice, and then share our soup with them. Get the kids their own chopsticks, and get them practising the art of ‘chopsticking’ (?!) and that will kill at least 9 minutes until the soups arrive. Find out where to scoff up your bowls of deliciousness here.

copyright : Hartswood Films
copyright : Hartswood Films

6. Investigate Sherlock Holmes at The Museum of London

There’s been a certain something in the air around Baker Street, since our local heroes Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman (and the darling BBC of course) brought life back to Sherlock Holmes. Riding high on their hat-tails, The Museum of London is hosting their first exhibition about the detective since 1951.

The exhibition uses early film, photography and paintings plus original Victorian era artefacts to recreate the atmosphere of Sherlock’s London, and to re-imagine the places featured in Conan Doyle’s famous stories.

Fact-ish: the BFI and The Museum of London are on a worldwide hunt for a silent film about Holmes produced 100 years ago which is missing.The 1914 adaptation of A Study in Scarlet, directed by the London-born George Pearson, is the first British feature-length film based on the consulting detective. It is according to the BFI, high on their list of Most Wanted films. If you know where it is, or have information which you think might help, please email sherlockholmes@bfi.org.uk or spread the word on social media using #FindSherlock.

copyright : Visit London
copyright : Visit London

7. A Boris Bike, a pub lunch and a ride to Millbank

The Barclays Cycle Hire run by Transport for London, (although there is much controversy around the issue of them not issuing safety helmets with the bike hire) have been very popular since their introduction in 2012 the Olympic Year.

If you’re keen there are superhighway route maps you can follow. I would try out  the Wandsworth to Milbank one. Starting at the legendary ‘The Alma’ pub bang opposite Wandsworth Rail station with a pint of something cold, and a decent lunch. Then hire your bikes, pedal through Battersea, across Chelsea Bridge, and end up at Millbank. You get 5 points for every civil servant you spot, 75 points for any lost soldiers on horseback looking for sugar lumps, and 150 points if you pull up next to Prince William ‘undercover’ on his motor bike!

8. Play around the Southbank 

Is there anywhere as culturally happening as the Southbank Centre, and its surrounding family of venues? Let me know the answer after you have ticked off this list of 10. In the meantime, for those that have not hit the tarmac there yet, this is an almost of list of what to expect;

Southbank Centre. London’s home to the Royal Festival Hall and the Queen Elizabeth Hall. They host Festivals, Music Shows, Circus Performance, Family Theatre, Art Exhibitions at The Hayward Gallery, Readings with leading personalities, Parties, Fashion Events, and have the best ever Summer water fountain and sculptures surrounding the buildings, which bring pleasure to young and old alike.

The National Theatre, dependant on your architectural bent, possibly a dodgy looking design, but still home to some of the UK’s leading theatre makers, and performers. Three theatres of diverse world stage programming, under Direction of the influential Nicolas Hytner. Check the What’s On page for the latest shows, and booking information.

The BFI (British Film Institute) shows over 2000 classic and contemporary films every year. On site you can access 1000 hours of free film and TV in the Mediatheque and two restaurant bars. They run screenings, events and monthly seasons (The Best of The Marx Brothers), feature screen actors (Dame Maggie Smith), or work with various industry awards and events like The London Comedy Festival amongst others.

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There are also loads of restaurants, pop up’s and bars with great views over the Thames. The London Eye, The Sealife Aquarium, a vintage book market (outside the BFI). Foyles the bookshop, art installations, and the legendary Skateboarding area under the Southbank Centre. For those die hard skateboarding fans, House of Vans have set up the Undercroft and transformed the historical tunnels that lie beneath Waterloo Station developing a warren of venues for art installations and skate boarding events.

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Not forgetting the Captain of Sand (www.beachcaptain.com) who can always be found creating masterpieces into the Sand banks when it’s low tide, near Gabriel’s Wharf. He’s a real London gem.

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9. Borough Market & Brindisa Spanish Restaurant

My idea of heaven is a late lunch (ideally with the girls for a gossip) at Brindisa (Tapas) restaurant just by Borough market, at London Bridge. It throws you into a Spanish swirl, with the best wine, seranno ham, gambas, and most importantly a glass of heart warming and cheek blushing red.

Borough Market is a foodie heaven. Though to be honest, it’s also a tourists/drinkers/walkers/locals/Aunties/Historians (delete as appropriate) heaven too. Borough Market is a wholesale and retail food market in Southwark. It is one of the largest and oldest food markets in London, and these days although it’s almost impossible to walk freely through the market at the weekends, as it is so popular, if you stand back around the edges, plan your attack for paella, hand-made chocolate or Dorset Knobs, then you will be winning. I’d also recommend any of the pubs around the market, they are all rated high with pub lovers, and will treat you kindly.

What’s more here’s a decent secret to share, they have the best spanish recipes on their website here. If you have a foodie friend with a birthday soon, how about one of their wine tasting and/or personal carving tuition courses at their Ham School. It sounds like a fantastic evening out, £75 for 2 hours. That’s got to be a good scout skill to add to your CV on LinkedIn.

Hatfield House
Hatfield House

10. Get out of Town to Hatfield House, Hertfordshire (Henry VIII’s Favourite hideaway for his Children)

Hatfield House is one of our favourite choices of a family day out when we need to escape the smoke, and buzz of the city. Trains leave regularly from Kings Cross to Hatfield take 21 minutes.

We often visit the Bloody Hollow Play Area, and children’s farm. There is also a decent (not cheap) cafe, sweet village shops. Our kids adore the playground, and we have lost many a long afternoon there, just remember to dress in your ‘play’ clothes, as they like are likely to scramble up the steep hill surrounding the play area, so party shoes, and Elsa and Super-man dressing up might not survive the action.

For those that plan ahead, put a visit in your diary now for April** to visit the stunning Jacobean country Hatfield house and rolling park-land. The architects that designed the tudor house were Inigo Jones, Simon Basil and Robert Lyminge. When you venture out across the park, look closely you will find an oak tree that marks the place where the young Princess Elizabeth first heard of her accession to the throne.

**Note** The House, Park and Garden are closed for the Visitor Season. They will reopen on Saturday 4th April 2015.

Fact Time : During World War I, the grounds were used to test the first British tanks

 

5 Best Simple Cards to Make with Kids

CreativeBusStop

I didn’t want you to feel left out, and not remind you how super-easy it is to make your own cards with the kids. These cards, are also certain to get a super smile from any teacher you give them to, and who knows if you give one to the head-teacher, you might even get an invite to their ‘invite-only’ drinks party this year!

1. Santa hand print card found at Crafty-crafted.com

2. Tree leaf rubbing from True Aim Education

3. Santa quilled card from Quilled Wonderland at Etsy

4. Bunting celebration cards from Saidos da Concha blog

5. Super simple tree cards from http://www.learnwithplayathome.com

Don’t forget on the home page there is the Events Diary which is full of family activities across London for everyone looking for a creative day out, it’s there for you, so keep me in your bookmark, when you have finished making your brandy…

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5 Best Secret Gardens in London

1. Inner Temple Gardens

Hidden within the City’s Inner Temple, one of London’s four Inns of Court, is a tranquil three-acre garden with stunning rare trees, herbaceous borders and sweeping lawns. It is usually open to the public from 12.30-3.00 each weekday.

2. Phoenix Garden

The award-winning Phoenix garden is a community garden in St Giles. Built in the 1980s on the site of a former car park ( and within the site of the 1117 Leper Hospital), it is entirely managed by volunteers and provides an important habitat for local wildlife. NB. They are updating the landscaping, so there are building materials being stored. The organisers asked that children are supervised as the garden has a few water areas. 

3. Barbican Conservatory

Filled with over 2,000 species of exotic plants and trees – not to mention birds and fish – the Barbican conservatory offers a pleasant way to spend a few spare hours in the City. Open on Sundays : Opening times: 11am–5pm ( Bank Holiday opening times: 12noon–5pm). Nb. Check online before you travel, as it is sometimes booked for private events.

4. William Morris’s Red House

Tucked away in the suburb of Bexleyheath is the National Trusts, William Morris Red House, a beautiful home with a small but perfectly formed garden designed “to clothe the house”. In 1904 the critic Hermann Muthesius called the property “the first house to be conceived and built as a unified whole, inside and out”.
Picture: Alamy

5. Duncan Terrace Garden

Not far from Upper Street in Islington is Duncan Terrace Garden, a charming linear garden which follows the route of the historic New River, a waterway which was built in the 1600s to bring a clean water supply to London. It’s known for an installation called “The Spontaneous City in the Tree of Heaven”, a jumbled collection of bird boxes inspired by local architecture.
Picture: Alamy

 

Other’s to keep secret about ;

Fenton House Garden : Terrace walks, a formal lawn and a sunken rose garden grace this garden, by seventeenth-century merchant’s house in Hampstead.

Geffrye Museum Garden A fragrant hidden garden behind a museum in Shoreditch, which features a herb garden including 170 varieties.  Crane Park Island

Also in Twickenham is this island on the Crane River, a wonderfully peaceful area and a home for an impressive array of wildlife.

Camley Street Natural Park : A stunning, tranquil green area in the most urban of locations – right behind St Pancras Station.

St Mary’s Secret Garden : A hidden Hackney garden featuring a natural woodland, a food growing area, a herb garden and an area of herbaceous borders.

Isabella Plantation : A traffic-free area inside Richmond Park, this ornamental woodland garden is especially wonderful in spring and autumn time.

5 Best Kids Cooking Courses in London

Ok, let’s get this straight I totally believe that a way to a child’s heart is to feed and teach them how to cook the way we cook at home. This is because I know that above everything, all kids really really want is to spend time with you. I have also worked out that they also like to learn stuff (especially if it is a grown up skill, think spending their own money at the shop, cooking anything on the hob, a constant fascination with keys and opening doors, and then eventually learning to drive !!), and learning to cook is one of those rather important skills that will take you a long way.

So from someone who is a terrible cook, given the chance, I would happily spend a few hours down at Billingsgate learning how to gut a prawn with my kids or learning how to cook the perfect ragu, as a few hours doing this could possibly cost as much as a family ticket to see Frozen 2. Here is a quick round up of some schools and clubs that offer courses, parties, and holiday clubs. Oh! don’t forget to take a look at my post about where kids eat for free in town here.

cooking kids 1

1. The Kids Cookery School (Acton)

This school is a charity that offers classes, longer workshops, cookery lessons via their mobile school, and birthday parties. They support outreach programs and an assisted places scheme for those families on benefits. Through practical lessons the students learn about basic nutrition, how to prepare healthy and tasty dishes from fresh ingredients and to cook in safe and hygienic way. They develop social skills, as students become more independent, work together and learn about other cultures though food.

They have purpose-built teaching kitchens in Acton, where the majority of our practical cookery projects take place. They welcome students with special needs (physical, learning or behavioural), as their premises are fully wheelchair accessible.

Classes are split by age, 3-4yrs, 5-7yrs, 8-10 yrs and 11 to 14+yrs. Workshops are priced at £32 a session and run for 2 hours 30 minutes. Classes are priced at £17 a session and run for 1 hour 15 minutes. Check the site here for the latest event schedule.

2. Cookie Crumbles (SW & Central London)

This friendly company run parent and child courses from locations around South West London, mainly in Eddie Catz, Putney. They also offer bespoke (2 hr) birthday parties for up to 35 children, and if you don’t fancy the mess at home, they can host parties in their studios in Kensington, East Sheen or the Intercontinental Hotel in Park lane, London W1. Prices here.

The lessons sound great fun as an introduction, or fun treat. Choose from ‘Cakes around the World’ £25 (2hr), Little Chocolate Factory Workshop’ £25, Toddler Chocolate Cooking class £13 (1hr) or American Cupcakes & Milkshakes £25 (2hr). If you are heading South, then book in for a fun session at one of the workshops in Putney or Wimbledon, and check here for other events.

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3. Recipease (South & West London)

With restaurants in Notting Hill, Clapham, and Brighton, they offer a wide range of adult courses covering all options from sushi making to fish filleting. Kids can choose from Pizza Making (Age 12+), Chocolate truffle (7-11yrs), Filled pasta (7-11yrs), Focaccia (7 – 11yrs), Thai green curry (12-16 year olds) Risotto (12-16 yrs), Pancakes (7-11yrs), Pasta master (7-11yrs) but double check what lessons are available at which centres first, before your protege get’s set on becoming a pancake chef.

They also offer birthday parties, and class prices range from £15-20, and last 1.5 hours. Note, children must be accompanied by an adult for classes, although two kids can have one parent with them.

4. Billingsgate Seafood School (City)

One for the more adventurous, chef-kids we know. Here you earn how to prepare various fresh fish and shellfish in the environs of the famous Docklands fish market. Some dishes are enjoyed with drinks for lunch, some taken home. 9:30am to 2:00pm approx, £120

5. Cafe Caldesi (Marylebone)

Children cook a two-course meal at London’s only Italian cookery school, in Marylebone. 10.30 to 1pm. £45.Help to spark your children’s interest in healthy food and cooking by bringing them to our Italian mama’s cookery course. We will teach your children a selection of seasonal Italian dishes to create a tasty 2 course menu of both savoury and sweet dishes, all packed into 21/2hours! This a fun, hands-on cookery class, where everyone has the chance to be involved and to taste what they have made as well as take foodie bites home. If you come to collect your children early, you may even get to taste some of what they have made. This course is aimed at 6 – 12 yr olds.


 

If you and your little ones have been to other local cookery schools, after school clubs, or courses please share the love and leave a comment below, it’s great to have your personal recommendations — PLEASE let me know about courses across the UK too, we’re not exclusive to London. xo

A little more reading :

Chef Mark Dodson’s advice for Cooking with Kids

http://www.letsgetcooking.org.ukThe Children’s Food Trust, (previously named the School Food Trust), was awarded Big Lottery funding in 2007 to set up and support the first 5,000 Let’s Get Cooking school-based cooking clubs for children and their families. Let’s Get Cooking is now the largest national network of healthy cooking clubs in the country.The Kids Kitchen (Whetstone N20)

Kiddycook website, courses in London and around the UK

Read about the Out To Lunch campaign here.

The Fun Food Academy, North London and Chichester

The Fun Food Academy was established in 1998 and has since cooked with more than 2,000 4-11 year olds in and around London. As the name suggests, culinary thrills and spills include games and taste tests, two-hour cooking parties with foodie magic tricks and primary school sessions on themes such as the Ancient Greeks, Victorians, Aztecs and Egyptians. Workshops are an impressive six hours long and offer good value at between £20 – £25 per child.

Carluccio’s

They offer kids cooking classes during school holidays. Such a fun activity for kids to get their hands in the kitchen and make yummy Italian favourites like focaccia or gnocchi. Aimed at children 6 to 12 years-old, the classes cost £15 pounds, and include a drink and dessert.

Kids in the Kitchen class : L’atalier des Chefs school : Wigmore Street, W1
Our one hour kids classes are a great way to introduce your children to the joys of cooking. Our chefs will really help them to flourish in the kitchen. We have created fantastic recipes designed to appeal to young tastebuds that are healthy, easy to prepare and, most importantly, delicious! They’ll learn to make recipes including homemade fish fingers and proper mushy peas. Each one hour class will also include a tasty dessert such as banana pancakes, chocolate mousse or classic chocolate brownies. Children’s cooking classes run during the school holidays and are open to children aged between 7 and 14.

MunchkinsKids Cooking, Blackheath, London

Munchkins Kids Cooking offer summer holiday workshops for kids age 4-11, inviting children to have fun and make a mess! With appealing titles such as ‘Food from the stories of Roald Dahl’ and ‘Cooking the Rainbow’, classes are themed over the course of a week but individual days can be bought separately. Held at the brand new Blackheath Cooks shop and school, there are additional after-school classes for teens and ‘munchkins’, which are all very hands-on and offer technical tuition in the making of sushi rolls and lamb koftas. Also on offer are cookery workshops held at primary and secondary schools across London and the South East : After school clubs are £190 and Summer Holiday workshops are £42 per day

Daisy Cakes : Baking workshops : West London

Come and bake with DaisyCakes – Easter Holiday Workshops. Workshops are £18.00 per child and this includes everything. The workshops take place at my home in Chiswick, places are limited to 6 so please book early to avoid disappointment.

Gill Roberts Cookery Workshops (North London : Hampstead Gdn Suburb)

£50 for one day : Come and join Gill for a one or two day cookery course In May Half Term (2013) to develop your basic cookery skills, knowledge of healthy eating and make cooking fun! Cook a range of food like :  Minestroni Soup : Home made Pasta with a Tomato Sauce & Parmesan : Stuffed Jacket Potatoes : Filo Scunchies : Shaped Bread Rolls, then to take Home… Toffee Apple Flapjacks : Fruity Turnovers
Italian Mama’s Cookery Club : La Cucina Caldesi Shop : Marylebone

 

5 Best Science Clubs in London

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1. The Royal Institution (Ages 7 – 18)

The RI in Mayfair (Green Park is 5 mins away), is a charity with a clear mission that is set on ‘encouraging people to think further about the wonders and applications of science’. Home to the famous Christmas Lectures, The Faraday Museum and the L’Oreal Young Scientist Centre.

They host family fun days about 3/4 times a year (usually in half terms between 11am-4pm), and we can’t recommend them highly enough. You get full access to the whole building, and the activities are well thought out for kids to be able to drop in and out of, and each station has an educator present, ready to help the kids, answer any questions, and mainly have a bit of fun with the science games. The tickets are priced around £14 for adults, and £7 for kids and they advise the event is for kids aged 8-12, but everyone is welcome (check online at the time of booking).

Book you tickets to see THE TURNER TWINS: WORLD FIRST ADVENTURERS BY THE RI, FRIDAY 11TH AUGUST, 6PM (7+) here

Each Summer they run a line up of workshops for 3 age groups. You can see the latest Summer ’17 brochure online here.

I can’t think of a better place for our clever-clog children to be inspired about science and maths, and advise that you get online now, as the places are filling up fast. FYI, for some fun prep over the holidays, take a look at the interactive games online here.

A selection of the courses: Week Long Summer School for 16-18 yrs or Week Long Summer school for 13-15 yrs, or Summer school workshop for 7-10 yrs. Sign up to their email alerts, and find out what’s coming up here. If you want mycultureclub.com to take care of your bookings for you, just drop me aline, or check out the site over here. sian.gwilliam@me.com

Aboutusgirlchemistry

2. Mad Science Group (Ages 4-11)

Founded in Canada by 2 brothers at their local YMCA, this global company (with franchises) believe that teaching science invites children to pursue their interest and, ultimately, a career in science – thus, helping to preserve our very special and cherished scientific heritage.

As well as across the UK, they operate in the following locations across the South East : Islington, Wimbledon, Ealing, Finchley, Harrow, Putney, Isleworth, Highgate, Hillingdon, Hampstead. The website isn’t that easy to navigate, and you need to contact the local organiser directly for more information, though we like that their priority seems to be a learning through play, so on this premise, and with their more localised camp centres, keep the site on your bookmark list.

Normal Costs: £35 per child per day Week Rate: £160 per child/week (5 days) or £128 per child/week (4 days) GROUP BOOKING DISCOUNT: Book and pay for 5 or more children for the same day and each child comes along for £28 per day!

Times: daily 10am-3pm (please bring a packed lunch and drink: Online Booking: By phone – 0208 832 7447 : By email – madsciencelondon.alkaline@gmail.com

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3. Fun Tech Summer Camps (ages 6-18)

The founding partners of FunTech are Philip and Sheineez Barber. They run a range of tech day and residential courses covering all manner of tech skills, including Robotz, 3D Game X, Minecraft Redstone, Java Coder, Code Breakers, Minecraft Mods, 3D Digital Modelling & Animation, FunTyper Intensive, Game Pro, Ultimate IT, Creative IT, Advanced IT, Animation, FunTyper, Essentials

The courses are located across the South East, in Maidenhead, Richmond, Elstree, Hampstead, Northwood, Tunbridge Wells, Oxford, Tonbridge (Residential) & Reading. More information online.

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4. Mother Nature Science (Ages 5-12)

Mother Nature Science Holiday Camps (5-12 years) run twice yearly during the Summer and Easter Holidays  (but not during half-term breaks). Our Scientists will ensure your children ‘get ahead in science’ this holidays with action packed programmes of hands-on activities exploring a spectacular array of scientific themes and topics. Every day is filled with science experiments to make & take home.

Prices : £225 per child per week (5 days)

Paul Wilkinson Photography Ltd.
Paul Wilkinson Photography Ltd.

5. Little House of Science (Ages 3-8)

Set up by three ladies who love kids, their aim is to offer a foundation for youngsters to answer their own questions about the world we live in and they like to think of themselves as creating or fostering the spark for the next generation of scientists.

They offer weekly science workshops for younger kids in Chelsea, High Street Kensington, South Kensington, Notting Hill and Marylebone. Sessions include interactive talks and experiments, topics set on learning about Life, Earth, Space, Motion, Gravity and the influential scientists Galileo and Newton. Each session will offer a take home project and parent/ carer notes too. During term time classes run from Monday to Friday at 3/4/5pm and on Saturdays at 3pm. They also offer science parties.

It doesn’t stop there, here are more suggestions for ways to get kids into Science…

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To read up on science, geography and interesting facts in the ‘Kids magazines’ post here and here. I am a huge fan of Okido and Anorak magazines for inspiring these subjects in a fun and entertaining way through brilliant illustration and writing. Also, the brilliant MiniEco blog from Kate Lilley is another fun resource for DIY crafts. Your kids can enjoy great online games from some of these kids websites, or you could invest in her book full of crafts for the Summer.

Every child loves a day out at The Natural History Museum or The Science Museum, the BBCLearning website is a great resource and has online courses, curriculum based activities, and lots more and no child in the land should be content without knowing how to code, so enroll on some coding courses at Codasign, and read about a truly inspiring young lady here.

Note: Photos courtesy of the RI

5 Best Nature Clubs in London

1. London Natural History Society

They have been observing and recording the wildlife and plant life of the London area, within a 20mile radius of St Paul’s Cathedral, since 1858. By becoming a member, you will enjoy field meetings in and around London, illustrated talks by naturalists hearing about their latest discoveries, learn to identify nature in all its glory, monitor bird and butterfly populations, wild flower distributions and other areas, visit the society’s excellent Library at the Natural History Museum, and have access to the Members Forum. Membership is £20.

2. London Wildlife Trust

This is the site you go to if you want to find out more about your local nature reserve. London Wildlife Trust is part of The Wildlife Trusts, the largest UK voluntary organisation dedicated to conserving the full range of the UK’s habitats and species whether they be in the countryside, in cities or at sea. (There are 47 local Wildlife Trusts across the UK, the Isle of Man and Alderney.) They believe that Londoners have a right to access free, quality natural spaces in their local area, and will fight to maintain London as a critical home for wildlife. London’s wild plants and animals, and their habitats, are an essential part of the city and have a right to flourish. They manage over forty nature reserves across the capital, that cover a range of habitat types, including woodland, grassland and wetlands. Contact : London WildlifeTrust @WildLondon
‘Protecting London’s wildlife for the future. Love London, Love Nature’.

.3. Hampstead Heath Life Education & Visitors Centre

The Heath Life Education Centre covers all aspects of wild life, habitats, etc. in line with the National Curriculum. The centre is situated on the side of the Parliament Hill Lido. Open to the public on weekday afternoons. You will find stuffed animals, a life-size woodland jigsaw, and if in season even newts in a tank.

4. Wimbledon Common Nature Club

Discover more about the beauty of nature with Wimbledon Common Nature Club. Find out how to make a campfire and cook toasty things on it, go pond dipping and scavenger hunting, discover the secret life of honey bees and make leafy headdresses. They offer free workshops at the weekends, check the site, or better sign up for their email alerted. Feel free to tell me as well, incase I’ve not had time to catch up with their news.

5. Woodland Trusts : Nature Detectives Club

This is the kids club from the Woodland Trust, which is the UK’s leading charity devoted to (you guessed it) trees and woodland. Keep the website handy if you want to find the nearest woodland to you. The kids club is a truly excellent resource and place to be (online) if you are ever looking for inspiration and ideas. You can choose from spotter sheets, art sheets, puzzles, adventure booklets, leaf quiz, twig and blossom ID sheets, online games, colouring and fab fact sheets, mini beast activity sheets, woodland log books, printables, craft ideas to make at home, colouring sheets and more that we are leaving as a surprise! You can sign up as a family for a year (£48) or per child (£12). We are big fans.

Here are a few more suggestions for the really grubby, worm loving people you know…
London Bird Club
London Bird Club @LondonBirdClub
Recording birds in a 20 mile radius of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Bird news,…

AES – amentsoc.org
AES – amentsoc.org @amentsoc
The Amateur Entomologists’ Society (AES) is the UK’s leading…

RSPB Rainham Marshes
RSPB Rainham Marshes @RSPBRainham
RSPB Rainham Marshes is in Purfleet right on the doorstep of London….

Richard Jones
Richard Jones @bugmanjones
I’m very good at finding insects, in fact I am a professional. Recent…

5 Best Quirky Holiday Locations

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Tired of identikit hotel rooms with no character? Bored with staying in dull, uninspiring rentals? One of our friends, Nadine Mellor, Editor of i-escape.com’s Kids Collection has handpicked some super cool suggestions for unusual places to stay which will provide really memorable family holidays. Send me a postcard please. Xo

Bivouac, North Yorkshire, UK

Getting back to nature is all the rage these days, and these shacks and yurts set in peaceful moorland and woodland around a restored farmhouse fit the bill. There are wood-burners and proper beds plus kitchenettes inside, and there’s a cafe on site for those who don’t want to self-cater. For the kids there’s a play area plus nature trails and craft sessions. And the whole family will love the relaxed, authentic vibe.

Milos Windmill, Cyclades Islands, Greece

This charming converted windmill has two bedrooms (one of which can be made up as twins) and a kitchen/diner spread out over its three floors – all simply decorated with typically Greek white-washed walls and blue shutters. There are also two outhouses which sleep two each so the whole property would be good for an extended family holiday. Take the kids to explore secret beaches and smugglers caves nearby, or out on a boat trip. And best of all, it’s great value.

Finca de Arrieta, Lanzarote, Canary Islands

For all-year-round sunshine the Canaries can’t be beaten. This fun eco-resort has yurts and stone cottages (sleeping 2-8) set amongst fruit trees, and is a fantastic place to bring the family. Parents will love the convenience of being just 35 minutes from the airport and being able to self-cater, while the kids will adore the pool, trampoline, playground, table tennis, donkey rides and meeting farm animals. The property is extremely well-equipped for babies and toddlers. There are also beaches just half a kilometre away. Perfection.

Whitepod, Les Cerniers, Alps, Switzerland

This is a unique set up: 15 boutique eco-pods with superkingsize beds and wood-burners, and wonderful views across pristine mountains. Here the kids stay for free, and there are mezzanine platforms for them to sleep on. This is a quiet location, away from brash downhill racers, with impeccable eco credentials. Families will enjoy trying sledging and snow-shoeing in winter, and the camp is also a wonderful place to stay in the summer with hiking, biking and dog-karting on offer. There’s a central restaurant serving hearty local produce. Magical!

Siwa Villa, Siwa, Egypt

Unleash your inner Fred Flintstone when staying at this impeccably renovated mud-brick house overlooking an ancient citadel in a small oasis on the edge of the Western Desert. There’s a housekeeper on hand to look after you, and adventurous older kids will love trying sand-boarding down dunes, swimming in the hot springs and going on a desert safari. At the house are board games, DVDs and books, as well as a well-equipped kitchen.

You know the old saying, Go Get ‘Em… well that’s my advice when you’re planning any of these trips, send i-escapeemail now to chat about your booking, enjoy top class customer service, (which I pinky promise you will be thrilled with) and then get down to Morrison’s, they have the best ever (cheap) selection of sun-hats for kids.  xo

5 of The Best Beaches near London

CreativeBusStop

5 Best : Lovely Beaches near London

1. Whitstable, Kent (pebbles) – 1h30 hr train from St Pancras/ Victoria

We are fans, for the food, the fab train connection from St Pancras, the easy going atmosphere, a decent pint, and enough stones for the kids to throw in to the sea, and ice cream to keep them from ever eating a proper meal… it’s got to be on the 5 best list. Read up for more tips and info from your ever faithful Bus Driver.

2. Camber Sands, East Sussex (ummm… sand!) 1h33 Charing Cross to Hastings, from station take bus 711 to Camber Sands.

Camber Sands is the beach at the village of Camber (near Rye). It is the only sand dune system in East Sussex and is east of the estuary of the River Rother at Rye Bay stretching as one expanse beyond the Kent border.The beach…

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5 of the Best Studio Ghibli Films

1. My Neighbour Totoro

2. Ponyo

3. Arrietty

4. Sprited Away

5. Howls Moving Castle

In homage to the cultural landmark that is the British Film Institute on the Southbank, we are joining them celebrating the brilliant work of Japanese Director : Hayao Miyazaki (know to many as Japans’ Walt Disney).

Our girls are big fans, and really attached to the characters in Studio Ghibli films (My Neighbour Totoro above being the main one) and he has a special place in our family. They have grown up with the the films Totoro, Ponyo and Spirited Away, and are totally drawn to the charming story-telling, enchanting hand drawn digital animation and beautiful music.

Studio Ghibli is know for adapting popular books aimed at younger audiences, sometimes focusing on adult relationships or situations. Hayao created Studio Ghibli the Japanese animation company in 1985, this year the legend himself is stepping down from the company to enjoy retirement (he is 84 years young), and has produced his final film The Wind Rises, which is written for an older audience (released on May 9th).

If you haven’t yet joined the Ghibli fan club, give one of the movies a try this May at the BFI. There are even a couple of workshops for the 8+ crowd during 1/2 term at the BFI, which will be booked up pretty quickly. Check the events diary on the home page for the details/ dates.

Here are some Wiki facts about Studio Ghibli for your next pub quiz:

  • Eight of Studio Ghibli’s films are among the 15 highest-grossing anime films made in Japan
  • Spirited Away being the highest, grossing over $274 million worldwide
  • The company’s logo features the character Totoro (a large forest spirit) from Miyazaki’s film My Neighbor Totoro.
  • In 2002, Spirited Away won a Golden Bear and an Oscar for Best Animated Feature.
  • In October 2001, the Ghibli Museum opened in Tokyo.
  • The studio is also known for its strict “no-edits” policy in licensing their films abroad due to Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind being heavily edited for the film’s release in the United States as Warriors of the Wind.
  • The ladies toilet at Studio Ghibli are much posher than the gents, because Miyazaki encourages female animators to work with him (this one isn’t from Wiki, I heard it on the radio!)

5 Best City Breaks for Families

Look what I found for you lovely lot who really really need a (city) break, some fantastic food, and a shot of culture for 1/2 term. Here is a bespoke list of the best City Breaks for Half-term : Guest posted by Nadine Mellor the Kids Collection Editor at i-escape kids. Now, think about this one super quickly and get on the phone to your banker, as these places will go faster than you can say “why didn’t I stop watching Made In Chelsea and book that holiday” Don’t say I don’t look after you. xo

1. Casa Capella, Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona is a great city to bring the kids to. They’ll love all that wacky Gaudi design – Park Guell is the perfect introduction – and don’t miss the Museum of Ideas and Invention, which has a slide and a corner of the absurd. There’s even a beach. Stay in this architect-designed apartment, which is in a safe shopping area, has every gadget you could want in the kitchen, and three spacious bedrooms, two bathrooms, designer furniture, black out blinds, state-of-the-art acoustic insulation and laundry facilities.

2. Istanbul Place Apartments, Istanbul, Turkey

Even hard-to-please teens and tweens will get a kick out of exploring one of the world’s most fascinating cities. This complex of seven stylish apartments in the bohemian Galata district makes a great base for sightseeing. Take them on a boat trip up the Bosphorus, up the dizzying Galata Tower, to marvel at the Haghia Sophia or the extraordinary relics and blood-curdling history at Topkapi Palace, or shopping in the Grand Bazaar which contains thousands of shops and bags of local colour.

3. Vinorhady Boutique Apartment, Prague, Czech Republic

Live like a local in this super apartment which has one double and one twin bedroom, and is just 15 minutes walk to the centre. Kids will like exploring the castle, cathedral and chocolate museum plus you can take boat trips on the river; there’s a playground near Wenceslas Square. Return to kids TV channels and WiFi; and for those kids unwilling to give Czech cuisine a go, you can whip up child-friendly fare in the modern kitchen.

4. Jnane Tamsna, Marrakech, Morocco

For a really exotic half-term break and (nearly) guaranteed sunshine, book into this delightful rambling hotel spread over five houses in a walled estate on the outskirts of this colourful city. Here the whole family can revel in extensive gardens, ideal for hide and seek, plus five large swimming pools (one is even heated). Kids have a host of interesting activities to try from learning Arabic calligraphy to playing tennis, Moroccan cooking lessons and camel riding.

5. Apartment 43, Jerez de la Frontera, Spain

Set in the heart of the beautiful car-free old town, this sleek, light-filled two-bedroom apartment has been cleverly conceived within a former nobleman’s mansion house, and is best for slightly older kids. Who will be impressed that the sound system synchs to smartphones; as are parents by the swish kitchen and wealth of yummy eateries and food markets on the doorstep. Outside are plazas, playgrounds, botanical gardens, and beaches just a 20 minute-drive away.

 

5 Best Places Kids Eat Free in London

kids eatin

1. Mark Hix Group

Monday to Friday 4pm – 6pm, and on the weekends from 12pm – 6pm (except on Saturday at Chop House it is only between 5pm-6pm) for all children under 10 years old when accompanied by a dining adult at the following HIX restaurants : Tramshed & Soho & Chop House

2. Sophie’s Steakhouse

Kids eat free at the Covent Garden restaurant on Sundays. The ‘special of the day’ is the ultimate Sunday Roast, just like ‘mummy’ would make. Roasted rib, sirloin or rump is served with a giant Yorkshire pud, roast tatties, parsnips, carrots, green beans, lashings of gravy & horseradish cream. Not to be missed, just try & leave space for our homemade apple, pear & blackberry crumble. Go online to their website and down load the voucher here.

3. Museums : Tate Modern* & British Museum

Tate Modern : Kids can eat for free* in the café when an accompanying adult buys a main course from the menu.*Valid at lunchtime only for children aged 12 or under, for one child eating with an accompanying adult in either the café or the restaurant on level 6. Subject to availability.

British Museum : At the Gallery Cafe kids eat free.

4. Belgo

Locations at Covent Garden : Centraal, Bromley, Camden and Kingsway. The best ever moules & frites in town, with great chicken, fish, pasta and ‘real’ sausages for the non-mussel lovers.  At weekends kids eat free with one main course per adults.

4a. Smollensky’s

Your genuine American restaurant, that was even a hit back in the ’70’s (someone told me, not that I ever visited with my Dad, and adored the coke-floats!). Big on ribs, steak and burgers, and pasta, with a decent kids menu with cheese burgers, rack in’ ribs, and super cool cocktails and ice cream floats, like the Spiders, Potters Potion, The Pirate and Chocolate Monkey. Venues in The Strand, and Canary Wharf. Note, Kids eat free on Saturday only.

5. Bodean’s BBQ

Kids eat for free between 12-3pm for every full priced adult meal purchased. Venues in Soho, Clapham, Fulham and Tower Hill.

Discounts & Offers

If you are keen to be ahead of the hungry then keep an eye out for the offers, promotions and discounts available at various websites, shopping centres, and many of them that run via Facebook and twitter .

Be sure to check this lot of family friendly places ; Westfield Mall kids club members get lots of food offers within the restaurants as well as;  Pizza Express, Dim T (Noodles & Dim Sum), Belgo (Belgian moles & Frites), Wagamama (noodles, stir fry & ramen), Rainforest Cafe (American), Giraffe (International), Yo Sushi (Sushi), The Butlers Wharf Chop House kids eat free during various school holidays (booking required), and our family favourite Chipotle (Mexican).

Also if you are looking for a smart place in town, that are child friendly, then search here at Square Meal or use site Toptable for general offers on your overall bill. You can also read more about the Out to Lunch campaign set up by the Sustainable Restaurant Association here.

5 of the Best Beautifully Designed Books for Kids

maps book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Maps (Big Picture Press) Aleksandra Mizielinska & Daniel Mizielinski

This book of maps is a visual feast for readers of all ages, with lavishly drawn illustrations from the incomparable Mizielinskis. The maps show not only borders, cities, rivers, and peaks, but also places of historical and cultural interest, eminent personalities, iconic animals and plants, cultural events and many more fascinating facts associated with every region.

almost everything book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Almost Everything (Roaring Brook Press) Joelle Jolivet

A skyscraper? An igloo? A high-speed train? A horse and cart? Encyclopedic and stylish, Almost Everything is full of things both familiar and unexpected, arranged in simple categories — buildings, transportation, costumes, plants, animals, and much more. The wealth of detail and oversize design is matched by bold, dramatic block print art, in a book that will capture and hold young children’s attention.

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3. Books (Ammo Books) Murray McCain & John Alcorn

BOOKS! by Murray McCain and John Alcorn, the beloved classic children’s book originally published in 1962, is now re-released for the first time in a new, large format.

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4. The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Penguin Putnam) Eric Carle

The grandfather of all classic children’s books, that is still as popular as ever.

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5. The Invisible Kingdom (Hutchinson) Rob Ryan

THE INVISIBLE KINGDOM is about a small boy, a big imagination and learning to be your own person

Oh… and here are a couple of others that were too good not to be included…

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Paul Thurlby’s Alphabet (Templar Publishing) Paul Thurlby

Discover an alphabet like no other! In his first children’s book, highly-collected graphic artist Paul Thurlby creates an amazing world where each letter of the alphabet becomes its word. From B for bounce, with two bouncy balls, to Y for yoga, with a stretching yoga instructor, this is a stunning alphabet that helps to make the shape of each letter memorable for first readers

I want my hat back cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Want My Hat Back (Walker) Jon Klassen

The bear’s hat is gone, and he wants it back. Patiently and politely, he asks the animals he comes across, one by one, whether they have seen it. Each animal says no, some more elaborately than others. But just as it he begins to lose hope, lying flat on his back in despair, a deer comes by and asks a rather obvious question that suddenly sparks the bear’s memory and renews his search with a vengeance. Told completely in dialogue, this quirky take on the classic repetitive tale plays out in sly illustrations laced with visual humour and winks at the reader with a wry irreverence that will have kids of all ages thrilled to be in on the joke.

All books are available at your friendly independent book store, and if you can’t see them on the shelf, you bet that they will order it for you. Enjoy xo