12 things for kids to do in London this Autumn

20160907_083454The long Summer holiday is over and we’re back to the reality of the school run, uniform and homework.

While I do love Autumn with its brilliant colours, snug jumpers and crisp, sunny days, I already feel nostalgic for the promise of Summer.

So I’ve decided I need a few things to look forward to in the diary.  After a fair bit of googling, here are 12 things we plan to get up to in the capital during our Autumn weekends:

At the theatre

I love going to the theatre – and even run a little group with some of my former colleagues organising monthly trips to west end and fringe shows.  One of my favourite things about London is the easy access to family friendly performances so I can pass on the pleasure of immersing yourself in a story to my children.  I’m looking forward to these shows this Autumn:

1. Spark our imagination with Mrs Armitage and the Big Wave

I’m super excited about going to see the first ever stage adaptation of Quentin Blake’s picture book Mrs Armitage and the Big Wave by Ga Ga Theatre.   I’ve always loved Quentin Blake’s distinctive pictures, and with the recent Roald Dahl centenary celebrations, Alex and Sophie have discovered many of his hilarious illustrations.   I hadn’t realised quite how prolific Quentin Blake’s work was, or indeed, that he’d written plenty of stories in his own right.  So I’m looking forward to seeing more of his imagination through this performance.  I think the children will be enthralled by the tale of Mrs Armitage and her custombuilt surfboard and dog Breakspear, told through live theatre with original music and magical projections on a big screen.


Quentin Blake 1999

Mrs Armitage and the Big Wave is touring for four weeks around London and the surrounding area from the 5th to the 30th October, including the Royal Albert Hall – tickets are on sale from Ga Ga Theatre.

2. Experience new shows at the Unicorn Theatre

While we were at West End Live earlier in the Summer, we spent ages with the Unicorn Theatre team hearing more about their Autumn shows.  Alex will love Baddies The Musical which opens in November – he’s finally old enough to see some of the longer shows at the Unicorn, and I think this is perfect for him.  What could be better for a six year old boy than a tale about fairytale baddies, including the Big Bad Wolf, the Ugly Sisters, Captain Hook and Rumpelstiltskin!

Sophie, on the other hand, will love The Owl Who Was Afraid Of The Dark – the tale of Plop, the baby barn owl, who is trying to overcome his fear of nighttime.  She’s already booked to go with her nursery, but I want to see it too – so I hope to take her myself one weekend.

3. Enjoy family friendly music from the Aurora Orchestra

A recent visit up to King’s Place reminded me of the great family friendly music performances there, and sure enough, the wonderful Aurora Orchestra have another show that looks like it’ll be a really special experience for the children.  They’ll be able to experience musicians performing music from Schumann’s Albumblätter, Carnival, and Album for the Young through a new story about Pepper the mischievous monkey’s musical journey to join the extraordinary Rainbow Circus.  There are quite a few performances throughout the Autumn, including some specifically for early years children.


Being in London, there are so many options in terms of museums to visit and exhibitions to explore.  I was just saying to a friend this morning how London is a new place to me since having children – I visit so many of the places I did in my twenties, but end up with such a different perspective when I revisit with children.  Museums are somewhere I feel this really strongly – I never have time to get into all the detail in an exhibition when I’m with the kids, but instead, I get to help them with their first introduction to amazing history or art.  And this Autumn, there are some fabulous exhibitions that I know we’ll all love.

4. Experience the drama of The Great Fire of 1666

We’ll definitely be heading to the Museum of London for the Fire! Fire! exhibition marking the 350th anniversary of the infamous Great Fire of London.  The interactive exhibition looks amazing, with an opportunity to explore 17th century Pudding Lane, see how the fire spread, identify real objects melted by the flames and even help rebuild London after the disaster.  This video from the Museum is a great overview (and as an aside, I LOVE the exhibition graphics!)

5. Immerse ourselves in the Fantastic World of Dr Seuss

Alex loves Dr Seuss books, so we have to go to the The Fantastic World of Dr Seuss exhibition at the Discover Story Centre in Stratford – how can we pass up the opportunity to climb onto the Once-ler Wagon, dress up as Thing 1 and Thing 2, play music with the Boom Band and maybe meet The Cat in the Hat or Sam-I-Am?!  The exhibition is on until September 2017, so I suspect we’ll go more than once!

6. Challenge our perception of Colour and Vision

© The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

© The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

I’ve seen the beautiful posters around London for a while, so i’m intrigued to visit the Colour and Vision exhibition at the Natural History Museum.

I’m looking forward to seeing some of the museum’s most colourful specimens from the natural world, and I think the children will enjoy learning how different animals see the world.

7. Be inspired at the Wildlife Photography exhibition

Every Autumn we always go and visit the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition, also at the Natural History Museum – and this year will be no different.  Hopefully now that the children are a bit older, they’ll be more interested in the stunning photographs from around the globe, so we won’t have to go at break-neck speed around the space!  I can’t wait to see which shots have won.

8. Design Museum

This Autumn, the Design Museum is making a historical move to the old Commonwealth Institute on Kensington High Street – and we’re excited about seeing it in its new home.  Our first stop will be the new free gallery, Designer Maker User, which will tell the story of contemporary design.  I’m also looking forward to seeing the crowdsourced wall of the most popular affordable consumer goods.  Fingers crossed there will be some hands on activities for children…

The great outdoors

While I’m a city girl at heart, I love the great outdoors.  The children thrive when they have space to run and climb, so I’m always on the look out for green spaces to explore in the capital and beyond.  So this Autumn, as well as revisiting some favourite haunts for a different perspective, we’ll be checking out some places we haven’t yet visited.

9. Get back to nature with an evening bat walk

bat-walk-poster-2016We visit Ruskin Park all the time – it’s less than half a mile from our front door and is, of course, home to the local paddling pool as well as a great playground.

But next weekend, we’re hoping to see a new side to the familiar park and meet some of the permanent inhabitants.  Ruskin Park is hosting an evening bat walk and we’ll be there!  I think Alex will love an opportunity to  have a go using a bat detector at dusk!

10. Feel the energy of honey bees in The Hive at Kew Gardens

I’ve been saying to Matt for ages that I want to go back to Kew Gardens – we’ve been every winter for their fabulous “Christmas at Kew” lights, but I haven’t seen the garden in the daylight for years.  So I was already planning an Autumnal visit, but then I read about The Hive and now I absolutely can’t wait!  Inspired by scientific research into the health of bees, The Hive is a multi-sensory experience which responds in real-time to the activity of bees in a beehive at Kew.  Check out their video below – isn’t it beautiful?!

It’s at Kew until November 2017, so there is masses of time to see it.


11. Take in the Autumn colours at Box Hill

Another place I’ve wanted to return to for ages is Box Hill.  Part of the North Downs, Box Hill is the perfect place to blow away the cobwebs on a weekend walk.  We haven’t been for years.  The picture below is when Alex was tiny – so it’s definitely time for another visit.  While I’m looking forward to seeing the beautiful views again, I can’t wait to have a wander around the woodland and enjoy the Autumn colours.  We’ll probably follow the National Trust’s Natural Play Trail so the children can have a good climb.


12. Explore London’s secret garden

I thought we’ve visited most of the parks in central London, but Matt reminded me that we’ve yet to visit Chelsea Physic Garden.  It’s name is intriguing enough to encourage me to visit, but its history makes it even more interesting.  Founded in 1673, as the Apothecaries’ Garden, the Physic Garden’s purpose was to support the training of apprentices in the identification and use of medicinal plants.  Today, there are around 5,000 edible, useful, medicinal and historical plants in the Gardens on the banks of the River Thames.  I’m looking forward to following the Scent Trail around the more fragrant plants and flowers, and enjoying one of the regular Family Activity Days with the children


I wonder how many of these we’ll achieve.  Who’s coming with me?!


3 thoughts on “12 things for kids to do in London this Autumn

  1. Pingback: Fire! Fire! The Great Fire at the Museum of London | Diary of a Herne Hill mum

  2. Pingback: Getting a buzz at Kew Gardens | Diary of a Herne Hill mum

  3. Pingback: Experiencing Dr Seuss at the Discover Story Centre | Diary of a Herne Hill mum

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