Half-term culture for children in London

arts & culture - theatre trip
arts & culture - children's theatre trip

theatrical delights, with not a raindrop in sight

Half term is less than a week away. The big question is: how to entertain the children?

Outside, it’s raining buckets. Daffodil buds are being torn from their moorings by the shrieking gales, and Cameron says the worst may be yet to come. So no chance of any early-springtime trips to the park to stave off holiday boredom, then.

But if you live in London (or can get here without the risk of being caught in floods), there are plenty of alternatives to outdoor play.

Here are some highlights we’ve spotted.

For the under-5s (some of these might not be suitable for very young children):

Not Now, Bernard at the Unicorn Theatre   (opens 15 Feb)
Although I’m excited about this performance, I have to admit that I was a tad disturbed when I read the original book by David McKee. It tells the tale of [*SPOILER ALERT!*] a little boy whose parents are too busy to notice that he’s been eaten by a monster. But both our children enjoyed it, and a friend’s son insists on having it read to him over….and over…and over…. I’m intrigued to see what they’ll do with the story on stage; the simple narrative has scope for inventive, colourful dramatisation. Plus, it features a monster (always a winner).

The Cat in the Hat at Greenwich Theatre  (Wed 19-Sun 23 February)
The fabulously anarchic Dr Seuss book, and the TV series from 2010 (whose jolly insanity helped keep me grounded through Gwen’s early months) are hard acts to follow. But I have high hopes for this performance. Originally produced by the National Theatre of Great Britain, the adaptation is reckoned to be faithful to the original, and director Katie Mitchell is reportedly inspired by modern dance legend Pina Bausch. I’m anticipating plenty of leaping, prowling, and feline yowling.

For children who are a bit older:

Secret Agents Spy Academy at the Discover Children’s Story Centre  (opens 15 Feb; for ages 6+)
We’ve been to a few interactive exhibitions at Discover, and they never disappoint. Some are more elaborate and engaging than others; a highlight for us was Punchdrunk Enrichment’s The House Where Winter Lives, two Christmases ago. The blurb about the Spy Academy makes it sound thrilling and detailed; I’ve been invited to their launch party in a couple of weeks’ time, so I’ll report back in full once I know more about the mission….

Comedy Club 4 Kids at Canary Wharf (Monday 17 Feb, 6.30pm; for ages 7+)
This show is touted as being enjoyable for parents as well as children, and, looking at the line-up, it’s easy to see why. Luke Toulson is fresh from last summer’s acclaimed Edinburgh show, I Don’t Know How I feel About My Kids. Johnny and the Baptists are a comedy blues band currently doing the rounds on their Stop UKIP Tour (apocalyptical flooding, anyone…?) Patrick Monahan is well-known for being family-friendly; according to the Evening Standard he displays ‘Tiggerish energy’. And if you have a budding comedy star in your family, there are a few afternoon workshops to help kick-start their careers.

children's picnic on the Southbank

Pigeons’ picnic on the Southbank

Imagine Children’s Festival, Southbank Centre (from 10-23 Feb)
If you’re only going to visit one place for a cultural fix this half-term, then the Imagine Festival would be your best bet. It features big names like Malorie Blackman, Petr Horacek, Jacqueline Wilson, John Hegley and Polly Dunbar (of Tilly and Friends fame). There’s a repeat performance of the magnificent Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs. Mother-and-daughter team Shirley Hughes (of Alfie fame) and Clara Vulliamy will be unveiling their new collaboration, Dixie O’Day. Cerrie from CBeebies will be reading her delightful-sounding story, illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson. Michael Rosen is calling for budding young musicians to help him compose a signature tune for Enormo’s Theme Park. And this only scrapes the surface; there is so much more, including dance, singing, circus skills, dressing-up, and book-swaps.

Red Riding Hood at the Polka Theatre (opens 20 Feb; for ages 4-7, but  Watch with Baby shows are open to all)
This performance, adapted by Mike Kenny, was a sell-out in 2012, and according to reviews is playful, magical, and without the menace of the original story. It looks as though tickets are selling out fast for the relatively short run, so it’s worth booking soon. And, if you’re going along, do check out the Pop-Up Tea Room (serving art instead of food and drink) by our favourites, Tea Dance for Little People.


Of course, this is only a tiny fraction of what London has to offer this half-term. If you’re going along to something exciting that I haven’t mentioned, do let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to (and read any reviews of your experiences).


Disclosure: We were offered free tickets to some (but not all) of the events mentioned above. My views are entirely my own. Check back in a week or two to read my reviews of some of these cultural highlights….


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  1. February 13, 2014 / 7:25 am

    Brilliant suggestions here. We live quite close to Greenwich so I’m going to look up their theatre listings – I never think of going there. Thanks for doing this round up Nel! I’m always looking for fun things to do with my little one.

  2. becky
    February 13, 2014 / 7:44 am

    am so jealous of your spy academy invite Nell!!

  3. February 13, 2014 / 10:31 am

    Ooh, thanks! There are some great suggestions there. Wee Man is already very excited about the Secret Agents at Discover, but I didn’t know about the others 🙂

  4. February 13, 2014 / 12:25 pm

    We are not having rain here, but we are getting tons of snow and it is very, very cold. Wish we had something like this in our area.

  5. February 13, 2014 / 12:47 pm

    Our half term must be earlier than everyone else then as my son finishes today! We will get to London with the children sometime soon to experience all the great events going on!

  6. February 13, 2014 / 12:54 pm

    I am so envious of big city life in wintery holidays, and then so grateful to live in the country by the sea in summer!

  7. February 13, 2014 / 2:36 pm

    We love just strolling down the South Bank and soaking up the atmosphere but if it is very cold and wet this half term we might be found hanging out in the Tate Modern cafe before running over the Millennium Bridge to climb the steps at St Paul’ Cathedral. have a great half term holiday and good luck with the MADS x

  8. February 13, 2014 / 3:35 pm

    Fab, we love London but I have never taken the girls at half term, look like so much fun! x

  9. Ruth
    February 13, 2014 / 3:37 pm

    Some really lovely ideas here, enjoy your half-term

  10. February 13, 2014 / 3:38 pm

    What some great suggestions – I used to love going down to London as a child there was always so much to do. x

  11. February 13, 2014 / 3:59 pm

    Great suggestions. I hope you have a lovely time x

  12. February 13, 2014 / 4:54 pm

    Thank you for this round-up.
    Great info all in one place.

  13. February 13, 2014 / 6:23 pm

    We are meant to be going to London during half term, but like you say the flood situation is not good. Thank you though, if we do go I will know what’s available 🙂

  14. Emma
    February 13, 2014 / 8:49 pm

    Hi Nell, what a fabulous round up you’ve sorted here. Enjoy the freebies! x

  15. February 13, 2014 / 9:15 pm

    Lovely suggestions. I hope I can take my son to the theatre one day but at the moment anything where you have to sit down wouldn’t happen. There’s some great shows for kids now, when I was a kid all we had were pantomimes.

  16. February 13, 2014 / 9:38 pm

    Such great suggestions there especially if the weather continues as it has been. Good old Greenwich, was always great going there. Ah such fond memories of my Honor Oak Park days 🙂

  17. Charlotte
    February 13, 2014 / 10:33 pm

    Great post, some fab ideas – we are definitely going to the imagine fest but the comedy club looks amazing for older kids! x

  18. February 14, 2014 / 6:00 am

    wish i lived closer to London, not much going on in this neck of the woods

  19. February 14, 2014 / 9:00 am

    We aren’t far from London (half an hour by train) but we don’t make use of that distance very much. I think we might be going in on the 22nd – will probably do a museum trip though!

    This is a great round up.

  20. February 14, 2014 / 10:40 am

    What fabulous suggestions – only wish I had younger kids to enjoy these with. Looking forward to the reviews…

  21. February 14, 2014 / 12:17 pm

    Great suggestions!! I sometimes wish I lived further down south x

  22. February 14, 2014 / 8:11 pm

    We always have a day out to London at Feb half term but as we come in by train I have all my fingers crossed that the flooding situation isn’t so bad next week! #pocolo

  23. February 15, 2014 / 7:37 pm

    Great suggestions. We’re thinking of nipping to London some time over the holidays so I will keep this bookmarked to come back to for inspiration.

  24. February 15, 2014 / 10:56 pm

    This is FAB! Me and Grace are supposed to go to London on Thursday and we had some extra time in the afternoon so these are well-needed tips. Thanks for sharing with PoCoLo lovely x

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