26 WAYS TO SPEND A DAY OUT WITH YOUR KID IN LONDON
By Jodi Bartle
There are many wonderful, infinitely varied reasons why it is good to have fun family days out on weekends and holidays and time off from work.
Everyone pitches in, you have to share and compromise (especially if you have a scowling teen with permanently attached headphones who thinks he or she is above such things as hanging out with the family) and you are brought closer together as a unit.
Making memories and all that….and you love them all, most of the time. Often times, simply being together can be all the nourishment you need.
The flip side of this is that everyone needs some individual attention.
If you have a couple of kids (or more) then sometimes, out of the corner of your eye, you see one of them and recognise that you haven't really spoken with them properly for a long time.
That they might be looking a bit miserable, or just a bit neglected, perhaps they have grown a sad looking moustache and you hadn’t clocked it and then it hits you: it’s time for Date Night With My Kid.
Ideas? We’ve had a few.
26 ways to spend a day with your kids in London
Do this before they leave home for good and you are left crying into your wineglass after stepping onto an ancient piece of Lego that has been hiding under an inconspicuous piece of furniture for 20 years which reminded you of how very briefly the kids were yours:
1. A Topshop outing
Go in the evening and actually engage without feeling annoyed at all the loud music and indulge a little bit, trying on some things, figuring out what you both like.
Follow it up with a bite to eat at a restaurant - we like Honest Burgers at Market Place.
2. An exhibition they really want to see and you actually have to pay.
This is shifting things up a gear - we've all been to the busy, crowded free London museums, but how about investigating the seasonal paid exhibitions when something comes up that your kid is interested in?
It will make them feel like you are interested in them if you show an interest into what they like.
Look at the British Museum, the art galleries, the V&A (who have done some great shows on Vivienne Westwood, David Bowie, etc - great for young cultural aesthetes).
3. Seek out photographic shows that might be a little more grown up for your nearly and barely teens.
I took my son to see the William Eggleston show at the National Portrait Gallery when it was on a few years ago, which was edgy and cool. Hopefully that rubbed off a bit.
4. The One Pound Shop is a total winner. We pop in every now and then and all of the children have fun taking turns choosing rubbish.
Counteract the Bad Consumerism by frequent trips to the charity shop. which brings us to…
5. The charity shop
I take my middle reluctant reader into charity shops all the time in the hunt for a book he might read.
I get one, he gets one, we find a little cafe, order a hot chocolate and a flat white and test out the new tomes.
This can be dealt with well by taking a kid out to a cafe, ordering a snack, and sitting with them while he or she battles fractions and spellings.
It isn’t that much ‘fun’ but it does mean you are very present for them, and supportive.
Just put your phone away for a bit, please.
7. Mystery Tube Rides
Get out of the house on a Saturday, leave the others and the mess, and go out to the nearest tube station for a mystery destination.
Get out at a station neither of you have ever been to and do a bit of exploring.
Visiting a fancy hotel is always special and feels very grownup. Put on some tidy clothes and treat your kid to something a bit posh.
It doesn't have to be the Ritz - although it would be lovely - the German Gymnasium in Kings Cross charges £18.50 per person for the full offering.
Finish that off with a wander around the canal.
9. Live music
A coke at the pub is the perfect Friday night thing to do - so introduce your kid to it, too.
Take your eldest out to The Bull’s head in Barnes where you can eat excellent pub food with them and then listen to live jazz performers.
A music academy for kids where they learn to play, sing, and produce music that they love. There are gigs throughout the year so you can go along and listen to other young people perform.
Perfect for that stage when they are just beginning to think about what music tribe they might like to belong to.
Take one out for an early-ish dinner at one of the hot eating spots - early enough before the queues form owing to that irritating ‘no-reservation’ thing everyone keeps insisting on.
But brave it - the Soho crowd is always mixed and lively, people spilling out into the street, laughing and generally being their best selves.
12. An elegant cinema screening
Many of the independent London cinemas have cheaper morning kid’s screenings, but for a date, treat your son or daughter to the full, adult cinema experience in the early evening - crucially, at a movie they also want to see.
Check age restrictions first. Buy them the snacks, then find a place to have dessert after you go home. Decadent and lovely.
13. Treasure Trails
We took the kids on a Treasure Trail, a downloadable treasure hunt through various parts of London.
It was excellent but would have been even better with just one kid, which would leave you open to stopping frequently for coffee and snacks, allowing you to get to know a new part of London, as well as your kid a bit better.
We did the Marylebone version which cost £6.99. A brilliant experience to try.
14. Cinnamon roll hunt
Basically, my eldest son and I are permanently on a hunt for the best cinnamon roll.
We have gone far and wide (well, to Portobello and Seven Dials) searching for who does the best version.
The next time one of you who share a penchant for a foodstuff is looking a little peckish, go out together on the hunt.
15. Brunch date on the canal
The Darcie and May Green barges, a riot of colour designed by Peter Blake, float outside Paddington Station and offer excellent coffee, smoothies, breakfast and a very good banana bread.
Walk along the canal to Portobello Road and have a look at the cool craftier stalls under the Westway, filled with jewellery and old records.
16. London Theatre
According to a recent study, live theatre enhances literary knowledge, tolerance, and empathy among students.
17. Train them in Entrepreneurship
We are huge believers in entrepreneurship; the job your child ends up doing might not even exist yet.
The creativity and business ideas they come up with might surprise you. Give them a head start with our free guide to 25 business ideas suitable for tweens, teens and young adults.
18. Brixton Windmill
One of the few working examples in London, Brixton Windmill is a restored 1816 Grade II listed building.
The windmill offers a host of seasonal events in Windmill Gardens including Easter Egg Hunts, Bat Walks, a Beer and Bread Festival and even Santa’s windmill grotto.
Bear in mind that Brixton Windmill is a former industrial building so has potential dangers, including steep ladders, low beams and heavy machinery.
It’s also a very small space, so the number of visitors at any one time is restricted.
Children are very welcome, but because of the steep ladders they are not allowed to go above the first floor if they are less than 1.2m tall.
They must be able to climb the stairs by themselves. You will not be able to carry babies and young children on the stairs.
19. Nunhead Cemetery
Not an obvious choice, the cemetery is home to various kinds of wildlife, including several species of butterfly, parakeets, woodpeckers and tawny owls.
Try and visit in May for its annual Open Day for bug hunts, guided tours, demonstrations, treasure trails and badge-making.
It’s not cheap but if your child likes animals, it’s a must visit.
Find an exhibition most suited to their age and spend the morning. Go for lunch afterwards and discuss what you saw. Depending on their age, make a scrapbook based on how you spent the day.
22. London Eye
As long as they like heights, you can see London from above during your 30 minute ride. Walk along Southbank afterwards and encourage them to tell you what’s on their mind.
Climb the Arcelor Mittal Slide, go swimming, go for a walk along the waterway. Or go shopping in Westfield Stratford!
24. Horniman Museum
One for the younger kids, there’s always something on and the Horniman, much if which is free. Most activities are animal/nature based and you can have hot chocolate and a cake in the on-site café.
If your little one has a lot of energy, try an adventure playground. We like Coram Field’s.
26. Madame Tussauds
Yes, it’s cheesy but it’s still fun standing next to (some so bad they’re good) waxworks of your favourite celebrities. Pop to Daunt Books when you’re done then read your new tome in Regent’s Park (weather permitting).
What’s your favourite thing to do on a date with your kid?