Free Things to do in London with Kids – You don’t have to spend a fortune to have a fantastic time in LONDON BABY! There’s a lot of fun to be had, FOR FREE! (And I mean totally free, not just kids go free.) Great list of activities below, so take a browse, for free! *contains affiliate links.
Crystal Palace Dinosaurs / Sky Garden / Natural History Museum / Imperial War Museum / National Maritime Museum / Bank of England Museum / The Museum of London / Parks and Gardens / Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park / Horniman Museum and Gardens / Fountains / City Farms / Get Walking / And More…
This park has its very own write up because it’s home to dinosaur sculptures. What’s not to love?! The Crystal Palace Dinosaurs have been around for over 150 years so they’ve been used in TV programmes, music videos and films. These sculptures originally date back to the 19th century, and they were the first ever attempt to model full-scale replicas of extinct animals, educating through experience and entertainment. Also look out for sphinxes in the park, remnants from The Great Exhibition.
A garden in the sky! Something a bit quirky and different, with a mix of dining experiences on offer too. Click here for 16 tips and the hacks you need to know before visiting.
The Natural History Museum is a classic. The new blue whale, pride of place in Hintz Hall, is a sight to behold. But the animatronic dinosaurs were firm favourites with my tots. Top tip, visit early or late to avoid massive queues.
The IWM is fascinating for adults, and far more engaging and thought provoking for young children than expected. From incredible aircraft to touching scenes in the trenches, my boys were interested and full of questions.
The National Maritime Museum’s play area, ‘Ahoy!’, is brilliant for kids. They can dress up as pirates, go fishing, shop in a fishmongers wearing ridiculous headgear, stoke the boiler of a steamship, and generally cause maritime chaos. When busy there’s a one-in-one-out policy, so arriving early is a smart idea.
The exhibitions in the rest of museum didn’t cross over particularly well with our tots. For example, the Battle of Jutland exhibit interested me, but was far too adult a theme for preschoolers, and their noise level felt a tad disrespectful, so probably better for older children. Greenwich itself is fab to explore on foot. Head uphill to the observatory, mooch around Greenwich Park, and take in the grand Royal Navy buildings.
Visit the Bank of England museum, which has fantastic age-specific activity sheets for kids. The children ‘steered our economy’, using a cool boat ship’s wheel and waves to represent boom and bust – a really clever way to engage kids with economics. Feel the weight of a real gold bar, and take selfies in a gold safe. We’d kinda expected this museum to be a little dry so it exceeded our expectations, and the kids were delighted to receive a little gold bar badge to wear with honour upon departure.
This treasure covers the history of London. Engaging films about the (quite brutal) Romans and gladiators totally captivated my boys, and they were equally fascinated by the horrible histories of the Great Fire of London and the Plague. Drama, death and tales of devastation left little minds whirring.
Every park and garden in London has something to offer, and most are free. One of my favourites is St James’ Park where kids can feed bright green birds and chase squirrels. We also strolled through the Ada Salter Gardens in Southwark Park, which has a cafe on site too. We explored Chumleigh Gardens, admired the water fountains and the kids played in one of the three playgrounds (age specific) at the spacious Burgess Park. We also tried the Diana Memorial Garden in Kensington Gardens, but the children found it very busy and I found it hard to keep an eye on the kids, as the swings are separated by hedges from the boat etc.
Coram’s Fields is a bit different because you can only enter this playground if you have a child with you. This entry policy is something I’ve never experienced before and, whilst I wouldn’t want too many green spaces off limits to those without children, it was somehow hugely reassuring.
Another unusual park worth explaining in its own write up. This outdoor space, where the UK held the 2012 Olympics, is vast. At first, as we wandered past a football stadium I felt I’d made a mistake, and was visiting the P&J Live or the SECC, but take the right turn, download the kids activity packs and/or art trails from the park’s website, and this is a unique venue. Swan pedallos, olympic signs, an utterly gigantic slide (truly massive) and two very cool playgrounds made this a surprise hit of our trip.
We visited the Horniman gardens and had a lovely morning. The kids enjoyed the Prehistoric Gardens, learning about the plants dinosaurs ate. The sound garden with instruments was another hit, and the wildlife garden full of bug hotels and logs to lift to discover creepy crawlies were hands-on favourites. The grasslands and floral displays worked for the grown ups. The Horiman Museum and Butterfly House are also free. Worth noting that Dulwich Park is a few minutes drive away, with its boating lake and recliner bikes for hire, so there are a lot of open spaces in the area.
On hot days cool down in the water fountains. Kids have the best time. Remember to bring sun cream and a change of clothes, and shoes! We took our boys to the ‘The Riverside’ – we’re talking 200 white water jets to play in near Tower Bridge [Scotland football strips not compulsory :-)] The fountains at Somerset House also look glorious. Timeout gathered together a list of fountains in London if you wish to do more research.
London has many city farms on offer – free or entry with donation. Mudchute Park and Farm, is London’s largest, at 34 acres. Depending on where you’re staying, also consider Hackney City Farm, Kentish Town City Farm, Vauxhall City Farm and Stepney City Farm.
If your kids are happy strutting along, or in a stroller, there are so many key London sights you can see on foot. We’re talking the South Bank, the Tower of London, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. Those tiny boots are made for walking.
I list these as destinations that I believe to be free but I haven’t personally visited or checked them out. We’re talking destinations such as the British Museum, the V&A Museum, the Science Museum, the National Gallery, London Portrait Gallery, Fulham Palace, the Wallace Collection, the Tate Modern, Tate Britain and London Docklands.