A trip to London over the winter months can be a magical experience for children. They’ll be mesmerised by the lights, the baubles and the bustling cheer in the run-up to Christmas. There are plenty of child-friendly activities to keep them occupied and warm indoors. Before you even leave your hotel, they can enjoy decorating their own Christmas cookies at the Park Grand Paddington Court Hotel! Here are 10 other things to do with kids in London this winter.
1) Visit Father Christmas in his grotto
Keep them believing by taking them to meet the bearded man himself in London, he has plenty of appearances planned around your accommodation near Paddington. The Winter Wonderland Santa’s Grotto operates a free, first-come, first-served service. A ticket to meet him at Christmas in Leicester Square costs £11.50 and includes a free gift. The Royal Albert Hall has recreated all the magic of the North Pole where children can explore a winter wonderland and discover the stories and characters of Christmas’ past through engaging puppetry and live music. With the help of Santa’s elves, they can even make their own stuffed toy to take home. The experience takes around 1 hour and costs £40 per child aged 3+.
2) Meet the alpacas and donkeys
London is home to several urban farms which are open year-round to the public and their four-legged residents delight children of all ages. Families can pet and feed the animals, which range from pigs and ponies to bees and bugs! Spitalfields City Farm has donkeys, whilst Vauxhall City Farm has three alpacas; Tom, Ben and Jerry! Over the Christmas season, the farms are running their own Santa’s Grottos on Saturdays and Sundays where children can visit Father Christmas (a small donation is requested). The farms reopen in January after the Christmas break. You can trust the farmyard crew to put a smile on your little ones’ faces on a chilly winter afternoon!
3) Feed them mince pies and hot chocolate
The festive markets in London are in full swing, just try to keep the kids away from the scent of hot chocolate wafting through the air! The stalls sell traditional Christmas pastries and sweets including mouth-watering mince pies, chocolate logs, cinnamon rolls and fudge with every flavour under the sun. Balance the sugar levels with a solid, savoury Indian breakfast at your hotel to begin your day.
4) Have a night at the pantomime
The pantomime is a great way to introduce the kids to the joy of theatre. Pantos are full of the baddest baddies, silly jokes and nutty costumes. Courageous children love the opportunity to go up on stage and get involved with the action too. There are plenty of pantos taking place across London this season, some of the best picks include Goldilocks and the Three Bears at the London Palladium, Cinderella at The Lyric Hammersmith and Snow White at the Richmond Theatre.
5) Cuddle up with a Christmas film
No matter how many times they’ve already seen Home Alone, Elf, The Muppets Christmas Carol, there’s always room for another viewing especially when it’s on the big screen within a winter wonderland. Long-standing and pop-up cinemas in London are showing festive favourites all winter. Backyard Cinema’s Winter Night Garden will show Christmas films throughout December, and then continue their programme with live-action Disney films including Aladdin, Mary Poppins Returns and The Lion King.
6) Go ice skating with penguins
Family favourite the Natural History Museum has an ice rink surrounded by fairy lights and frost-covered trees. They operate special weekday skates for adults with toddlers – book your skate for before 3pm and you’ll both enjoy a free hot chocolate. The rink provides cute penguin supports to help little children find their feet on the ice. Meanwhile, the Penguin Skate Club runs on Saturday mornings – with lessons for children aged 4 to 8. They’ll be gliding like Torvill and Dean before they know it. Until 12 January.
7) Pose with the Coca Cola Truck
Holidays are coming…. and so is the iconic Coca Cola Truck, which will make an appearance in London on Sunday 15 December at the o2 arena. Visit the truck in its glittering winter wonderland setting and enjoy festive photo moments as a family. You’ll also receive a free 150ml Coca-Cola Zero, perfect to revive during sightseeing.
8) Build your own gingerbread house
The Museum of Architecture has orchestrated a Gingerbread City built by architects, engineers and designers which is currently on exhibition at Somerset House. As part of the exhibition, there are workshops where you can also build your own gingerbread house to take home and eat! All materials are supplied and the family ticket admits 1 adult, 1 child to work together to fashion one gingerbread creation. Try not to start nibbling until you get home!
9) Feel the wizardly magic at Hogwarts in the Snow
Every year like clockwork, the Warner Bros Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter give Hogwarts a festive makeover so children (and grown-up Potter fans!) can follow the snow prints of the boy wizard. See the Christmas tree-lined Great Hall, beaming with golden baubles and topped with witches on broomsticks and Christmas puddings surrounded by real flames. The iconic model of the Hogwarts castle will be transformed with a layer of filmmaking snow and expect to see lots of familiar props from the Christmas scenes scattered amongst the sets.
10) Artistic workshops in Covent Garden
The Ballet Dots and Opera Dots workshops at the Royal Opera House are a fun way to engage children as young as three months in the world of performance. The participatory workshops each last around 45 minutes and include creative movement and dance, or song and music-based activities depending on which option you choose. Suitable for children under 5, the sensory workshops complement early years development. Until 27 April 2020 (Ballet Dots), 11 May 2020 (Opera Dots).