5 of the Best Children’s Theatres in London

1. Discover Children’s Story Centre (Stratford, near the new Westfield)

Discover Children’s Story Centre is a place where children (aged 0-11) and their families can enjoy time together playing, reading, and get fully immersed in the ‘Story Room’ hands on exhibitions all aimed to support literacy and thinking skills through creative play (supporting the school curriculum).

In a very relaxed and stimulating environment the story centre offers a range of events, from on site workshops, a book shop, cafe, family art activities, a literature programme led by children’s writers and illustrators, lots of community and education projects, and artist residencies in schools as well as training for professionals that work with children and families.

Once inside you will be surrounded by the indoor trail, where you can explore a secret cave, make a spoon puppet, have a tea party, find the giant’s legs, slide down a magic tower, dance on noisy polka dots and dress up in a weird and wonderful costume. There is also a huge outdoor adventure play area where you can slide down a monster’s tongue, climb on a space craft, sail away in a pirate ship, enjoy a story in the story glade and play with giant musical instruments.

Now in the know, you can even book a birthday party (these get booked up weeks in advance) with their experienced Story Builders. You can choose from a Hootah, Jungle, Fairies and Elves or Space parties (from Saturday 7 April). Prices are £9.50 per person. Don’t forget to check what exhibition is showing at their Story Studio when you visit. The exhibition is always designed in conjunction with a children’s author or illustrator and theatre performers.

Discover : 383-387 High St, E15 4QZ : 020 8536 5555

2.  Artsdepot (North Finchley)

One of the leading venues in North London for the arts for families and adults. They offer fantastic touring theatre for young kids, as well as puppetry, craft sessions workshops and courses. They have a permanent soft play area just outside the theatre for the toddling kids that need to jump around, art installations, book swaps, drawing events, art activities, and even free street circus workshops for 14-19 year olds every Friday night (ends 4/April 2014).

ArtsDepot : 5 Nether Street, Tally Ho Corner, North Finchley, London N12 0GA : Box office : 020 8369 5454

3. Unicorn Theatre (London Bridge)

Situated in a glass fronted corner building a mighty stones thrown from The Thames, The Unicorn Theatre was founded by Caryl Jenner as a touring company in 1947 with a commitment to giving children a valuable and often first ever experience of quality theatre, and a philosophy that ‘the best of theatre for children should be judged on the same high standards of writing, directing, acting and design as the best of adult theatre’. You can search for shows by age, starting at 0-4 years, 4-7 years, 7-12 years and 13+, and they always have a vibrant and charming selection of the best family performance around.
We are huge fans of their work, have never seen a duff performance, and with scooters in tow we love to make a day of it, and zoom up the river side, dodging tourists, and stopping for a Monmouth Coffee at Borough Market. They work hard to make their space totally family friendly with book corners, Saturday activities (12-1.30pm) and super cheap theatre tickets for members of  the UP club, and always work with schools offering in-school workshops, teachers packs, discounted group rates. They offer some of the best on site drama training for kids ranging from Drama holiday workshops which will produce a play to family and friends at the end of the week (£300 for the week, 25% sibling discount), The Young Company which is their resident project for young Londoners age 13- 18 during term time (Free). Oh! and to add to the list you can have a fantastic birthday party there, complete with theatre tickets, cupcakes, decorations, a party table AND a balloon and present for the birthday boy/girl all for £185. Yippee, when are we going ?

Unicorn Theatre: 147 Tooley Street: Southwark, London SE1 2HZ : BOX OFFICE: 020 7645 0560

4. The Little Angel Theatre (Islington)

A UK institution that even I was part of back in the (ahem) 1970’s, when we would make the pilgrimage from Clapham in my Mum’s well-loved ruby-red mini to see the best, most warming and breathtaking puppet shows.

Little Angel Theatre is ‘the Home of British Puppetry’ and one of only three building-based puppet theatres in England. The venue itself is set behind uber-cool Upper Street, yet feels like you could have found it at the back of red riding hoods forest, on an island in Norway. The 100 seat theatre stands side-by-side with the workshop, where their puppets are developed, carved and constructed. They offer an imaginative Education Programme working with schools, youth and community groups, particularly in Islington and the surrounding boroughs. They also run participation activities such as our Saturday Puppet Club, Crafty Kids Club and Youth Theatre, and regular Kids Fun Days and holiday clubs. Read more about the kids courses and their annual puppetry festival Suspense here.

5. Polka Theatre (Wimbledon)

One of the UK’s leading theatres for young people, with patrons Sir Alan Ayckbourn, Sophie Dahl, Malorie Blackman OBE and Sir Kenneth Branagh, and Peter Glanville (X-Little Angel) as Artistic Director, Polka’s mission is ‘to spark the imagination and fuel a sense of discovery in children from every background. We do this through thrilling world-class theatre and a creative programme of learning, in a welcoming and stimulating environment.’

Polka’s work is a programme of learning that encourages children to explore and develop creatively. Every Polka show is supported by a learning programme. These can range from after-show talks, family days, post show events, activity packs, out-of-school clubs and summer schools. They cover a wide range of performance skills from storytelling to puppetry. They offer mini performances of their shows for toddlers of  , that run around 30 mins, and ‘autism friendly’ relaxed performances where they lower the sound levels, dimmed the lights so the auditorium will not be in complete darkness and provided a chill out area.

Polka Theatre240 Broadway, Wimbledon, London SW19 1SB : Enquiries : +44 (0)20 8543 4888 

Others theatres to check out…

Soho Theatre : Comedy Project, Playwright projects, comedy in schools, & look out for the Babies & Toddlers Soho Screamer : These extra 11am performances are exclusively available to parents with under one-year-olds. The content of the show remains the same, but lights remain on to make it easier … No-one will mind if your baby cries, you walk around or change nappies during the show.

The Millfield Theatre & Dugdale Centre in Tottenham, Jacksons Lane Theatre in Highgate (Archway Road), Greenwich Theatre, The Tricycle in Kilburn and The Barbican,

PLEASE drop us a comment with your favourite theatres, shows, workshops, performers, pop-ups, youth theatres … you know how we love to be in the picture, and we’re depending on you to show us your jazz hands. Break a little leg my darling!