London is an exciting, busy and bustling city. With so much to see and do, it can be tricky to know exactly what’s available to keep your little ones amused. Britain’s notoriously fickle weather is bound to make an impact on your visit, so whether we’re basking in glorious sunshine or it’s raining cats and dogs, having a great supply of interesting options is just what you need to keep the fun times going.
Luckily, most of the best London tourist attractions cater for young people, and more interesting places than ever are being created for our children, so you don’t need to feel like you’re missing out.
With that in mind, here’s our handy guide to 19 of the top things to do with your toddlers on your next trip to London, to keep them amused whatever the weather…
1. Buckingham Palace, Changing of the Guard
Taking place from 10.30am four days a week, this is an exciting spectacle for children and adults alike. Accompanied by music, the changing of the guard takes around an hour or so and is weather dependant, so check the ceremony schedule online first and get there early to beat the crowds. You can always do a bit of Queen spotting beforehand!
2. London Zoo
It’s never too early to start a fascination with the natural world, and London Zoo is a great day out for all the family. With under 3s going free, buy your tickets online in advance to get discounts and beat the queues. With plenty of interactive areas to get involved with and frequent feeding displays, there are over 660 species of animals to see. There are great family-friendly refreshment options, plenty of toilets and baby changing facilities across the site, as you would expect, along with plenty of indoors and outdoors seating areas to stop and re-group.
3. Museum of Childhood
Based in Bethnal Green, this museum is really well designed for family day out. Free admission is a good start and free family backpacks can be picked up from the reception desk, filled with age-appropriate items for children from 6 months to 5 years old, including activity ideas, a guide to the museum, and toys to interact with to bring the museum displays to life. With a great café offering child’s portions and baby foods, as well as delish cakes, coffees and lunches for the adults, everything is here for an easy day out.
4. Diana Memorial Playground
Based in Kensington Gardens, this memorial is brilliant – but busy. Open everyday from 10am, it’s best to arrive as early as possible to avoid queuing (yes, queuing for a park – that’s how good it is!). The main attraction is a massive wooden pirate ship adventure playground, surrounded by sensory trails, sculptures and tepees, all set in a beach surrounded by trees. For the younger visitors, there’s plenty of space to do their own thing and plenty of benches for the adults too.
5. HMS Belfast
Permanently moored as a museum on the Thames near Tower Bridge, this ex-warship is sure to impress if you have a big boat fan in your family! With under 5s getting in for free, they can sit in the captain’s chair and explore this massive ship through interactive displays and activities. There are toilets and baby changing facilities as well as a café and there’s a great gift shop too – perfect for those pocket money treats. You probably want to allow at least a couple of hours to explore the boat and then, when you’re done, you’re in the centre of the city with restaurants and public transport links within easy walking distance.
6. Sea Life London Aquarium
An opportunity to see the creatures of the deep is sure to wow the little ones, and with free admission for children under 3, it doesn’t cost the Earth either. A great escape if the weather isn’t so obliging outside, this is an impressive attraction for the whole family. There are feeding events daily and hands-on displays to keep toddlers entertained as you go around. It can get busy during school holidays so, if you have the option, aim for an off-peak visit to get the best views (and shortest queuing times).
7. Hackney City Farm
For over 20 years, Hackney City Farm has been giving Londoners a taste of country life in the city. If farm animals are more your toddler’s vibe – think goats, not gorillas – this is the place to be. Free to visit, there are regular activity classes for a small fee, such as children’s pottery classes and baby music classes, as well as all the fun of the farm to explore. If you’re particularly taken with a certain furry friend, you can sponsor an animal to contribute towards their care. For the grown-ups, there’s also an excellent shop selling honey from the farm’s own bees and freshly laid eggs.
8. London Transport Museum
What toddler, at some point, isn’t obsessed by buses? When the phase hits, this is the place to be – a museum exploring the history of London’s public transport network. Under 17s get in free and there is a full family guide to make sure you get the most out of your visit with the little ones. There are craft workshops, story times and hands-on exhibitions to enjoy. Its convenient location, close to Covent Garden, also means there’s plenty to explore nearby to make a real day of it.
9. Baby Loves Disco
As the name suggests, this is not a regular day out – it’s a family disco! A monthly event in London, these family discos are run across the country, with Fatboy Slim even playing at their Brighton Fringe event in 2016. Essentially it’s music adults can enjoy, played at a safe level for children from 0 years and up, with all the disco lights, bubble machines, drinks and snacks you could ever need. But don’t worry, if you don’t have the energy you used to, there are also chill-out areas for when it all gets too much and you need a sit down. Tickets need to be booked in advance, non-walking children get in free, and you can find event dates and locations on their website.
10. Covent Garden Street Performers
Magicians, street artists, singers, musicians and poets all showing off what they can do best line the streets around bustling Covent Garden. Make sure you have some coppers for the kids’ favourites and it’s an easy way to while away the hours (and there are cafes and shops right there for you, too).
11. St. James’s Park
London has an abundance of beautiful parks, but set against the stunning backdrop of Westminster, St James’s is ideal for you and the children alike. There is a wide array of ducks to feed, resident pelicans to watch, and vibrant flowerbeds to marvel at. And when that gets too much for the little ones, there’s a great café too, doing breakfasts, lunches and snacks.
12. The Dockland Light Railway (DLR)
To most people, this is just part of the public transport network of London, a way to get to work, or a normal mode of transport. But to a toddler, it is a magic train without a driver! The DLR trains are automated, which means your little one can have a go sitting at the front being ‘the driver’, while you enjoy the views. Much of the network is above ground, which means you can see some of the sights as you go, such as the Emirates cable car, Canary Wharf, and the planes coming in and out of London City Airport.
13. Science Museum
The Science Museum is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city, with displays and exhibitions on everything from antibiotics to space travel. While that does sound a bit grown up for toddlers, there are also designated spaces for the under 5s, including The Garden. Not an actual garden – it is in fact in the basement – it is an interactive space designed specifically for children between the ages of 3 and 6, where they can learn about science through play. Experts are on hand to help answer questions so you can make the most of your time there. The museum is free to enter, with family-friendly cafes open daily.
14. Tumbling Bay Playground
Part of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, the Tumbling Bay Playground is a park on an epic scale. Designed to create fun spaces from the natural environment, there are sand pits, rock pools and rope bridges between trees. There are also, of course, the obligatory slides and swings to keep everybody happy. Alongside, is the Timber Lodge community centre and café, with toilets, changing facilities and a range of hot and cold snacks and drinks for parents and children.
15. Natural History Museum
History lovers old and young have flocked to this great museum since its opening in the 1880s. The ornate interiors are breathtaking and the displays are curated to inspire and inform. Although the giant skeleton of Dippy the Dinosaur has been replaced by Hope the Blue Whale in the great hall, there is still so much to see for the avid dinosaur fans in your family. Free entry (to the main exhibitions), a kid-friendly café and specific themed events over school holiday periods means a busy and exciting day for you all.
16. Pottery Café
With cafes in Battersea and Fulham, Pottery Café has been going for 20 years and is London’s original paint-your-own pottery experience. With a massive range of pre-made items for you to decorate, and excellent coffee, cakes and snacks on offer, you can get creative with your little one here. All the paints are water based so safe for everyone – and washable! Booking is recommended and staff are on-hand (excuse the pun) if you fancy trying a handprint or footprint to commemorate a milestone for your little one.
17. Tate Modern
An art gallery may not be the first thing you think of when contemplating a toddler-friendly day out, but the Tate is not the norm when it comes to galleries! Its industrial setting means there are plenty of open spaces for toddlers to run around and burn off that excess energy, and with the dedicated family-friendly Start Gallery – a collation of the best-loved artworks – it’s a great introduction to the world of art. With a buggy park, baby changing facilities and various kid-friendly café and refreshment options, it has everything you need for an interesting and fun day out.
18. Brockwell Park
Visiting Brockwell Park, near Herne Hill in South London, is a great idea if the sun is shining on your day out in London. There is a large adventure playground including zip line, as well as a duck pond, paddling pool and recently refurbished lido for those odd occasions where it really gets hot enough to strip off! Brockwell Hall, dating from the early 1800s, is situated in the centre of the park and now houses a café for snacks, drinks and ice creams to top off an excellent trip.
19. Mudlarks, Museum of London Docklands
Mudlarks is a permanent exhibition at the London Docklands Museum, specifically targeted to children under 8 years of age, explaining the history and stories of the rest of the museum through hands-on activities and displays. With easy access, Mudlarks is on the same floor as the main entrance and right next door to the restaurant, café, toilets and baby changing facilities, so it makes for an easy and informative day out. Open every afternoon and all day during the school holidays, entry is free but you need a ticket that you can buy on the day or in advance online.
If you have been inspired to visit the vibrant capital city with your family, have a look at our amazing range of London tours, or call our team. We can help you to plan the ideal day in London for you and your toddler. If you are looking for the best free things to do in London then you can see our guide here.