Category Archives: 5 Best

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 Best Family October Half Term London Events

I hope you are well and really looking forward to making the most of 1/2 term for us with school aged kids… and for those of you with pint-sized babes not at school, then it’s that time when the venues become even more alive, so come and join us.

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To keep you up to speed, I’ve started an enterprising approach to getting us all out to these fantastic events. I’ve set up a company My Culture Club that curates all the best family things to do, and allows you book your tickets for through the website in one place.

No longer will you have to trawl between different websites, nor most importantly ever miss out on the best tickets in town again, as I will do all of this for you … and there are even a few goody bags, and smiles thrown in for good measure.

Here are my top 5 events for the October Half Term

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Judith Kerr in Conversation at the Unicorn Theatre (Age 8+).

Julia is one of the nation’s most celebrated and beloved authors. Join the Guardian children’s books editor Julia Eccleshare and Judith for a fascinating chat about escaping from Hitler, creating Mog and the Tiger, and about her latest book Mister Cleghorn’s Seal inspired by Judith’s father. There will be time to ask your own questions too.

Event Details ; Unicorn Theatre, London Bridge, SE1. Sunday, October 23, 2016 1:00pm  1:45pm

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Family Science Day ‘Surprising Senses’ at the RI (Families welcome, activities aimed at 6+)

It’s time for Family Fun Day at the Royal Institute. The team at the Ri will fill it to the brim with a sensational set of demonstrations, experiments and talks. This time, explore the limits of the human senses and get your hands, noses, tongues, eyes and ears ready for an unforgettable experience.

Drop in anytime to enjoy the short talks in the famous lecture theatre and get stuck in to experiments, creative activities and making things to take home. Suitable for children aged 6-12, though older and younger siblings and friends are very welcome.  There are activities on for everyone to do together.

Event Details; Royal Institution, Albemarle Street, W1, Sunday, October 30, 2016, 11:00am  4:00pm

Please note though, they don’t have any childcare facilities, so you’ll need to stay with your children at all times.The day is fully flexible, so you can drop in for 30 minutes, or stay for the whole five hours. Most people say they find there’s enough here to fill at least three hours. The event is especially suited to 6/7 year olds, but everyone is welcome. Tickets : Adults £16 & 3 – 18 year olds £9

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Family Fashion Workshop at the V&A Museum (Age 5+)

The Make-It family workshops at the V&A never disappoint. As to be expected with the award winning museum dedicated to nurturing and displaying the best of the creative industries, they know their onions. This workshop is bound to be seriously creative one, inspiring mini designers to produce some real couture.

Event Details; Art Studio in the Education Centre, V&A Museum, South Kensington, SW7, Tuesday, October 25, 2016, 10:30am  12:30pm

Very Limited Tickets, Advance booking essential. For 5-12 year olds. £12.00 per child, advance booking essential. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Max. 1 adult per child Recommended for ages 5+. There are two sessions for this event, one at 12.30 and the other at 2.30. If you would like to book for the afternoon session, please email me directly, and I will set up another booking page. sian.gwilliam@me.com.

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Dinosaurs : Monster Families Exhibition at the Horseman Museum (All Ages)

This museum is one of the most popular family stop offs for anyone passing through South London. It’s a must for Natural History lovers, and fans of all things scaly and covered in feathers. In the final weeks of this show, you will see life-size models of dinosaurs, the cast of an extinct Elephant Bird egg, and get stuck in to interactive learning stations.

Event Details; THE HORNIMAN PUBLIC MUSEUM AND PUBLIC PARK TRUST 100 London Road, Forest Hill, London SE23 3PQ

Under 3’s go free, Family Tickets £17, Adults £7, Children £4 (Image © Luis Rey)

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Around The World In 80 Days, Polka Theatre, Wimbledon (Ages 6-11)

Based on Jules Verne’s famous novel, Around the World in 80 Days is set to takes you on a musical adventure, and a high speed, mad-cap, transcontinental, race against the clock! For all the kids that thought Phileas Fogg was a rapper from NY, or a type of crisp, this show has already served an essential purpose in introducing families to Phil himself, and his faithful servant Passepartout. The plan is quite simple; navigate the globe in just 80 days.

Main Stage, 2 hours including interval, Tickets £13.50 | Concessions £10, £1.50 transaction charge per booking with the venue

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About

My Culture Club is your family events diary & personal concierge. I hand-pick the most interesting and most popular events in town, and schedule them way in advance so you can book your tickets in one place. I get discounts on tickets where where I can, and only choose the best seats for small people, I’m quite fussy, so you can be certain that if I wouldn’t pay for it myself, I certainly would ask you to.

5 Best Family Events to Book at The Royal Albert Hall

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A packed Royal Albert Hall at a BBC Proms concert © Chris Christodoulou

Opened in 1871 to fulfil Prince Albert’s vision of a central hall to promote the arts and sciences, the Hall is a registered charity that remains true to his founding ambitions. It hosts over 400 events a year in its secondary space, the Elgar Room, and beyond, broadening the Hall’s appeal to incorporate younger and more diverse audiences.

Its Education & Outreach programme reaches more than 150,000 participants each year, working with schools, young people and the community, as well as other charities such as Music for Youth, as part of its extensive public benefit remit.

Their regular family strands like Storytelling take a break over the summer (whilst the proms happen) but make a note to go to one, they are a hot ticket in town.

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Up family film screening as part of the Festival of Film
1. Family Screening of Up & Workshop on Saturday 29 October 2016 (Doors: 10:00am, 1:15pm, Starts: 10:30am, 1:30pm)

First up on the list is a Family film screening and workshop of the movie Up, read more here, which is part of The Royal Albert Hall’s Festival of Film (27 October – 6 November) which celebrates the magic of the movies, while shining a spotlight on cinema’s most stunning scores

The workshop will be led by musicians from the Royal Albert Hall’s resident Education & Outreach ensemble Albert’s Band. It will explore the film’s theme of going on an adventure to create new stories and music.

Tickets are available as an add-on after you have added tickets to the Family Film Screening of Up to your online basket, for just £6 per person.

All adults and children attending the workshop require a ticket, and all children must be accompanied by an adult. The workshop will run from 1.30pm – 3.00pm. The Film is rated certificate U. There is Unreserved theatre-style seating. All children must be accompanied by an adult. The Duration: 96 minutes

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2. INDEPENDENCE DAY LIVE ( FEATURING PRE-FILM TALK FROM DAVID ARNOLD) on Thursday 22 September 2016 (Doors: 6:15pm, Starts: 7:00pm)

Watch the movie Independence Day with Live Orchestra (12a) at this 20th anniversary show. The event kicks off with a pre-show talk from composer David Arnold, discussing his work scoring Independence DaySherlock, five 007 films and the London 2012 closing ceremony. Then the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, conducted by Nicholas Dodd, will take to the stage to provide live orchestral accompaniment to the movie on the big screen above.

The Film is rated certificate U, There is unreserved theatre-style seating, All children must be accompanied by an adult, Duration: 96 minutes

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War Horse illustration

3. War Horse: The Story in Concert (Thu 27 Oct) 

You will see the author take to the stage of the Royal Albert Hall to read his poignant, emotionally-charged novel, as the RPCO play a specially-arranged score by Adrian Sutton and John Tams, inspired by the music from the National Theatre’s hit West End production.

Published in 1982, the book was shortlisted for the Whitbread Book Award and became a beloved bestseller. It was turned into a hit National Theatre production in 2007, and then a hugely successful Steven Spielberg film four years later.

TICKETS : War Horse: The Story in Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, London, SW7 2AP, Thursday 27 October, 7:30pm, Tickets: £25-70, 020 7589 8212 / www.royalalberthall.com

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4. My Great Orchestral Adventure, Age 3+ ( Wednesday 26 October 2016, Doors: 12:15pm, 3:45pm, Starts: 1:00pm, 4:30pm)

This half-term family concert is aimed at children aged 3+ as a first magical introduction to a symphony orchestra. It will feature music that includes everything from ‘Going on a Bear Hunt’ to Wagner to Star Wars. 

The conductor of the orchestra has lost his baton and is very unhappy. Come join them on a magical adventure to try and find it and help bring happiness back to the orchestra. There will be singing, dancing and best of all, a full symphony orchestra to bring the adventure to life.

Under 3s can attend and need to buy a ticket if they require a seat. Babes in arms do not need to buy a ticket.

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5. E.T. the Extra Terrestrial in Concert ( Wednesday 28 December 2016, Doors: 1:15pm, 6:15pm, Starts: 2:00pm, 7:00pm)

Following Raiders of the Lost Ark and the four sell-out shows of  Jurassic Park screenings, this astonishing Steven Spielberg/John Williams collaboration will receive its Royal Albert Hall debut, with the legendary score played live on stage by the Royal Philharmonic Concert orchestra.

This film has been rated U. The film will feature full original dialogue, which will also be subtitled.

 

5 Facts About The Wonderful Gifford’s Circus

Cover photo and images credit : Hywel Jenkins

Are you joining the  ‘My Culture Club‘  group trip on Friday 8th July to see this wonderful troupe of circus entertainers at Chiswick House? Because you are more than welcome to (leave a comment below if you want a ticket).

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Now the formal invitation is out the way, I have to say that myself and the #busstopkids are just a little excited about going to see Nell Gifford and her acclaimed show. The company (formed in 2000) has only ever had glowing reviews, and as I found out at the school gates last week, has a solid fan base, of families returning year after year. Sign up to my social media (on the home page) as I will be sure to be sharing photos and fun during our trip in July.

Here are a few facts, so you can impress your friends with general circus chit chat over the weekend. xo

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One of their performers Gabor Vosteen who played Mozart on five recorders, three in his mouth, one in each nostril.

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Tweedy is the name of the circus clown, he is famous in his own right, has is own website, merchandise and was born in Aberdeen.

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Lindsay Pugh, a costume designer for films [including Tim Burton’s Charlie And The Chocolate Factory], has hand made costumes for Giffords in the past.

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As the show closes, all the children are encouraged to dance in the ring.

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Nell Gifford’s older sister, is Emma Bridgewater, a well-known pottery designer.

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And one for luck … It takes four months to train the animals for their parts in the show (and that bear there is not quite as clever as she seems).

 

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

 

5 Weekend Family Events for London Kids 

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1) Imperial College Festival
This festival has hands-on science experiments, music workshops, comedy, dance, cookery and more, for the whole family. Free, just turn up, 12pm, until 8 May

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2) The Showstoppers’ Fantastical Story, Udderbelly, Southbank (Age 6+)

A team of award-winning West End improvisers explore magical kingdoms as you decide what happens next. But grown-ups take heed – they only take suggestions from kids…

Saturday 7 May, Sunday 19 June & Saturday 2 July, 1.30pm

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3) St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, WC2
All ages Creative family fun with a historical twist. Choose from over 100 replica brasses from churches and cathedrals across the UK and try brass rubbing with a range of specialist papers and metallic waxes. Saturday – 10:00am, Sunday – 11:30am

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4) Under the Sea Family discovery Day, British Museum, WC1

All ages A day of creative activities. Make your own artwork, take part in storytelling sessions, and explore the galleries. Saturday – 12:00pm to 6.00pm

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5) Covent Garden May Fayre

Choose from a puppet festival, workshops, stalls, live music and a quick visit to the Dr Martens shop. The May Fayre is a very British affair, celebrating Mr Punch and Judy in all their glory, and apparently they will feel very at home in Covent Garden, as that’s where it all started back in 1662. Sunday from 1030am.

Credit image : V&A Childhood museum

 

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.

 

 

10 Best TED Talks about Education

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“Before she was my daughter, now I am her father” – Ziauddin Yousafzai

TED Talks are a major source of inspiration for educators who need a morale boost, a discussion starter, or a new approach to their work. Thanks to Edudemic for putting this 10 Best list together. Please share your favourite TED talks in the comments box below, we love a personal trip off at the Bus Stop.

The Danger of Silence

Poet and teacher Clint Smith encourages viewers to speak up against ignorance and injustice. He begins with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” It is upon those words that he bases one of his classroom principles — tell your truth. This is the TED Talk that you should share with your students to show them that silence can be dangerous, and that their voices and opinions have value.

Why Lunch Ladies are Heroes

Children’s book author Jarrett Krosoczka focuses on lunch ladies in his graphic novels and his TED Talk. He points out that cafeteria workers often are disrespected despite the work they do to care for students, from reporting concerns to spearheading projects to feeding kids during summer breaks. Krosoczka reminds educators that one way to foster a culture of gratitude and thankfulness in schools is to begin with the lunch ladies. By doing so, you can create a more productive and positive atmosphere in your own school.

My Daughter, Malala

Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman for advocating for girls’ education in Pakistan, and recently became the youngest Nobel Prize recipient in history. Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, a Pakistani educator, explains that education gives girls in developing countries an identity and is equivalent to emancipation. He describes the power of Malala’s advocacy, and his message of not clipping her wings resonates with educators who understand that every child deserves access to an equal education. Yousafzai reminds educators of the value of their work and instills the power education can give to a child.

Embrace the Near Win

Art historian Sarah Lewis describes the moment she realized not every piece of art is a masterpiece, and relates the almost-failures and near-wins to success and motivation. She explains that success motivates us, but near-wins propel us further; for example, silver medalists are more motivated for their next competition than bronze medalists. This is an important lesson for educators. First, it reminds us that our students need to see the value in their mistakes. Second, it reminds us why we must encourage students to set short-term goals.

Success, Failure, and the Drive to Keep Creating

After facing six years of rejection, author Elizabeth Gilbert attained unimaginable success with her book, “Eat, Pray, Love.” Yet she felt just like she had as a failure. She explains that failure and success catapult us so far from our norm that we lose ourselves. The only way to handle success and failure is to get back to your home, the thing that you love so much that the results are inconsequential. Teachers today face more criticism and backlash than ever before, but with Gilbert’s advice, we can continue teaching with diligence. Our home is in the classroom, doing what we love.

Teach Teachers how to Create Magic

A veteran teacher, Christopher Emdin wants teachers to learn how to create magic to engage students and teach at the same time. He points out that teacher prep programs do not instruct in engaging ways, yet administrators expect teachers to engage students. Emdin advocates for teacher training programs to focus on basic engagement skills by allowing student teachers to visit places featuring engagement masters, from rap concerts, to Sunday services in black churches, to barber shops. The talk itself serves as a model of engaging instruction, and educators can immediately apply Emdin’s strategies in their own classrooms.

How Your “Working Memory” Makes Sense of the World

Educational psychologist Peter Doolittle’s humorous, insightful talk describes how important, yet limited, our working memory is. Working memory allows us to do things like store immediate experiences, pull information from long-term memory, and process knowledge for our current goals. People with high working memory capacity are effective storytellers, do well on standardized tests, and have high writing and reasoning abilities. While working memory has limited capacity, this video shows educators how they can use strategies to help students take in information and process it by allowing them to talk and write about their learning, practice using imagery, and structure their knowledge in an organized way.

Every Kid Needs a Champion

An educator for 40 years, Rita Pierson understands the importance of educators having faith in their students and connecting with them on a meaningful, personal level. With humor and passion, Pierson speaks from the heart and advocates for relationships between teachers and students. She says, “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like” and offers personal examples of how creating relationships with students made her job rewarding and students’ achievements possible. This wildly popular TED Talk is one that no educator, practicing or retired, should miss, because it reminds us of the crucial role we play in our students’ lives.

How to Escape Education’s Death Valley

Sir Ken Robinson is well known for his humorous, yet insightful education talks. In this talk, he addresses the dropout rate and numbers of disengaged students in America. He highlights how current educational practices work against the three principles that are essential for the human mind to flourish, and clearly explains how successful systems support learning and teaching. Using a metaphor of a dormant “death valley,” Robinson advocates for a revolution to inspire true teaching and learning to help our educational system flourish. Educators will appreciate Robinson’s frank discussion and consider how they can get their students to flourish.

The Key to Success? Grit

Angela Lee Duckworth left a consulting job to teach seventh-grade math in a New York public school, and realized that IQ was not the top factor separating successful students from struggling ones. After leaving the classroom to pursue a psychology degree, Duckworth studied students in a range of settings and found that a factor called “grit” predicts success. Grit means having the stamina, passion, and perseverance to pursue long-term goals. For educators to build grit in students, they must foster a growth mindset in kids and teach them failure is not permanent. Rather, students need to learn from mistakes and keep moving forward. An essential lesson teachers should incorporate into their daily educational tasks.

TED Talks cover a multitude of education-related topics, and there are other talks available for educators and students to watch together that may change the way you teach and think.

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.

5 Best STEM Toys for Kids

STEM is an acronym for ScienceTechnologyEngineering, and Mathematics. STEM toys encourage kids to learn more about these different subjects by applying each to the real world. They make education exciting for kids and help to develop key skills.

If you’re keen to know more about STEM and its place in the classroom, take a look here at the National STEM Centre learning website. They provide STEM subject teachers with access to a huge range of teaching support materials for all ages from 4+, a good 5 mins worth of surfing for anyone excited by innovation and creativity.91rFAXr3ktL._SL1500_.jpg

 

Kidz Labs Magnet Science £10.99 (Age 6+)

The Kidz Labs Magnet Science is new to Great Gizmos this year. Perform fun magnet games and experiments. Learn the science principles involved. Contains a super magnet set that could be transformed to perform 10 fun experiments and games. Make a super power horse shoe magnet or a magnet wand. Construct a super magnet racer, a yacht compass or a mysterious dangler. You can also have great fun playing a fishing game or creating a magnetic sculpture.91gNAiyeVEL._SL1500_.jpg

Orchard Toys Counting Caterpillars £8.50 (Age 2+)

Collect one to ten in this first colour and number game. Can you be the first player to find all the numbers to complete your caterpillar? A fun colour matching game that helps to teach number sequencing.61UZ01jveRL._SL1000_.jpg

Gears! Gears! Gears! Beginner’s Building Set £22 (Ages 3+)

Learning Resources Gears! Gears! Gears! Beginner’s Building Set. This great value set offers endless colourful construction fun! Set includes a box overflowing with gears, cranks, connectors, interconnecting base plates and Activity Guide.

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Stick Insect Kit £15 (by Insect Lore) Age 5+

Is it a twig or an insect? Well, both, kind of – it’s an insect that looks just like a twig and acts like one too! Raise Indian Stick Insects with this complete kit. Feed them bramble, ivy or privet and watch them shed their skins and grow 6 to 10cm. Watch them mimic a stick swaying in the wind. Kit includes 30cm tall spring up habitat, voucher for Indian Stick Insect eggs, brush to make transferring easy.

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Little Labs: Stepping Into Science by Thames & Cosmos £27 (Age 5+)

Begin a lifetime of scientific investigation and understanding with 25 fun experiments in five key areas: nature, physics, chemistry, air, and water. Learn what plants need to grow, build a barometer, see how water climbs, watch plants sweat, and investigate plant propagation.

Discover how a magnifying glass enlarges, how colours mix, how static electricity attracts, how sundials tell time, and how a motion picture works. Investigate air pressure, air flow, hovercraft, paper airplanes, and suction. Write secret messages, float a paper clip, blow super bubbles, observe capillary action, and test displacement.

Build a soap-driven boat, mix oil and water, experiment with evaporation, paint with sugar, and watch a balloon inflate itself. With a 48-page guidebook, Stepping into Science teaches science fundamentals with step-by-step, hands-on experiments, while also introducing children to the scientific method itself.

Bus Stop Note: As I’m not affiliated to any retailers (and this bus stop is totally non money making), and feel that linking the above to suggested stores would be too much favouritism at this time of year, I’ll let you search the best shops to buy them.

 

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 of the Best Bespoke Stationery Shops and Designers

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HoneyTreePublishing

The HoneyTree team are a fully fledged British success story. They have grown their personalised stationery company from their farmhouse kitchen table in Somerset. It is now a thriving small business, where the staff are a major part of the family, and each artist receives a commission when their illustration is chosen.

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Run by husband and wife team Lizbeth (Head Artist and Social Media Belle) and Seb Galbraith Helps (the Business Head), the company offer every type of stationery from jam jar labels, save the date cards, hand illustrated prints, (everything is personalised and that’s what makes this company so unique) corporate and wedding stationery, and that’s not half of what’s on the menu.

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They also have a fantastic new monthly subscription postal gift service for kids called Young HoneyTree, where each month kids will receive a bundle of beautifully hand picked stationery, to inspire them to put pen to paper… we recently received one and the #busstopkids will be giving their feedback very soon.

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Present & Correct

Run by two graphic designers, this store hidden away behind Sadlers Wells, is a showcase for the things we have enjoyed since school. You will find they have a long-term obsession with stationery. Paper and office objects which are inspired by homework, the post office and school.

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Liberty

The store with the best of the rest of the best. Liberty print anything is the stuff that dreams are made of. Here at their online or real life store you will find a selection of goodies from a range of procured designers from across the world. But, it’s the genuine article that makes this stationery stand out from the crowd. The Liberty printed books, pencils, note cards and even the little 10″ ruler for £5.75. It all has a special place in a true stationary lovers heart, especially the tailors and haberdasher’s out there.

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Marby & Elm

Marby & Elm Store’s studio space is in Clerkenwell, London. A hit with the cool and stylish kids on the block, Marby & Elm is stocked in Liberty, Melrose & Morgan Deli in Primrose Hill, and all the independent shops in town worth knowing about.

They use traditional printing methods, using an Adana flatbed Q H with metal and wood type ranging from 6 point Gill Sans to 72 point Caslon Old Face type. They also use illustrative blocks made from their own drawings alongside vintage illustrative blocks.

The letterpress printing process is a time consuming but highly rewarding one. It involves setting up movable metal or wood type, inking them and then pressing the letters to force an indentation in the paper.

The result is a de-bossed impression which when you run your fingers along it feels and looks very different to mass- produced digital print. Each piece of card or paper is hand –cut, printed with hand- mixed ink and hand-fed into the letterpress printer to create a uniquely crafted piece of stationery. I bet you know more about printing methods than you did 10mins ago.

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Run by Lucy, and her small team, they scour the globe to bring together an eclectic collection. You’ll find desk accessories & stationery from Kate Spade, luxury letterpress cards from Sugar Paper LA, hand-painted illustrations from Rifle Paper Co, ‘objets’ from fashion house Maison Margiela, neon Japanese iPad covers and much more.
Even if it’s just as a sofa surfing moment, checking out what’s happening over at Quill is a mighty fine and feathery experience. Enjoy.

5 Fun Things Worth Knowing About

  1. How to Explain to a Child That Life Is Difficult

    Overparenting is still in style, despite a lot of evidence against it. While letting children fail is critical to instilling resilience and creativity, it’s often difficult to do. In this episode of If Our Bodies Could Talk, senior editor James Hamblin demonstrates various strategies with writer David Young and his child.

2. Welsh Sheep Farming: A Family’s Tradition ; Video by  Rhys Edwards ; This short documentary by Rhys Edwards about a sheep-farming family in Wales is an uplifting and charming profile—not to mention the lush Welsh countryside is simply beautiful. “The next generation, they’re very keen to follow in our footsteps,” says the red-headed matriarch. For more of Edwards’ work, visit his website. Author: Nadine Ajaka

3. From undead zombies to creepy skeletons: the best new beauty tutorials to transform your look this Halloween (thanks to Stylist over here)

4. Robins Nest incredible Treehouse Hotels in Hesse, Germany feature and photos thanks to the wonderful site Ignant.

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5. The coolest schools in the world (thanks to The Cool Hunter and The Huffington Post here

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My 5 Best, London : Kate Prince, Artistic Director, ZooNation Dance Company

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Kate Prince is a lady that can move in many directions. She has one of the best CV’s in the land of Dance. She is Founder,  Choreographer, Writer and Artistic Director of ZooNation Dance Company which is based at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in Islington, North London.

Not only has she worked for high profile people like Nelson Mandela at his 90th Birthday Party in Hyde Park, and the Beijing Olympic ceremonies, the Tour de France, she also squeezed in West Side Story (with the BBC Symphony), and a production of  Mad Hatters Tea Party at The Royal Opera House in 2014.

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She is also an Associate Artist at the legendary Sadler’s Wells Dance institution in Islington (that’s a huge achievement, worth milking).

My 5 Best London Places : Kate Prince, Artistic Director, ZooNation Dance Company

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  1. Going to the Southbank and walking along the river – seeing anything and everything going on in the area as it’s fantastic!

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2. Hanging out in Clissold Park, it’s the best park in London in my opinion!!

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3. Treating myself to some ‘me’ time at ‘Reflections’ in Whiteleys Shopping Centre for reflexology. An hour of bliss ☺

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4. I love going to our ZAD schools, seeing our young students taking classes in Hip Hop is brilliant.

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5. I love going for a roast lunch on a Sunday with friends my favourite pub is The Chamberlayne, in Kensal Rise. They do a cracking roast!

Photo credit : Deer in Clissold Park, London Borough of Hackney – Photograph by Oxyman

If you want to watch professionally shot digital footage, cast interviews, rehearsal videos and more from the totally brilliant Mad Hatters Tea Partyclick here, and you can get everything for free on The ROH website with the promo code TEAPARTY.

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ZooNation have had huge success with their recent shows; Groove On Down The Road (Southbank), Some Like It Hip Hop (The Peacock), and Into The Hoods, as well as many other acclaimed performances.

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Kate also keeps all this going having just had a super cute daughter ‘Ella’ (isn’t she adorable),

Working closely with her long standing colleague Chantal Spiteri (Manager of ZAD), one of her passions is training and working with young people from the ages of 4-21 years in their schools in West London and at Sadlers Wells in Islington.

ZAD (ZAD Zoonation Academy of Dance) is a place where young people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds come together to build relationships and develop their skills through the shared love and passion for Hip Hop Dance.

Their new venture with The Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith is running ZAD West.  (If you click on the links above, you can see the classes they are running at the moment).

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We are big fans of her show Into The Hoods, Remixed at The Peacock Theatre, which is on a UK Tour.

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Trust me on this one, you will LOVE all her shows, and too become a ZooNation Hip-Hopping groupie.

ZAD About Us

 

5 Best Kids Bookplates and Bookmarks

We’ve just started a book swap in my little girls Year 2 class at school. It’s super simple to set up. I grabbed a basket from the hardware store, and made a painted sign (home made is always best right?) for it. Then all that happens is we send home a bookplate with each child, and they bring in a book they don’t mind parting with, write on the bookplate and stick it in.

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If you think about how excited kids get about wanting to see and play with each others toys, then sharing a book should generate a similar level of excitement I hope! I’ll let you know how we get on, in the meantime here are some beautiful bookplates for you to set you up to start your own book swap. There are lots more over on my Pinterest here.

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If you have time read this earlier post I published which has lots of reading advice from the UK’s top literary organisations, and don’t forget one of the best places to generate a love of reading is just taking a trip to your local library. Giving your little one their own card, allowing them to choose whatever they want, and reading to them, all helps them appreciate the joy of hanging out with words and pictures and you!

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Credits (all came via Pinterest, and can be found on my board see link above)

http://www.better-beginnings.com.au/bookplates.

Ex Libris, Mollusks, 1902 : http://vintageephemera.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Natural%20History#uds-search-results

Vintage Clip Art – Children’s Bookplate – Squirrel – Elf

NOTE : These book plates are free to use for non-commercial purposes only.  Copyright for these artworks belongs to the artists.

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

5 Best Kids Books That Have All the Answers (almost!)

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1.What Happened When in the World (DK)

This is a history book with 60 stunning, specially commissioned historical maps which chart the migration of humans, the spread of the black death, D-day landings and much more.

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Follow the devastating spread of the black death through Europe, the Roman Empire’s expansion to North Africa and the Middle East, and the impact of world war II on the globe. This will surely help you (not the kids) with their ‘A-Star’ homework projects, everyone loves a map don’t they?

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2. Children’s Book of Philosophy (DK)

From Socrates and Aristotle to Kant and Confucius, in this book you will learn about the clever ‘thinking’ people whom have helped shaped our world. Find answers to life’s big questions such as ‘Who am I?’ or ‘Should I ever tell a lie?’ and what philosophy actually is.

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The concepts are shown in simple terms to make them accessible to children and adults alike. The graphics are easy to read, and the book is simply organised and divided into larger sections covering broad themes in philosophy, with biographies of famous philosophers and fascinating thought experiments interspersed throughout. In the tradition of philosophy, you’re never told what to think but instead offered a variety of opinions and theories, and asked questions that make you ponder what you personally believe and why. There’s a philosopher hidden in every one of us right ?

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3. Earth: The Definitive Visual Guide (DK)

This stunning book shows us 400 of the tallest, longest, widest, most significant and most unusual geographical features of planet Earth. Featuring volcanoes, deserts,  and rivers to weather systems, rocks and minerals.

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By learning about the health of our planet you can explore the interaction between people and the environment, from living in volcanic areas to deforestation, to understand the human impact on nature and how we can keep our physical environment. Check out my instagram page sian_gwilliam, it’s full of #busstopnature  photos that will inspire you.

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4. The Big Book of Dinosaurs (DK)

The Big Book of Dinosaurs is wild, scare and packed full of these mysterious creatures from the past that will keep even those that can’t yet read, entertained for hours.

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Children will love spotting all the different dinosaurs – from the fierce meat-eating Tyrannosaurus and the long-necked plant-eating Diplodocus to the heavily armoured Stegosaurus and the city Compsognathus. Definitely one for Santa’s bag this year I think.

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5. The Animal Book (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Animals smooth and spiky, fast and slow, hop and waddle through the two hundred plus pages of the Caldecott Honor artist Steve Jenkins’s most impressive nonfiction offering yet. This Youtube film shows how Steve researches, plans and sketches the book. It’s really interesting, and a quick insight into how a book is written and illustrated. (Translation Zerox = Photocopy!)

Sections such as “Animal Senses,” “Animal Extremes,” and “The Story of Life” burst with wild facts and infographics that will have the whole family asking lots of questions that the kids will love finding out the answer to.

 

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6. Knowledge Encyclopedia

An encyclopedia like no other, the DK Knowledge Encyclopedia uses the latest CGI technology to help us explore everything we’ve ever wanted to know more about, covering space, Earth, nature, the human body, history and culture, and science and technology in incredible detail.

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From 3D images of the sun and the inside of a shark to a 3D DNA strand and a model of Shakespeare’s globe, this is an amazing visual introduction to every aspect of human knowledge.

These books do really deserve a place on your bookshelf, if only to use as a reference if and when you need to fact check.

You can order or buy all of the books above at your local bookshop, or try the wonderful independant Daunt Books in London, they are a very helpful bunch.

The Best-est Wedding Dresses of All Time

This is not a normal post for the Bus Stop, but I was quite drawn to this infographic that is really simple and effective and shows 100 of the most iconic wedding dresses. I think that all those keen on drawing people and dresses, especially little girls who like to sketch Princesses and the like will like this site. If you were wondering who is behind it, it has been created by Vashi the diamond specialists with Illustrations by Pauline Dujancourt.

Here are a few I’ve picked out that should make you smile.

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.

The National Gallery
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?

Tate Modern
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

Great Easter Egg Hunts In London

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(Featured image credit The Wall Street Journal, Kurt Wilberding, Easter Bonnet Parade along New York’s Fifth Avenue)

As my memory gets more hazy as time goes on, I do still have fond memories of hunting for eggs, the odd pound coin and a few treats with my Dad with friends and lots of kids. In fact, back in those days when I would spend the weekends with my Dad, we were always off to a party, and an Easter Party was a perfect excuse. The National Trust are holding various events across the UK. If you are going down the home made route, check out Pinterest for ideas, printables, and even ready made clues. Bonnets at the ready, share your photos with me on instagram sian_gwilliam, we’d love to share the fun you have. x

Kings Cross Easter Fun Day

On Saturday 26th March, head to King’s Boulevard and board their Easter Train for a day of family fun. The special road train will journey to Granary Square, where you’ll meet giant bunnies armed with baskets of yummy treats. Show off your creative skills and take part in the Japanese kawaii-inspired Easter egg decorating competition – you might even win a prize! (All Ages : Free) Saturday 26 March

Easter Egg Hunts at the Cutty Sark 

Pretty much every day in April there is family daily fun at the Cutty Sark. Dance, sing and set sail on an adventure with Nannie, Cutty Sark’s figurehead. Join James Robson, Cutty Sark’s cook, to sing songs, learn sailor skills. Design your own comic strip, or meet Captain Woodget, Cutty Sark’s longest serving master, to learn about life on board the fastest tea clipper. It’s a great place for a day trip, and don’t forget about the Greenwich Market, it’s got your name all over it.

Battersea Park Children’s Zoo Egg Hunt

Kids need to spot the brightly coloured eggs around the zoo. Taking part costs just £1.50 on top of your standard admission fee and if you manage to find all of the eggs, you’ll win a prize! Make sure you find time at midday to visit Pet’s Corner; your kids can help the zoo keeper feed the bunnies!

Gabriel’s Wharf

Down on the Southbank this Saturday there is a cracking time to be had! Kids of all ages can enjoy craft sessions, decorate Easter eggs, make a basket and join the egg hunt. There’s a scavenger hunt for adults too. Free between 12pm-3pm (craft times)

London Wetland Centre Egg Hunt & Activities 

The perfect place to enjoy the start of Spring. Kids will enjoy the Giant Easter Duck Hunt and find the missing ducklings, with BIG yellow ducklings to uncover, it would be hard to miss them! If you can discover them all you’ll win a Cadbury Freddo frog. There is more fun stuff to do, like duck painting, where you can create your own colourful duckling to take home, and themed games.

Sutton House Easter Egg Trails

This Easter, it’s a feast for the kids as well! They can follow the clues around the grounds, learning as they go and being rewarded with a delicious Easter egg at the end of it. The fun starts today (Friday 25th) and again on Bank Holiday Monday from 12-4.30pm, When you’ve found your Cadbury’s chocolate prize join our Very Hungry Caterpillar art activities.£1.50 per egg hunt

Epping Ongar Easter Egg Hunt

Epping Ongar Railway’s hunt will run the length of the railway track from Ongar through to Coopersale, which is the length of 131,579 eggs placed end to end!

Kids will need to find the eggs, with some clues to help them, and any child who completes is entitled to a special Easter prize. You can have your children’s faces painted in an Easter style for £3, join the Easter Bunny’s own disco, the Bunny Hop! Held in a train carriage on Platform 3 at intervals throughout the day (check the times when you get there).

Tickets bought in advance online are the same as standard fares which means a family can travel for a day for just £34.  Events on 25, 26, 27, 28 MARCH

(Featured image credit The Wall Street Journal, Kurt Wilberding, Easter Bonnet Parade along New York’s Fifth Avenue)

5 Best Family Self-Catering Holidays

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With the Easter holidays fast approaching, check out these gorgeous self-catering places to stay which still have space for you and your family, chosen by i-escape.com’s Kids Collection Editor, Nadine.

** check out the Special Offers too **

Alegria : Stay 4 nights, pay 3 : Stay 7 nights, pay 6 and get our special welcome offer: a bottle of local rosé, a welcome breakfast basket and a farewell present.

Elies Hotel : 7 nights for 6 (Low): Stay a week and get one night free. Valid: 01 Jan 2015 – 10 May 2015; 21 Sep 2015 – 31 Dec 2015

The Cottages Charlestown, nr St Austell, Cornwall

These bijoux cottages in a gorgeous little village on the south coast are perfect for small families and those with younger children. Kids will adore being close to the water, learning about Cornwall’s smuggling and seafaring history, and rockpooling and crabbing in and around the harbour. The world-famous Eden Project is only 10 minutes’ drive away and has a Great Eden Egg Hunt scheduled over the holidays where kids follow clues through different botanical habitats. The cottages are tasteful, snug and thoughtfully furnished, all come with private gardens. And homemade meals can be delivered if cooking becomes a chore.

Molino Rio Alajar, Andalucia, Spain

Escape the vagaries of the British weather and head inland an hour and a half from Seville to beautiful bucolic forested countryside is this collection of six sandstone cottages, conceived for families of 4-6 to enjoy a relaxing back-to-nature break. You’re in a National Park with great walking; on site are donkeys, (unheated) pool and paddling pool, tennis court, boules, outdoor chess and table football. A shopping service can be arranged and there are kid-friendly eateries nearby. Your children will instantly make friends with the other guests.

Alegria, Provence, France

Immerse yourselves in quintessentially Provencal landscape at this rural retreat. Each of the colourful contemporary Suites has a new nifty bespoke kitchen island for breakfast and light snacks (you’ll be heading to local markets and bakeries for delicious provisions) and there’s also a microwave for heating up food. The larger Suites have sofabeds, the largest two bathrooms, and all have private terraces with hammocks. There’s a pool, petanque, treehouse and board games, and watersports and sandy beaches at the large nearby lake.

Elies Hotel, Peloponnese, Greece

You get the best of both worlds here: self-catering if you want and a sociable taverna if you don’t. 18 secluded stone cottages of varying sizes are found amongst sun-dappled olive trees just a pebble’s throw from the beach; you get airy uncluttered interiors, covered patios and kitchenettes, and children are free if sleeping on sofabeds. There’s a playground, coves and villages nearby and boat trips to enjoy. And there’s a stay 7 pay for 6 offer to entice you to visit over Easter.

Europa House Apartments, Maida Vale, London

London is brilliant for kids at any time, and especially buzzy over the Easter holidays. There are shows to see (The Railway Children is on at Kings Cross for example), movies to catch (such as Disney’s live action Cinderella), themed activities and special events [thought you could add in links to various posts/events you already feature on your blog about forthcoming Easter events so could cross-pollinate if you see what I mean!]. And after a busy day sightseeing, no better place to flop than these stylish spacious 2-bedroom apartments. My daughter delighted in the kids cupboard labelled ‘Keep Out, Kids Only!’ which is filled with toys, books and games for children to help themselves. The kitchen isn’t enormous but it is well-equipped and a family of four can dine there easily. You get a directory of local eateries and takeaways, and you’re close to lovely grocery shops, tube and buses.

For a full list of super places in the Kids Collection still with Easter holiday availability click here: http://www.i-escape.com/kids-easter

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.

morden hall

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.

fenton house

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 Family London Workshops For Half Term

Families

V&A Museum (South Kensington)

Join the museum team as they celebrate the opening of the new Europe 1600 –1815 galleriesand be inspired by a painting of an incredible procession, The Ommegang from 1616. Read more about the museum on an earlier Bus Stop post here.

You can enjoy free family Pop-up Performances where you experience a riot of colour, noise and an interactive performance. These start on Sat 13 February 2016 – Sun 21 February 2016 Times : 11.00, 13.00 & 15.00.

Alan Villiers aboard the 'Grace Harwar' N61226_tile

Cutty Sark (Greenwich)

Between 15 – 19 February you can join their crew and write a letter to send home, inspired by the letter of a real Cutty Sark sailor. They’ll also be putting your origami skills to the test as you create mini ships. Don’t forget you can also explore the ship using the free family trails.

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BFI (Southbank)

It’s Disney season at the BFI this half term. Choose from Winnie the Pooh (Thursday 18 February 2016 14:30), Frozen (Sunday 06 March 2016 14:30), Winnie the Pooh (Sunday 14 February 2016 14:00) The Princess and the Frog (Monday 15 February 2016 14:30), Tangled (Tuesday 16 February 2016 14:30) , Wreck-It Ralph (Wednesday 17 February 2016 14:30) , Abracadabra… Amphibian Adventures! (Monday 15 February 2016 10:00), It’s Hair-raising! (Tuesday 16 February 2016 10:00), Arcade Alive! (Wednesday 17 February 2016 10:00) and Winnie The Pooh Messy Time for the Very Young (Thursday 18 February 2016 12:30).

The Education team run day long workshops for kids from 8-14 years old (10-4pm) . The subjects are all film based, but they teach a range of skills. In the Abracadabra .. Amphibian Adventures workshop on Monday 15th Feb, the kids will learn to use stop frame technique we’ll be having fun creating spells that magically turn people into frogs… and back again! We’ll also be showing how to sprinkle a bit of magic into films created using brand new editing software and overlays. This workshop includes scripting, drama warm up, dressing up and make up techniques and children work together in age-related groups which are supervised by experienced tutors. Cost per ticket: £27.50 (includes workshop and screening), Siblings are £22.50 each, Take a packed lunch.

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Geffrye Museum (Hackney)

Explore homes from a different century every day from the Tudors and Stuarts, Georgians, Victorians and finally the 20th century. Make candlesticks from clay, crafty clocks and more!

Workshops are running on Tuesday 16 – Friday 19 February, 10.30am – 12.30pm and 2 – 4pm. All activities are free and are for individual children and families and are suitable for children aged 5-16 years old. All workshops are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis 30 minutes before the workshop begins. All children under 11 must be accompanied by an adult.

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Museum of London (Barbican, London Wall)

There are heaps of events running during half term, starting on Saturday 13 until Sunday 21 February 2016. Choose from firefighters to matchgirls, pop stardom to politics, find out what makes a London hero with a week of fun, hands-on activities. They suggest activities are for ages 5+, but that will depend on how happy your kids are with scissors and glue. Most sessions happen at the following times daily 1-1.30pm, 2-2.30pm & 3-3.30pm. Some star at 12.30, best check online to see which day you are looking at.

 

5 Events to See at The WOW Festival 2105

The WOW Festival (Women of the World) takes place at the Southbank Centre between 1 – 8 March 2015. It is a global festival that celebrates the achievements of women and girls and also looks at the obstacles that prevent them from achieving their potential and contributing to the world. I go every year and totally LOVE it.

The line up is worth writing about itself. The contributors are the top players in their field, and the event is relaxed and informal, making the talks, workshops and interviews really engaging. You might not agree with everyone who speaks up, nor should you. That’s the idea, the subjects up for discussion are there to get you thinking, and will certainly move you at some point too.

I’m a seasoned fan. I really feel quite excited about just being there, amongst all the action. Why? Well because there is a certain warmth and feistiness in the air, call that feminism, sister-hood, or a mothers meeting, I’m not fussed, I just love that so many people who get involved are passionate, and all care about women in all their glory.

Jude Kelly_WOW 2012_CREDIT Belinda Lawley

Oh! and what’s more throughout the festival, you get to see the Queen of the Southbank ‘Jude Kelly’ in her full glory, charing debates, and interviewing various impressive people. I bet you 100 cups of tea, that when you see her in action, you too will get a sister-crush on her, she is just a bl**dy brilliant woman!

I wouldn’t blame you for thinking the opposite, but men are hugely welcomed, and in-fact their input is also really appreciated when the issues discussed are so relevant to them in so many very important ways.

WOW 2012 Audience3_CREDIT Belinda Lawley

DAILY or 3-DAY (Friday – Sunday) PASS to the FESTIVAL

WOW Friday is focussed on women in the workplace. Come as part of your professional development and meet with some of the leading brains in business, social enterprise and leadership. Network with women from across the career spectrum and hear from a whole range of professionals in the world of work and entrepreneurship. Other subjects include austerity, male-dominated careers, pay rises, domestic violence and campaigning. Alongside the WOW activities, come and be one of thousands to take part in our speed-mentoring session this year, hosted by a special guest speaker. WOW Saturday and Sunday continues with talks, debates, workshops, seminars and performances to feed your mind, nourish your soul and quench your thirst for knowledge.

Baulkham Hills African Ladies Troupe_Southbank Centre's WOW Festival_credit_Lisa Tomasetti

THE BAULKHAM HILLS AFRICAN LADIES TROUPE

The Baulkham Hills African Ladies Troupe turn tales of suffering into a joyous theatre of humanity. With the help of other African women – singers and actors – they take this opportunity to be who they want, say what they want, and become as amazing as they can be. This is how they celebrate a new beginning in a land of refuge.

Thursday 5 – Saturday 7 March, 7.45pm, Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room, £15, UK PREMIERE

Caitlin Moran

CAITLIN MORAN IN CONVERSATION WITH FRIENDS

She talks to Southbank Centre Artistic Director Jude Kelly about her new book, How to Build a Girl, and invites her friends and those who inspire her to take us through their favourite bits.

Saturday 7th March, 7.30pm, Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall

No Heart, No Guts, No Glory_WOW 2015_L-R, Mariam Rashid, Shifaa Arfan, Seherish Mahmood, Freyaa Ali (Credit- Christopher Nunn)

NO GUTS, NO HEART, NO GLORY

Based on interviews with Muslim female boxers, this powerful production was devised in collaboration with five 16 – 23-year-old Muslim women and former national champion Ambreen Sadiq. With a live electronic sound score, epic visual design, cinematic lighting and the energy of a club, this immersive show explores being young, fearless and doing the unexpected.

Thursday 5 – Sunday 8 March, 1.30pm and 7.30pm (Thu 1pm & 7.30pm, Sun 1.30pm only), Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, £15, LONDON PREMIERE

WOW 2012_Speed Mentoring4_CREDIT Belinda Lawley

 

WOW Sunday (Day Pass)

The day is packed full of mind opening discussion, talks, debates and workshops. If you see anything, try the Wonder Women of the Ancient World event with Bettany Hughes and Charlotte Higgins. The will discuss the greatest names and lost heroines of women from the prehistoric and ancient worlds – women who were either wonderful or about whom we should wonder, looking at the secret and sensational history of super heroines from mother goddesses to Medea and Aphrodite to Cleopatra. There are so many great events happening over the long weekend, that you really need to dig around the Southbank pages.

Please share what you’re looking forward to, I’d love to know and will hold a place at the bar on Friday afternoon for all of you that want to chew the fat a little longer. xo

Image Credits :

All Women Orchestra Mirth Control CREDIT Linda Nylind
Baulkham Hills African Ladies Troupe CREDIT Lisa Tomasetti
Caitlin Moran CREDIT Mark Harrison

Jude Kelly CREDIT Belinda Lawley
No Heart, No Guts, No Glory CREDIT Sophie Gerrard

Speed Mentoring CREDIT Belinda Lawley

 

The Best Family Theatre Shows for 2015

Remember that promise I made ? Well, I have a kept my sparkly word, and dug deep finding you the best kids shows happening this year.

These days it doesn’t pay to be putting the cultural needs of your family low on the list (next to buying more stain remover). Especially for weekend matinees, you have to be the first in line.

Jazz Hands at the ready… xo

Don’t forget the Events Diary with weekend workshops on the homepage, I’ve put in lots for 1/2 term.

There are also other posts like the kids cinema clubs, the backstage theatre tours, the family dance shows, the best family beaches, the best castles to visit, the pre-school book club, the 5 best valentine cards, and the day out in Whitstable one right here!!

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1) Bugsy Malone : Lyric Hammersmith : 11 April to 1 August : Ages 6+

Next April, Fat Sam’s Grand Slam comes to Hammersmith to reopen the Lyric after a multi-million pound redevelopment. Olivier award-winning director, Sean Holmes, will bring to life the first professional production in over a decade with a cast of exciting young talent.

Join Bugsy, Blousey and Tallulah for an unforgettable theatrical experience. Get booking today because, as Fizzy knows… tomorrow never comes. 2015 means bad guys, splurge guns, classic tunes and a cast of talented youngsters for theatregoers visiting Hammersmith.

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2) Things Will Never Be The Same Again (And Other Stories) : Tricycle : 28 February to 1 March.

Stories written by Year 5 & Year 6 pupils at Christ Church, Kilburn Park, Mitchell Brook, Salusbury & Stonebridge Primary Schools, in the London Borough of Brent.

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3) Yeh Shen : Polka Theatre : 18 Feb to 8 March (then other venues) : Ages 6+

Celebrate Chinese New Year with an enchanting tale about a young orphaned girl, her nasty stepmother and a lost shoe.Will Yeh Shen be able to attend the New Year Festival? Will she ever find happiness? And how can a fish, a dragon and a horse help her?

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4) The Railway Children : Kings Cross : 14 Jan

Set in a brand new, purpose built 1,000 seat venue, this breathtaking show features a stage built around a real train track, and a beautiful 60 tonne vintage locomotive that steams into the theatre to delight all ages. A truly unique theatrical experience, The Railway Children returns to London after winning the Olivier Award for BEST ENTERTAINMENT in its previous home at Waterloo.

5) Kooza : Royal Albert Hall : Finishes 19 Feb

The next few months will also see acrobatics and clowning take over the Royal Albert Hall once again with the return of Cirque Du Soleil’s breathtaking show Kooza. It premiered there in 2013 and is back impressing families with its contortionists, trapeze artists and the incredible Wheel Of Death until 19 February.

6)  Henry The Fifth : Unicorn Theatre : Age 8+

Kings need crowns and castles to prove themselves, and so does Henry. Henry the Fifth, that is, of England. But Henry is running out of cash and all he can think about is that his neighbour’s castle is bigger than his…

7) The Velveteen Rabbit ; Unicorn Theatre : 28 March to 26 April : Age 4+

There was once a velveteen rabbit, and in the beginning he was really splendid. He was fat and bunchy, as a rabbit should be; and for at least two hours the Boy loved him.

8) Peter Pan : Regents Park : 15 May to 14 June

There is little press or cast information at the time of writing, but there are two things that we do know. 1) All good things come to those who wait in line at the Open Air Theatre, and 2) When did Peter Pan and Wendy ever let you down?

“I ran away the day I was born,” said Peter, “because I heard Father and Mother talking of what I was to be when I became a man. I want always to be a little boy and to have fun, Wendy”

twits

9) The Twits : Royal Court : 7 April to 31 May : (Advised age 7+)

Mischievously adapted from one of the world’s most loved books, Enda Walsh turns the The Twits upside down and brings this revolting revolution to the Royal Court Theatre stage.

Workshops: Budding writers can explore the world of The Twits in one of our fun, interactive workshops for 8-11 year olds. Or, you can bring the whole family along to take part in creating a new piece of theatre together. More May half term activities and a host of online resources will be announced soon.

Every Saturday (from 18 Apr) : 11.30am – 12.30pm Family Writing Workshop : 1pm – 2pm Children’s Writing Workshop

Every Tuesday (from 21 Apr) : 5pm – 6pm Children’s Writing Workshop

Thursday 16 Apr & Thursday 28 May : 11.30am – 12.30pm Family Writing Workshop : 1pm – 2pm Children’s Writing Workshop

Sunday 31 May : 11.30am – 12.30pm Family Writing Workshop

unicorns

10) I Believe in Unicorns : Polka Theatre 12-15 March

Michael Morpurgo’s spellbinding story Tomas didn’t like books, stories or school. He was happier climbing mountains or tobogganing with his Dad. That was until the Unicorn Lady came to town and reeled him in with her irresistible magic tales. But then disaster struck and put everything that mattered most in Tomas’s life in terrible danger…

11) The Wind in the Willows : Greenwich Theatre 17-18 Feb

Award-nominated Immersion Theatre and the critically-acclaimed Cambridge Touring Theatre join forces to present a spectacular musical adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s classic tale.Join the boat-loving Ratty, the sensible yet curious Mole, wise old Badger and the fantastically irrepressible Toad as they embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

12) My First Ballet, Swan Lake : The Peacock : 2-12 April

Swan Lake is the latest of the classics to be recreated for young children in the My First Ballet series, the unique collaboration between English National Ballet and English National Ballet School .

The performances are specially created to make classical ballet accessible and enjoyable to children from the age of three upwards. Following on the success of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Coppélia , My First Ballet: Swan Lake is created by English National Ballet’s Associate Artist George Williamson and performed by second year students from English National Ballet School.

13) Jabberwocky, 3 Billy Pigs, Rapunzel and more…: Little Angel Theatre : All Ages

Be proud, and feel free to shout about the amazing work that keeps on coming from the world famous Little Angel in Islington. If you haven’t been yet, then make it a priority. The charming theatre just behind Upper Street, and near Ottolenghi, The Almeida and 13 Turkish restaurants, is just beautiful. They offer relaxed shows for any one with special needs, workshops, children puppetry courses during term time, and ‘Friday Fives’ where all tickets £5 for shows at 5pm. As well as half price weekends. Check online, take a look at more youtube video of the work, and book now. It’s just such a pleasure to be part of that world.

5 Best Authors to See at The Imagine Festival

The line up for the 2015 Imagine Festival, Southbank over Feb 1/2 term is looking hotter than ever. There are free events as well as well priced ticketed events. They’re a very friendly bunch down there, and know how to throw a festival or two, so expect all your wishes to be granted, that is apart the one that involves a house-keeper, tropical birds, and a life time supply of omega-3 glucosamine.

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1. Johnny Duddle : Sat 21 Feb : Ages 5-8 : Purcell Room, QE Hall

Jonny Duddle gives you a personal insight into life as a pirate. Dressed in his finest pirate attire, he provides book readings, tales from his time as a sailor, and a glimpse of his own sketches. Jonny tells you what it was like to work aboard a 100-foot square-rig sailing ship, before reading one of his own pirate-themed books, inspired by his past career and the tales he heard.

Get an inside glimpse into some of his sketchbooks, before Jonny draws a completely new pirate following prompts from the audience. Finally, listen as Jonny reads his latest pirate book, The Jolley-Rogers and the Ghostly Galleon before taking questions about writing stories, drawing pictures and what it was really like to live like a pirate…

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2. Lauren Child : Sunday 15 February 2015 : Ruby Redfort – Feel the Fear : Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall : Ages 9+

Lauren Child talks about Ruby Redfort. She’s a code cracker, secret agent and schoolgirl (with a fondness for banana milk and donuts).

Ruby first appeared in Lauren Child’s best-selling Clarice Bean novels. Now, as befits a 13-year-old secret agent, she has her own series. Super smart and super cool, Ruby’s latest adventure, Feel the Fear, has Ruby up against a seemingly invisible foe. How do you set your sights on catching a light-fingered villain if you can’t even see him…?

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3. JASON BERESFORD : Tues 17 Feb : Learn how to invent a comedy superhero : Publishers\’ Family Workshop : Foyer Spaces : Age 7-11

Learn how to invent a comedy superhero. Join an interactive story-writing and character-creation workshop with Jason Beresford, author of super hero series The Fabulous Four Fish Fingers.

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3a.Bouncing Cats and Boom Boom Pups : Mon 16 Feb 2015–Wed 18 Feb 2015 : 11.30am, 1.45pm and 3.45pm: Foyer Spaces) : LITERATURE POETRY/SPOKEN WORD : For ages 4-10

Journey into the world of AnimaLand where beatbox, rap and graffiti come together. This immersive, high-energy performance features spoken-word artist Maxwell Golden and graffiti artist Luke Warburton. Set within a purpose-built graffiti installation, an original children’s book is brought to life and interwoven with freestyle hip-hop improvisation. The Bouncing Cats and Boom Boom Pups need your help as they navigate AnimaLand so audience beatboxing and participation is required.

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4. SEA QUEST : Sunday 15 Feb : Publishers’ Family Workshop : Foyer Spaces : For ages 6+

Fans of Adam Blade’s Beast Quest – join Sea Quest…

Find out all about the underwater world of Sea Quest. Use your bravery, cunning and skill to help rescue Max’s dad from the terrifying Robobeasts. Solve cryptic puzzles, design a Sea Beast, and get your Sea Quest cadet credentials. Exclusive Beast Quest and Sea Quest goodies for every adventurer. Dare you dive in? This event lasts 50 minutes.

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5.THE PHOENIX COMIC : Thursday 19 Feb :Publishers’ Family Workshop : For ages 6+

Join the comic artists for a comic-creation masterclass and walk away with your own comic strip. The Phoenix weekly story comic is brimming with top story tips just waiting to be uncovered. Crack open those crazy characters, conjure up your own comic world, bind it all together with an amazing story and enter into the wonderful world of comics.

10.30am and 1.30pm: Invent your own dastardly villain with Laura Anderson & 12 noon and 3pm: How to make awesome comics with Neill Cameron.

The Best Cinema Clubs for London Kids

Don’t forget to check the homepage Events Diary. I have added lots of 1/2 term activities and workshops to keep you busy, and help you plan ahead. If you like what you see here, please share with your friends…xo 

1. Barbican Framed Film Club (Barbican, Farringdon)

The Saturday Framed Film Club is the Barbicans year-round programme for families which serves up the most recent animated and live-action films, as well as family classics every Saturday morning. You can also get messy at their themed workshop on the last Saturday of every month. For babes in arms screenings, they offer films on Monday mornings for parents and babies of 12 months and under. Make a date for the Framed Film Festival which (over the weekend of 22/23rd November) gives families the chance to watch the best feature and short films from around the world, as well as create their own films and participate in a wide range of workshops.

2. Everyman Cinemas (Baker Street, Hampstead, Belsize, Maida Vale)

A real favourite with the parents that go, is their ‘Baby Club’. You are only allowed if you have with you a sweet one under 12 months old. Those of you with toddlers over a year old can opt for the Kids Club instead. The lights are dimmed, but allow parents to feed and care for their babies whilst the film is running. You get a cuppa and slice of cake with your ticket too.

3. Soho Hotel  & The Electric Cinema (Soho & Notting Hill)

Every Saturday you can fill your boots and enjoy a buffet lunch followed by the children’s movie of the week in the rather posh hotel screening room at the Hotel. Tickets: £20 per person including lunch buffet, or £10 per person film only. Buffet at 1pm, film starts at 1.30pm. This might tempt you … the price includes a glass of Prosecco for the grown ups! All children must be accompanied by an adult and all adults must be accompanied by a child. There is also the Electric Cinema : Saturday Kids Club over on Portobello Road.

4. Gate Cinema (Notting Hill Gate)

There is a kids club on Saturdays, 10:30, 10:00am pre-film activities for kids. £1 per film once you are a member (£4 family membership).

5. Curzon Cinemas (Soho, Chelsea, Richmond, Mayfair, Renoir)

The kids club at the Curzon is less hectic than the ones above, but it is a very loved independent cinema chain, and full of film lovers, that know their onions. Films usually start at 1030 on a Saturday morning. Take a look at the latest films on offer on the link above.

6. The Lexi (Kensal Rise)

They have a Saturday Kids Club. (Adults must be accompanied by a child or two) as well as kid-friendly matinees during the school holidays. These can be very popular; pre-booking takes the guesswork out of the day’s plans.

7. BFI (Southbank)

The BFI Family kids club shows monthly pickings of movies from the world of animation, international cinema and a good ole classic movie. They offer free viewings of movies in their on site Mediateque for kids (you might want to book at weekends). They also host a larger event called the BFI Funday, where they feature new releases. Expect a few famous faces from the movie world (yes that includes script writers and DoP’s too) as well as creative activities, a fab after school film club, a Saturday Film Club and school holiday and seasonal events.

8. The Ritzy (Brixton)

Look out for Toddler Time and their Big Scream showings. Toddler Time features 30-minute shows for pre-school children and their parents / carers. Admission is just £3 per child, accompanying adults free when they become members of Toddler Time (free to join – please ask at the Box Office or call 0871 902 5747).  Toddler Time is free for babies under one year old. At Big Scream Club they screen films exclusively for parents and guardians with babies under one year old.

9. The Tricycle (Kilburn)

The cinema within the theatre. They welcome kids, families and all types of young people here. Give them a call and see what they offer at the time, I can tell you that they will always be glad to see you.

10. Screen on the Green (Islington)

Part of the Everyman group. They are sweet, small and perfectly formed, but at the time of writing not revealing if they offer any kids events. I will update more when I hear…(silly them.)

11. The Phonenix (East Finchley)

They offer Toddler Time 30min shows at 11am. Ages 2-4. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Tickets £3 for child plus 1 FREE accompanying adult. For bigger kids the kids club on a Saturday (11am) is the place to be. They host a free activity for kids aged 5-10 followed by a film at midday. A maximum of 20 children can attend the activities, so pre-booking through the box office is the only way to go. Tickets for the film are £2.

12. Rio (Dalston)

The Rio offers specially priced tickets (£2.50 children and £3.50 accompanying adults) for the Saturday Morning Picture Club and Tuesday afternoon Playcentre Matinees. (Morning Picture Club Membership is free). Members have their membership cards stamped on each visit and get free admittance after every 10 visits and a free poster after every 25 visits. Parents, please note: children under the age of five years must be accompanied by an adult throughout the performance. You are welcome to drop off older children at the start of the film and return to pick them up at the end. Doors open at 10.30am and the FILM starts at 11.00am sharp.

The Parents and Babies Club gives parents with babies a chance to visit the cinema, without having to find a baby sitter or worry about their babies causing a disturbance.  The Club is exclusively for parents with babies under one year old. Membership is free but you do need to sign up and receive a membership card to come to these screenings. You may join on the day, or email manager@riocinema.org.uk with your name, address, contact telephone number, your baby’s name and date of birth. Tickets are at the normal matinee price of £7.50 and £6.00 Concessions

13. Prince Charles (Leicester Square)

The home of the sing-a-long movie! There are lunchtime time screenings. Wouldn’t this be a great place to have a birthday party outing? Fancy dress almost essential, and the rest as they say is history.Tickets are Adults: £15 – £16 with Children (under 16): £9.50 (matinees only)

14. Rich Mix (Shoreditch)

You can go to weekend family movies for less than the price of a coffee here. £1.75 when I last looked! They usually start at 12pm but check online for any updates and listings.

Family Ticket Information : These prices are for films that have been given U, PG or 12A certificate. Mondays – all day £6, £4 child (No family ticket on Mondays) & Tue – Fri before 5pm Child £5.50 & Family of Four for 2 adults & 2 children or or (1 adult & 3 children – £23) for a Family of Three (1 adult & 2 children – £16.80)

With each Family Ticket, each child receives a free Kids Combo popcorn, drink** and snack. This offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other cinema offer at Rich Mix and can only be claimed on the same day and same performance as the family ticket purchase.

15. Arthouse (Crouch End)

ArtHouse shows a mix of Hollywood Studios as well as more independent films for Kids. Saturday and/or Sunday Morning (and during half term), ArtHouse hosts Kids Club. Each week one film is chosen to be part of this scheme where both adults and kids pay only £4. (No lone adults will be admitted and any children under 12 years of age must be accompanied by an adult at all times). They also have a Babes in Arms screenings, every Monday And Friday Morning. The films are for parents and guardians with babies under one year old.

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

The Best Art-y Books for Kids

I have a small passion for art books in general, but mostly for the ones designed and lovingly produced for Kids. One of my favourite past-times is floating around museum book shops, taking notes of all the glossy activity books and art products, and generally soaking up all that creative goodness. I like to think of kids art books, as the equivalent to one of your 5-a-day in the Creative Bus Stop world. The other 4, well there are no rules, so take your pick depending what day of the week it is. Today, I’m choosing (2) a decent pencil, (3) any old paper, (4) an ear bud and (5) some blue paint. With this lot, I’m off to create a masterpiece … back soon. xo

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1) Craft Projects for Minecraft® and Pixel Art Fans by Choly Knight £4.79

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2) Tate Kids British Art Activity Book by Lambert and Jackson £6.99

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3) Drawing Faces (Art Ideas) (Usborne Art Ideas)

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4) The Super Book for Super-Heroes Paperback – 23 Sep 2013 by Jason Ford (Author) £6.97

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5) Let’s Make Some Great Fingerprint Art Paperback – 8 Oct 2012 by Marion Deuchars (Author) £9.95

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6) Meet Matisse: Art Activity Book (Paperback – 3 Apr 2014) by Jean-Vincent Sénac £4.49

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7) Water Paper Paint: Exploring Creativity with Watercolor and Mixed Media (Paperback – 27 Jan 2011) by Heather Smith Jones

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8) Illustration School: Let’s Draw Cute Animals (Paperback – 1 Nov 2010) by Sachiko Umoto (Author)

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9) Art Lab For Kids: 52 Creative Adventures in Drawing, Painting, Printmaking, Paper, and Mixed Media – For Budding Artists of All Ages (Paperback – 1 Mar 2012) by Susan Schwake

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10) Creative Thursday: Everyday inspiration to grow your creative practice :  From the popular website! (Paperback – 7 Jan 2013) by Marisa Anne

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11) 13 Artists Children Should Know by Angela Wenzel

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12) How to Draw a Chicken by Jean-Vincent

The Best London Carol Concerts 2014

LilyandVal at ETSY Hand-Drawn Lovelies by Valerie McKeehan
LilyandVal at ETSY
Hand-Drawn Lovelies by Valerie McKeehan

The ‘carols’ bit of Christmas is the bit that really gets me in the mood. I’m not a firm believer in ‘self help’ and all that, (there’s nothing better than a good chin wag with your bestie, or a good laugh at the side bar of shame to put life into perspective) but I do find singing in harmony, at the top of my lungs decent therapy. Oh, and what&#