Sian Gwilliam launched the fantastic website Creative Bus Stop to share her passion for the incredible free (and cheap) cultural, creative and educational activities that are available in London and around the UK. Herewith, she gives kodomo.com her top ten things to do in and around the British capital this summer.
1. See a West End show for Free at Kids Theatre Week, London.
These include half price and free tickets for kids’ theatre shows this August (mainly in the West End). One child goes free for every adult ticket bought. There are loads of behind-the-scenes events including workshops with the crew, back stage tours and singing workshops, and all are absolutely free. Booking started on June 17th at 10am.
2. Get Arty and create your masterpiece at Tate Modern & Tate Britain.
From Thursdays through to Sundays throughout the summer holidays experience the Tate through a Sonic Trail created by Sound Artists. Visit the “Families Welcome” spaces to pick up your trail kit. (This recommended for children aged 7 and up). From the 24th of July at Tate Modern, The Family Gallery brings Matisse’s cut-outs to life through specially commissioned sound, animation and sculptural work. You can also talk part in Colour Walk, an activity that explores the tones of colour that Matisse used in his work.
If you’re nearer to the Tate St Ives and Barbara Hepworth Museum then take the “I Spy Challenge” and use picture clues to spy artworks on display. Prizes are available if children complete the challenge.
3. Wear your crown or take your sword and visit one of many stunning National Trust properties across the country.
Visit any of the endless National Trust houses, castles or majestic gardens. For 5000 acres of unspoiled Chiltern countryside, try the Ashridge Estate in Berkhamstead, Bucks. There you can choose to explore any number of trails and woodland walks. There are lots of specially organised family events, too. If you feel like a taste of France without the journey, try Waddesdon Manor near Aylesbury in Bucks. It is a 19th century chateau built by Baron Rothschild, which houses an impressive personal art collection and has a lovely restaurant, shop and gardens – a little slice of fairytale life for all your Princes and Princesses.
4. Head to The BBC Proms to sing-a-long with CBeebies.
Book one of the many BBC Proms family events this summer. The Proms bring together acclaimed artists and great music at London’s Royal Albert Hall in Kensington. There are both ticketed and free events and there is even the dedicated CBeebies Prom on Sunday 27th of July at 11am. (Please see their website for the full schedule and all booking information).
5. Head to The Imperial War Museum.
Celebrate the 2014 centenary of World War 1 by paying a visit to the Imperial War Museum, which reopens on the 19th of July after a much-anticipated transformative building project. The museum will now feature a huge new atrium that will house iconic objects from across their collections, and there will also be a moving, brand new First World War Gallery space to view. The First World War Centenary Partnership will last for four years from 2014 – 2018, and this huge project, which is led by the Imperial War Museums will be running a wide range of events across the UK.
6. Feel the vibe at one of the many Family Friendly Festivals across the UK this Summer.
Festivalkidz have lots of advice and tips for first timers. They have an A to Z directory of the many festivals on offer, and posts on how to survive at festivals, what to pack for the potential wet weather, the range of food available, baby changing facilities, the size of each festival, and more. I recommend that if your little ones are under 4 years of age that you first try out a day pass and then embark on the full camping experience (complete with noise) when you feel ready.
7. Head out for a good countryside walk.
There are endless stunning walks around our beautiful countryside. There is little better medicine than leaving your car behind, turning off the phone, and packing your bag with treats for a glorious walk across the Chilterns, the Lake District, or even Hampstead Heath in North London. The National Trust have a guide to 10 best family walks around the UK or, if you’re ‘with buggy’ you should check out the Walks With Buggies blog, that offers tested walks across the UK. Walking Britain is a fantastic free resource for walkers covering the nation.
8. Grab your tin opener, firelighters, and arnica gel and take the kids camping at the bottom of the garden.
A great way to spend a day with the kids is to book in a whole 24 hours when you all live in your tent as a family. Each of you can take one bag full of whatever you need (apart from a picnic basket from the kitchen fairies), and cuddle up together, telling each other stories, drawing pictures (no iPads allowed), and playing cards. If Dad likes to ‘be prepared’ he can have a read of the Camping with Kids “Love the Outdoors” website, which has the best camping checklist and scavenger hunt ideas. For those that get the bug, you could order the Cool Camping Guide book to plan your next trip away (not forgetting your duvet and hand sanitizer, of course).
9. Don’t be put off by rain.
The team from The Wild Weather Book have lots of ideas on how to keep yourselves entertained during the rain, wind and even snow-filled days. These range from making wind flags and flying creatures, playing stuck in the mud, creating a wormery, making a water run, and catching raindrops. What could be more fun than that?
10. Pick your own fruit bowl and, better still, make your own fruit lollies.
One of the best days out that we ever had, which has never been forgotten by my girls, was picking our own fruit at our local farm. Although there weren’t many blackberries or raspberries left, and I was hoodwinked into buying the most expensive local honey ever, my girls and I enjoyed the fresh air, hunting down healthy runner beans, and the excitement of eating the very freshest strawberries. You can find your nearest pick your own farm in the UK on this website.