1. Take a picnic : Explore one of the secret gardens in London, take a sketch book and some pencils, and collect as many different shaped leaves that you can. If you need a ‘warm-up’ exercise take a look at my favourite MrPrintables site for craft inspiration. Oh! and we wouldn’t be without our yumbox on our picnic these days, so let the kids fill their own boxes, and you’ll find they eat everything on the bus before you get there, and they say “what’s for lunch?!”.
2. Geeks are great : Book your kids onto one of the brilliant science camps this summer, let them find out the answers themselves to all those brilliant questions such as Why is the Sky Blue? Where does all the rain go? and why do I have to make my bed (ok, maybe not this one, but at least they might get used to working things out for themselves…!)
3. Nature not nurture : Let your kids get grubby, and find out more about their local eco-system. There is so much going on right outside their window that they might not realise, and now is the best time of the year to find out what. Sign up to a local nature club, the Woodland Trust Nature Detectives club, or go on a woodland walk and breath!
4. Summer of High Streets Fun : London’s high streets will come alive with pop-up cinemas, street markets, fashion shows, dance, music, food festivals and more! Check out what is happening near you here.
5. Cook up a Storm : Give your kids free reign to make all the meals for one day. Let them write out the menu, the shopping list, the recipe cards, the place cards, decorate the table, and make the salads, and homemade pizzas! They will not only learn and appreciate all the work it takes to get dinner on the table every night, but also enjoy the independence, and learn more about their GCSE maths in this one day, than they will all of their Year 3!
5a. If you want the kids to take a taster workshop to get them excited for their stormy cooking day, book in for the Mr Men icing session (£15, 15 July, 2-5pm) at Biscuiteers cafe in Notting Hill. Each child will receive all the decorations and icing to create three Mr Men themed biscuits, as well as Mr Men storytelling and face-painting.
6. Crafty Crufts at The LIttle Angel Theatre will help you make your own pet dog puppet in their summer workshop. For ages 5-11 on Thursday 7 August, or Thursday 28 August.
7. Pop Up and over to the Momma Loves & Carousel Show Un-Birthday Party in Covent Garden on Saturday 19th July at 17 Floral Street, WC2E 9DH. Rsvp : KIRSTI@MOMMALOVES.NET X
8. Love your local Lido. Grab your swimmers, and join the brave crew that swim daily at 0630 in that fresh fresh water. These buildings are beautiful every day of the year, but when the sun is shining on the victorian tiles, and the water is glistening there is probably no better place to spend a morning during the Summer.
9. Sir John Soane’s museum wants you. Born in 1753, the son of a bricklayer, Soane died in 1837 after a long and distinguished career. He designed 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields as his home and as a setting for his antiquities and works of art. After his wife’s death he lived here alone, constantly adding to and rearranging his collections. He established the house as a museum by Act of Parliament (1833) requiring that his romantic and poetic interiors be kept as they were at the time of his death.
10. Festival of Love, Southbank : Between Saturday 28 June 2014 – Sunday 31 August 2014, The Southbank Centre brings together hundreds of artists, communities and partners to create its Festival of Love. The festival celebrates the Same Sex Couple Act, hosts an exciting programme of free events, differently- themed weekends, performances, poetry, talks and pop-ups. It’s worth just wandering by the Thames-side site which is also being transformed by several large-scale indoor and outdoor installations and artworks
11. West End Theatre : Jazz hands at the ready : Purchase half price and discount London theatre shows at theatre lands famous discount ticket booth in Leicester Square. Originally founded in 1980 as The Half Price Ticket booth, TKTS is located at the centre of Leicester Square in the Clock tower building and provides a one-stop ticket shop for West End Theatre.
12. Cooking Lessons : Cook up a storm, and your tomato sauce and allow your kids to improve their cooking skills at a course in town, there is a fantastic selection read my earlier post on cookery courses here.
13. Cartoon Museum Workshops : Create a Beano Cover, or improve your Manga style at The Cartoon Museum : Summer Workshops for kids : starting 28 July and run throughout August : Ages 8+ : Check times/ prices online above.
14. Exhibition at The Tate, St Ives : When you’re down West in Cornwall, make a visit to the exhibition The Modern Lens : International Photography and the Tate collection : Ends 10 May 2015 : Pioneering artists from across Europe, the Americas and Japan will be shown at Tate St Ives for the first time in The Modern Lens. Tate St Ives : Adult £7.00, Concession £4.50; free to 18s and under and Members Open daily 10.00 – 17.20 : For public information print +44 (0)1736 796226 | http://www.tate.org.uk/stives | Twitter @tate_stives
15. Open Air Theatre : Learn the words to Summertime, and enjoy the stunning location of one of London’s Royal Parks watching The Gershwins Porgy & Bess : Regents Park Open Air Theatre : Runs 17 July 2014 – 23 August 2014 : Tickets £25 for under 18’s, book online above.
16. Kidsweek Theatre Week, London : These include half price and free tickets for kids’ theatre shows this August (mainly in the West End). One child goes free for every adult ticket bought. There are loads of behind-the-scenes events including workshops with the crew, back stage tours and singing workshops, and all are absolutely free. Booking started on June 17th at 10am.
17. Tate Modern & Tate Britain : From Thursdays through to Sundays throughout the summer holidays experience the Tate through a Sonic Trail created by Sound Artists. Visit the “Families Welcome” spaces to pick up your trail kit. (This recommended for children of age 7 and up). From the 24th of July at Tate Modern, The Family Gallery brings Matisse’s cut-outs to life through specially commissioned sound, animation and sculptural work. You can also talk part in Colour Walk, an activity that explores the tones of colour that Matisse used in his work. If you’re nearer to the Tate St Ives and Barbara Hepworth Museum then take the “I Spy Challenge” and use picture clues to spy artworks on display. Prizes are available if children complete the challenge.
Arty Fun Workshops
18. National Trust Days Out : Visit any of the endless National Trust houses, castles or majestic gardens. Make sure you check out their Activity List of 50 Things To Do before you leave home. For 5000 acres of unspoiled Chiltern countryside, try the Ashridge Estate in Berkhamstead, Bucks. There you can choose to explore any number of trails and woodland walks. There are lots of specially organised family events, too. If you feel like a taste of France without the journey, try Waddesdon Manor near Aylesbury in Bucks. It is a 19th century chateau built by Baron Rothschild, which houses an impressive personal art collection and has a lovely restaurant, shop and gardens – a little slice of fairytale life for all your Princes and Princesses.
19. Party hard at The Little Angel Theatre Summer Party on Sunday 7 September between 1-5pm.
20. BBC Proms to sing-a-long with CBeebies : Book one of the many BBC Proms family events this summer. The Proms bring together acclaimed artists and great music at London’s Royal Albert Hall in Kensington. There are both ticketed and free events and there is even the dedicated CBeebies Prom on Sunday 27th of July at 11am. (Please see their website for the full schedule and all booking information).
21. Imperial War Museum re-opens : Celebrate the 2014 centenary of World War 1 by paying a visit to the Imperial War Museum, which reopens on the 19th of July after a much-anticipated transformative building project. The museum will now feature a huge new atrium that will house iconic objects from across their collections, and there will also be a moving, brand new First World War Gallery space to view. The First World War Centenary Partnership will last for four years from 2014 – 2018, and this huge project, which is led by the Imperial War Museums will be running a wide range of events across the UK.
22. Family Festivals : Festivalkidz have lots of advice and tips for first timers. They have an A to Z directory of the many festivals on offer, and posts on how to survive at festivals, what to pack for the potential wet weather, the range of food available, baby changing facilities, the size of each festival, and more. I recommend that if your little ones are under 4 years of age that you first try out a day pass and then embark on the full camping experience (complete with noise) when you feel ready.
23. Become an author, and start your own book. Take inspiration from the brilliant Booktrusts website, which offers tips from authors, games, advice and book lists for those that are restocking their library.
24. Go Asian, and eat dim sum in one of London’s many dim sum and chinese restaurants. Small parcels of chicken feet never tasted so good.
25. Rambling is cool : There are endless stunning walks around our beautiful countryside. There is little better medicine than leaving your car behind, turning off the phone, and packing your bag with treats for a glorious walk across the Chilterns, the Lake District, or even Hampstead Heath in North London. The National Trust have a guide to 10 best family walks around the UK or, if you’re ‘with buggy’ you should check out the Walks With Buggies blog, that offers tested walks across the UK. Walking Britain is a fantastic free resource for walkers covering the nation.
26. Watch a Studio Ghibli movie : All kids love these films, and for those that are totally enchanted and drawn into the world of Director Hayao Miyazaki (know to many as Japans’ Walt Disney), take yourself down to Forbidden Planet and buy a plush Totoro keyring.
27. Garden Camping : A great way to spend a day with the kids is to book in a whole 24 hours when you all live in your tent as a family. Each of you can take one bag full of whatever you need (apart from a picnic basket from the kitchen fairies), and cuddle up together, telling each other stories, drawing pictures (no iPads allowed), and playing cards. If Dad likes to ‘be prepared’ he can have a read of the Camping with Kids “Love the Outdoors” website, which has the best camping checklist and scavenger hunt ideas. For those that get the bug, you could order the Cool Camping Guide book to plan your next trip away (not forgetting your duvet and hand sanitizer, of course).
28. Kids and playgrounds rule. Jump on the bus, and spend the whole day at a playground. Don’t leave until the kids are begging you to, until they have climbed every step, met every child, jumped across every block, just allow them to take control of what time you leave for a change. One night of beans on toast when you get home, and no bath never hurt anyone.
29. Rain Play Time : The team from The Wild Weather Book have lots of ideas on how to keep yourselves entertained during the rain, wind and even snow-filled days. These range from making wind flags and flying creatures, playing stuck in the mud, creating a wormery, making a water run, and catching raindrops. What could be more fun than that?
30. Pick Your Own : One of the best days out that we ever had, which has never been forgotten by my girls, was picking our own fruit at our local farm. Although there weren’t many blackberries or raspberries left, and I was hoodwinked into buying the most expensive local honey ever, my girls and I enjoyed the fresh air, hunting down healthy runner beans, and the excitement of eating the very freshest strawberries. You can find your nearest pick your own farm in the UK on this website.
31.Plan ahead, and book a children’s trip to the theatre for the whole family. We are spoilt for choice with some of the best theatre production teams globally, and if ever there was a reason to support the Arts, then this is one of the best places to start.
32. Get planning a house swap for your next holiday. Save money on rental fees, time on searching out the best properties, and just lock your valuables away, and enjoy a holiday home from home.
33. Grab your sword, and take a day trip complete with armour, 4 roast chickens, and a flask of mead to your nearest English Heritage palace, castle or park.
34. Playing on the beach, has to be one of everyone’s top 5 ever best things to do ever! Grab your jelly-shoes, sun hat, and get instagramming your kids holding as many weird pieces of seaweed, massive stones and crab legs on one of our well cared for beaches. For ideas click on the link.
35. Free Food, yes really! Treat the kids to some free food (click on the link for the 5 Best Eat free post) and fine dining in London, and buy yourself another drink and celebrate your savings!
36. Take a family trail around The Barbican. You are spoilt for choice here, with the wonderful scooting, playing and spacious surrounds of the Barbican to play in. Then walk over the footway to The Museum of London, grab a Benugo coffee and pick 3 facts about historic London to impress your Grandma with.
37. Spend your pocket money, and support one of the brilliant British kids magazines. If you want to get familiar with the content, take a look at their websites, they have fantastic games, films and also sell great books, and other creative gifts for all ages.
38. Make your own flowers for Auntie Ivy. They will last forever, and you will never want to throw the Sunday papers away again.
39. If you need a craft holiday book for the whole family, how about the brilliant paper-toy book? It is a hit with our Super-hero Dad, and the kids can spend a while (under supervision) crafting families of sweet monsters together.
40. Fish and Chips are nutritious when you eat them on holiday only. Get yourself down to Whitstable on the super fast train out of St Pancras, and wander past the sweet traditional shops on the high street, grab a beer, and catch a crab or two.
41. Take the kids for lunch on a scooter at Camden Market. You name it and you can find it in the world of global cuisine, and crazy take-away food at the Market. Choose from famous residents Honest Burgers and Big Apple Hot Dogs, plus, Global Kitchen favourites Circus Brothers and Fresh Vietnamese. There is also free football and table tennis, and if you stay late enough (ahem bed time please) then the DJ’s get to the decks…
42. Fancy a dig? On 29 July, Enjoy the Family Day: Festival of British Archaeology & Bones in the Basement at the Benjamin Franklin House.
Children will explore the House’s fascinating archaeological history.
43. Watch This Space will you please? Between 27 June – 31 August 2014 this summer, the Watch This Space Festival packs its bags and heads out on tour, taking some of the best free outdoor entertainment right onto our neighbours’ doorsteps, in and around Lambeth and Southwark. Check the schedules for various wild and wonderful events.
44. Get down to the Horniman Museum in Dulwich, either just for a day out to visit the art, exhibitions and gardens, or if you’re going on a weekend check online as they run food markets, festivals, craft drop ins, dance classes, no wonder they keep winning awards and is known as the best family friendly museum in town.
45. Grab your National Trust hat, and make it your mission to visit 3 of their amazing places of inspiration around London in 2014. Choose from Cliveden for a stunning location on the way out on the M4 (many film’s are shot here), Red House for design lovers, and 2 Willow Road for budding architects in Hampstead.
46. Have tea with the Queen, and if she’s not in, just see if she’s around in her onesie anyway! Royal London is where it’s at. Well that’s what millions of tourists think anyway.
47. For the perfect picnic spot, jump on the super quick train from Kings Cross to Hatfield, for a day out at Hatfield House. It’s up there in our top 5 days out ever list, and that’s not even mentioning the farm, tractor rides, amaze balls play ground, acres of green grass, posh house and rather nice cafe to grab a cuppa.
48. Walk in a straight line (or scoot, if you’re sensible) the 5k (3 miles) through the Royal Parks, and never put step on a London street. You start at St James, through Green Park, Hyde Park and finish up at Kensington Gardens for pirate action and pizza as a reward.
49. Teach the kids to haggle, at one of London’s rocking street markets. Choose from farmers markets, fashion, furniture/flea, and Columbia Road’s popular flower market (Sundays). I like Chapel Market (Islington) for ease, it’s compact, and stalls sell vintage china, clothes, books and pictures, and Portobello for lunch with the girls, and the kids can grab cupcakes at the Hummingbird Bakery. Time Out London have kindly put together a market calendar for us all, so we can check what happens on what days. Don’t forget to keep your bag zipped up, and put your mobile number on their arm… and make sure you grab a bargain.