School’s out this week, and London is teeming with activities to get kids off the couch. Here’s our round-up of London’s best indoor and outdoor fun to get the family out of the house.
Inside the cosy, cocoon-like inflatable tent where the live show unfolds, Upsy Daisy, Iggle Piggle and co from this modern bedtime classic enact the simple, soothing stories in a gentle introduction to theatre for the under-fives. But be prepared: we’ve found kids’ excitement at seeing full-size versions of their favourite characters in the fuzzy flesh can cancel out the usual wind-down effect. The show is at The O2 from Thursday May 29 until June 14, and moves to Richmond’s Old Deer Park from June 21 until July 5. The O2, Peninsula Square, SE10 0DX. 0333 300 0023. North Greenwich. £12.50-£33. Thu May 29-Jul 5.
Channel youngsters’ excess energy into the 22 colourful challenges up for grabs at Chelsea’s new themed climbing attraction. Kids can clamber, hang and drop from the vertigo-courting Skyscraper, the trapeze-like Leap of Faith and the scream-inducing Vertical Drop Slide. The activities are suitable for everyone aged four and up and no climbing experience is necessary as 90-minute sessions include a 20-minute induction. That should tire the little monkeys out. Advance booking is recommended at weekends and holidays. 19 Michael Rd, SW6 2ER. Fulham Broadway. £19 over-16s, £14 5-15, £14/£9 off-peak. Daily 9am-10pm.
The Natural History Museum’s tropical butterfly house is wonderful for all ages. Part the curtains in the specially constructed enclosure on the lawn to be enveloped in the humid habitat of hundreds of delicate chrysalises and colourful flutterers, including the swallowtail, blue morpho and moon moth. Don’t forget to check the mirrors on your way out to make sure you’re not smuggling out a lepitopteran stowaway – part of the magic is the butterflies’ tendency to land happily on visitors and go along for the ride. Cromwell Rd, SW7 5BD. 7942 5000. South Kensington. £5.50, under-fours free, £19 family ticket. Daily 10am-5.50pm. Until Sep 14.
Budding David Attenboroughs and Michaela Strachans can have a wild experience at this small and charming zoo. Children can help feed the critters all year round, but for May half-term the patient keepers will be enlisting young animal-lovers to help mix the feeds, too. Different furry friends get fed each day, from familiar fluffy rabbits to more exotic species including monkeys, meerkats and coatis, which you’ll confidently be able to identify as Brazilian aardvarks after this experience. Battersea Park, SW11 4NJ. 7924 5826. Battersea Park rail. £8.75, £6.50 children (2-15), under-twos free, £28 family ticket. Mon May 26-Fri May 30.
In 2013 everybody was worried about honey bees. Could 2014 be the year of the worm? The University of Central Lancashire’s earthworm experts and Riverford Organic Farms are hoping to find out lots more about Britain’s squirmiest inhabitants by getting us all to join in with their citizen science project. You can register online and rummage around in any mud you like, but families with children aged 3-12 can also get their hands dirty at the Big City Dig in Camley Street Natural Park, a lovely oasis in King’s Cross with a pond and plenty of shady green spots to make you feel you’ve escaped into the wild. 12 Camley St, N1C 4PW. 7833 2311. King’s Cross. Free. 10am-4pm. Sat May 31.
Theme park queues can fast become a test of parents’ ability to entertain in a tight spot, but Legoland, aimed at kids aged 3-12, solves that by providing loads of the beautiful bricks to play with as you wait. New for 2014 is the Pirate Shores area which offers stomach-churning freefalling on the huge Jolly Roger Pirate Ship – on our visit the kids begged to repeat it. The fantastically fun Pirate Show got a thumbs up, too, as did getting utterly soaked on the wicked Pirate Falls, which culminates in a massive drenching drop which on a hot day was perfectly welcome. Our top tip is to purchase the Q-Bot hand-held device and book your ride times in advance (£15-£70) – highly recommended to minimise queuing. Windsor, SL4 4AY. £46.80 (from £35.10 online); £41.40 (£31.05) children (under 12 and taller than 0.9m), under-threes free. Natasha Polyviou
Want more half-term ideas? Here are ten more events to try.