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Free Things to Do in London with Kids

Family fun at no expense


You might think that London is not a very child-friendly city but you'd be wrong. You may also think of London as an expensive city. Wrong again! There is always something going on for children and families and there are plenty of free things to do for children in London too. There's Free Tube Travel for Children to prove we want families to have to fun here and the 100+ Free Things to Do in London has more ideas if you ever exhaust all of these.

If you've visited this page before, you may remember it was a "Top 10" list but there were just too many good ideas so I had to expand!

1. Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

St. James's Palace relief guards marching from Buckingham Palace to St. James's Palace.
© Laura Porter

I love going to see the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace with my daughter. We take a picnic and get there early so we can get a good spot. We've watched from many locations - right outside Buckingham Palace, waited at one of the gates, stood outside Green Park, from the Victoria Memorial in the middle of the roundabout in front of the palace - but I think I like watching on The Mall best as you see the Guards marching for much longer.

2. Diana Memorial Playground

Diana Memorial Playground Pirate Ship, London
© Laura Porter

This large, safe, outdoor play area is truly outstanding. The Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens, next to Kensington Palace, the former home of Diana Princess of Wales, is a fabulous children's playground for kids up to 12 years. It's dominated by a large pirate ship which children can climb all over then come down and play in the sand. There's also a sensory trail, areas for climbing and exploring as well as swings and slides. Staff are on site at all times and no adults can enter without children (just as at Coram's Fields). There's a cafe and clean toilets meaning many stay all day so on busy days there is a limit and you may have to wait to enter. But outside of the height of summer you'll be in and playing immediately.

In the area you'll also find the Peter Pan Statue, the Diana Memorial Fountain and 23-24 Leinster Gardens Dummy House Facade.

3. Museum of London Docklands: Mudlarks Play Area

Mudlarks DLR, Museum in Docklands, London
© Laura Porter

This museum gives you a reason to visit the London Docklands and see the contrast between the old and new architecture. The museum is housed in a 200 year old warehouse and tells the story of the London's history as a port. There are free activity packs from Reception and the Mudlarks play area for under 12s is free and fantastic. Everything is themed around life in the London docks so the big kids can weigh cargo or load a tea clipper while the small kids get to crawl around with large foam bananas and a London bus, plus they can pretend to drive a DLR train.

Talking of trains, to get to the Museum of London Docklands you need to take the DLR (Docklands Light Railway). Get a seat at the front as these trains don't have a driver and you, or your little one, can pretend to drive the train!

4. Coram's Fields & Foundling Museum

Foundling Museum, London
© Laura Porter

Coram's Fields is a unique seven acre playground and park for children in central London. It is free to use and provides a safe and stimulating environment where children can play freely. Adults are only permitted with a child and there is always staff available to ensure all is well.

The nearby Foundling Museum is always free for children and free for adults accompanying children during all Family Fun activities. Family Fun takes place in the Foundling Museum Education Center on the first Saturday of every month and is suitable for children aged 3-12, unless otherwise stated.

If you're looking for a healthy lunch nearby, Alara is a fine healthfood shop and you should look out for the metal objects embedded in the pavement of Marchmont Street too.

5. Kew Gardens

Climbers and Creepers, Children's Play Area, Kew Gardens, London
© Laura Porter

The best news is children under 17 go free to Kew Gardens and you can easily spend a day there so this is a great outdoors, cost-effective destination. Kids love to run around outdoors and there are great expanses here, as well as the Treetop High Walkway which offers wonderful views as do the high walkways inside the enormous greenhouses.

Climbers and Creepers is Kew's indoor interactive play area for 3-9 year olds and Treehouse Towers is for 3-11 year olds. Both are positioned next to a cafe and family shop. Explore the Gardens first as once the kids get here they won't want to leave!

For exploring, try the Kew's Big Tree book which is aimed at children but is an excellent introduction to the trees at Kew Gardens and trees in general.

6. Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A)

Victoria & Albert Museum
© Laura Porter
This South Kensington Museum may not have dinosaurs like the nearby Natural History Museum, or lots of buttons to press like the nearby Science Museum but the V&A has an awful lot of free fun to offer families. The Gallery Backpacks give you the chance to explore a gallery together with activities and fun ideas that encourage the adults to look at the exhibits with fresh eyes too. There are weekend and school holiday children's workshops and for many booking is not essential. Family Fun Trails are on offer every day and the weekend Gallery Plays are enthralling.

7. Peter Pan Statue in Kensington Gardens

Peter Pan Statue, Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, London
© Laura Porter

This bronze statue of Peter Pan is in Kensington Gardens, next to Hyde Park. The exact location was chosen by Peter Pan's author, J.M. Barrie. Barrie lived close to Kensington Gardens and published his first Peter Pan story in 1902, using the park for inspiration. In his Peter Pan tale, The Little White Bird, Peter flies out of his nursery and lands beside the Long Water lake, on the spot where the statue now stands.

The lower section of the statue has Peter Pan standing on a tree trunk covered with climbing squirrels, rabbits, and mice which can be fun to admire with shorter friends. A visit to Kensington Gardens has many other treats for young visitors such as the Diana Memorial Playground, the Diana Memorial Fountain and Kensington Palace.

8. Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum in London
© britainonview
The dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum are eternally popular but there's a lot more to see. Head over to the Darwin Centre where you can see real scientists working and down to the Investigate Science Centre in the basement, where adults and children alike will enjoy handling the animal, plant and geological treasures stored here.

9. Science Museum

© britainonview
The Science Museum is one of the big three museums in South Kensington (the other two are the Natural History Museum and the V&A). The Science Museum was founded with with objects that were on display at the 1851 Great Exhibition but ow has the latest technology to help visitors of all ages learn about science. 3-6 year olds will squeal with delight in the 'Garden' in the basement with water fun, construction and sensory exploration. 5-8 year olds will enjoy the 'Pattern Pod' where they can create patterns in many different ways, and the 'Launchpad' gallery has hands-on activities every day. Bigger kids will love the IMAX cinema and the shop is outstanding.

10. Horniman Museum

Horniman Museum, London: Walrus
© Horniman Museum

The Horniman Museum is a real find. Tucked away in the depths of south London, it has exhibitions of the natural and cultural worlds. And it even has an aquarium (small fee). Really, this place is worth the trip - it's actually only 13 minutes by train from London Bridge train station.

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