By Letitia Mckie, Head of Learning at New London Architecture and The City Centre
Visiting museums with a toddler can be a daunting prospect. But luckily, these days, museums are welcoming families and actually employ people like me to put on activities which entertain little visitors. My job is all about creating exciting, inspiring experiences for adults and children visiting together and I’m delighted to be able to share with you a specially-curated list of the best London museums to visit with a toddler.
Central London: Singing and Storytelling at the London Transport Museum
From marveling at old steam engine trains to sitting in a vintage tube carriage, the London Transport Museum experience is a must for all children. On Tuesdays during term time there is a regular series of timed 45 minute sessions where families hear stories about journeys in London throughout the ages. Children get to dance and sing their way around the museum’s awe-inspiring collection of historic vehicles, maps, signs, furniture and posters and can even examine some special smaller items up-close!
Tuesdays during term-time at 10.45, 12.00, 13.45 and 15.00. Children go free to the museum accompanied by adults who can buy an annual season ticket for the price of a single entry (£16). Free tickets for singing and stories are given out at 10.00 and 13.00. 5yrs and under.
West London: Palace Explorers at Fulham Palace
Fulham Palace is the stunningly preserved historic home of the Bishop of London. Mixing Tudor, Georgian and Victorian architecture in a delightful hodgepodge of styles, the museum boasts gorgeous grounds and a hidden walled garden with rainbow colours and seasonal fruit, veg and flowers…perfect for exploring with curious little ones!
Palace Explorers happens every Monday and Tuesday morning led by friendly and knowledgeable Palace staff. Offering everything from cookery using fresh ingredients from the garden to playing dress up with the Museum’s huge collection of historical costumes, children will have so much fun they won’t even realise they’re learning key life skills along the way.
Mondays and Tuesdays 9.30 – 10.30, £4 per child, 2-5 yrs, accompanying babies and adults free. Museum entry free. Bookable in advance.
North London: Little Swifts at the RAF Museum, Hendon
Britain’s only museum dedicated entirely to all things aviation, RAF Hendon, boasts five halls filled with over 100 historic aircraft! They’ve recently started Little Swifts for 2-5 year olds which happens monthly. Each month’s event is inspired by a different theme, such as friendship and teamwork, chosen based on their collection of aircraft, uniforms, artwork, engines and missiles! Flying Officer Swift is in attendance as their mascot for sessions which include parachute games, singing and fun aviation themed crafts like making squadron badges! At the end of the session, families are given a trail of the museum which is free to visit.
Last Thursday of the month 10.30 – 11.30, 2-5yrs, £3 per child, museum entry free. Bookable in advance.
South London: Mini Masterpieces at Dulwich Picture Gallery
South East London’s answer to the National Gallery has one of the best sessions around for babies and toddlers. Entrance to the Gallery’s unique collection of European Old Master paintings is included in the ticket price for Mini Masterpieces where adults can explore the collection with their children who are catered for with a range of hands-on sensory activities. Kids can play in a cardboard Wendy house version of the Gallery and get messy in the studio with finger paints and felt tip dabbers.
Monthly on Mondays 10.30–12.00, 6-18 months, £16 per adult and child inclusive of museum entry. Bookable in advance.
East London: Play Tuesdays at the National Maritime Museum
The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich has a fantastic immersive exhibit for 0-7yrs the Ahoy Gallery where they can become a Pirate, stoke the engine fire on a steamship or go on a Polar exploration! As if this wasn’t fun enough on Play Tuesdays families can explore the museum’s wider galleries filled with fascinating objects from across British Naval history, entertained along the way with the usual mixture of craft, storytelling, singing and trails.
Tuesdays during term time. 10.30, 11.30, 13.00, 14.00, £3 per child, Museum entry free, 6 months – 5 yrs, accompanying adults and babies free. Meet at the Sammy Ofer Wing.
I hope that these top five tips give you some ideas for how to get out and about with little ones this Spring!