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  • Writer's pictureTracy Tristram

Big, bold, small and old: the best museums in London for kids

Updated: Jan 18, 2022

best museums in London for kids

Do you know what we love best about taking the little people to the museum? Well aside from the fact that most of them are our fave word, FREE, we also love a plan that can’t be ruined by the pesky weather. Yep: come rain or shine this is one adventure with the kids that will pan out all year round All you need is our handy guide to acing the Underground with kids (and don't forget your masks and hand sanitiser), a bag packed with all the snacks in the world, and, voila: you’re all set to work your way through the best museums for kids in London.

1. Natural History Museum

The clue is in the name, and if it’s the natural world your little ones get enthralled by, then it doesn't get much better than the ever-amazing Natural History Museum. Current exhibits that have reopened include include Andy’s Clock - the actual clock from CBeebie’s shows Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures and Andy’s Prehistoric Adventures.

Of course, even without the seasonal exhibits, the year-round adventures to be had checking out dinosaur bones, fossils, bugs of all shapes and sizes, British wildlife, space junk, human evolution and tons more, is enough to keep even the most intrepid of explorers busy for hours! One visit is never enough…

Where: Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD

Cost: Free admission for all but pre-booking essential. Some exhibits are ticketed.

2. Science Museum

Whether you’re a family of science geeks or not, there is plenty for all ages happening at the Science Museum. Jam-packed with over 15,000 objects, awesome collections and activities, there’s so much to tinker and investigate that little minds will be nicely tuckered out by the end of it. The perfect day out for curious minds!

Where: Science Museum, Exhibition Road, London SW7 2DD

Cost: Free admission. Some exhibits and activities are ticketed. Book in advance.

3. British Museum

best museums in London for kids
We recently visited the British Museum for an extended browse! Photography: London for Kidz

One of our all-time fave days out, the British Museum never fails to keep the kids happy and engaged, and we’ll be honest, for our kids it’s all about the mummies! Well mummies are pretty cool, it has to be said. Aside from ancient Egypt, families with children of all ages can have a heap of fun with free downloadable gallery activities, that include everything from being a symbol detective to using a trail to discover ancient Greece.

Where: British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG

Cost: Free admission. Some exhibits and activities are ticketed. Book in advance.

4. Imperial War Museum London

We’re all about activities with the kids that are not only fun, but also give the opportunity for a bit of sneaky learning along the way. Add in a museum that is as thought provoking as it is enjoyable, and you’ve got a family winner in the Imperial War Museum. Since it first opened its doors back in 1936 (yes, kids, it's even older than us parents!), it's been wowing visitors with a full schedule of fun aimed especially at families.

And why stop with just the Imperial War Museum London? If you get the chance, head out to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford to see 1940s operation rooms, sit in planes, and maybe even fly one, and if you’re heading to the north of England, there’s also the Imperial War Museum Manchester to discover. Don't forget to book an advance ticket before you get to any of the museums though.

Where: Lambeth Road, London SE1 6HZ

Cost: Free admission. Some exhibits and activities are ticketed. Book in advance.

5. Pollock’s Toy Museum

best museums in London for kids
Eek! It's a mouse! A very, very, very old mouse... Photography via Pollock's Toy Museum

If you haven’t got the bundles of time needed to fully explore some of the other museums in London, then we say combine a visit to Covent Garden with an hour or two’s visit to the uber quaint Pollock’s Toy Museum.

Housed over two historic buildings, the mainly Victorian collection of toys includes dolls, teddy bears, folk toys, doll houses, puppets, toy theatres, and plenty more. It’s a family-owned collection that has been growing in size since the 1960s, and makes for the perfect pit stop for kids to have a glimpse into the world of toys before they became all about flashing lights and noise! Do keep a look out for one of the oldest toys we’ve ever seen: an Egyptian clay mouse dating from around 2000BC!

There’s no government funding for this one, so there is a small admission charge which helps to keep this little gem of a museum ticking over.

Where: Pollock’s Toy Museum, 1 Scala Street, London W1T 2HL

Cost: £9 per adult, £4.50 per child (age 3+), £8 for students and senior citizens. Free for under 3's. Book in advance.

6. The Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) is not only, we think, one of the best museums for kids in London, but it also happens to be the home of the world’s largest museum collection of decorative arts and design, with over 4.5 million objects to be found within its walls!

You’ll find free activities for families running every day, with special workshops running during the school holidays for bonus fun. Once you’re done with the organised activities, it’s time to start ticking off those 4.5 million bits and bobs ranging from wedding dresses to paintings, manuscripts to jewellery and plenty more.

Where: Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL

Cost: Free admission. Some exhibits and activities are ticketed. Book in advance.

7. Bank of England Museum (temporarily closed)

Turns out that banks are not boring after all! Head over to the Bank of England Museum and make sure you pick up an activity sheet or two from the information desk on your way in. Pick up I spy in the Bank (up to 5 years), Explore the Bank (5 to 7 years), Investigate the Bank (8 to 11 years), Discover the Bank (12 to 14 years) and Understand the Bank (15 to 17 years). Kids will bank themselves a small reward if they complete the tasks.

As well as the fun-packed sheets, you’ll also get to visit the stock office, find out why there are 400,000 gold bars in the bank’s vaults (and even get to hold one for yourself: alas you won’t be able to take it home with you!), travel through 300 years of Bank of England history and get the inside lowdown on why bank notes are so hard to forge! It's not quite ready to reopen yet, but in the meantime you can still explore its online collections. You can also visit its home learning hub and watch its brand new banknote workshop video.

Where: Bank of England Museum, Bartholomew Lane, London EC2R 8AH

Cost: Free admission. Due to reopen in Spring 2022.

8. London Transport Museum

best museums in London for kids
What kid doesn't love trains and buses? Photography via London Transport Museum Facebook

Beep, beep: all aboard for the London Transport Museum! This award-winning family day out is chockablock with interactive exhibits, kids’ activities and, of course, a whole lotta transport.

Check out 200 years worth of London’s transport history while also checking out STEM-inspired workshops, story time sessions and heaps more transport-themed fun.

Where: London Transport Museum, Covent Garden Piazza, London WC2E 7BB

Cost: Adults from £18. Children age 17 years and under free admission. Book in advance.

9. The Cartoon Museum

When it comes to entertaining the kids, we do like to keep it old school when we can, and encourage our small humans that there is definitely more entertainment afoot than what they find on the iPad. Which is why we love The Cartoon Museum with its 5,000 books, 4,000 comics and truck loads of graphic novels, animations and caricatures on display.

This charming museum is packed to the rafters with ongoing exhibitions and collections as well as events aimed at the young and old alike.

Where: The Cartoon Museum, 63 Wells Street, Fitzrovia, London W1A 3AE

Cost: Adults £8.50, Over 60s £5, Students £3. Under 18's free.

10. Tate Modern

Grab yourself an audio guide and get busy at the enormous Tate Modern for a day filled with textures, shapes, colours and plenty of things to ponder with the kiddos. There are daily tours happening everyday which are as free as it is to get into this museum, so do join one if you can: kids are not only welcome but also encouraged to share their thoughts and ideas on the way round. Make sure you also check out Tate Kids before your visit, which has loads of great suggestions for families.

Our tip? Take some paper and pencils with you and get the kids to sit and sketch while they’re there. If ever there was a place to inspire putting pencil to paper, then Tate Modern is definitely it!

Where: Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1 9TG

Cost: Free admission but book ahead for your timed session. Some exhibits and activities are ticketed. Book in advance.

11. Clink Prison Museum

best museums in London for kids
Don't lose your head over this fun museum. Photography: London for Kidz

If it's a day out with a difference you're after when it comes to things to do in London with kids, then Clink Prison Museum is exactly the kind of gruesomely good adventure you're after. Read our review on one of the best museums in London when it comes to hands-on, historic family fun!

Where: 1 Clink Street, London SE1 9DG (nearest station: London Bridge)

Cost: From £6.50 per person. Please note that the Clink Prison Museum is does not have suitable access for wheelchairs or pushchairs.

12. Grant Museum of Zoology

Pickled brains, bones aplenty and over 68,000 zoological specimens? If that's not an unusual day out in London with kids then we don't know what is! Head over to The Grant Museum of Zoology - home to one of the oldest natural history collections in the UK - for a fascinating journey around the animal kingdom through a heap of family activities: all for free!

Where: Grant Museum of Zoology, Rockefeller Building, University College London, 21 University Street, WC1E 6DE

Cost: Free.

13. Horniman Museum & Gardens

the best museums in London for kids things to do in London with kids
Photography: Horniman Museum & Gardens

An aquarium, a butterfly house (closed for refurb right now) and the vast collections of well-travelled Victorian tea trader and philanthropist Frederick John Horniman, this wonderful gem of a museum is a treasure trove packed with anthropology, natural history and a stack load of curiosities. It's free to get into the museum and gardens but do book your spot ahead of time.

Where: 100 London Road, Forest Hill SE23 3PQ Cost: Free (small charge for the aquarium, butterfly house and some exhibitions). Donations welcome.

14. Museum of London Docklands

Head on over to the Isle of Dogs and you'll find The Museum of London Docklands which is dedicated to telling the history of the River Thames and the Docklands. The museum is part of the Museum of London and opened in 2003 in a Grade I Listed early-19th century Georgian "low" sugar warehouse built in 1802: it's a cool building! Visitors are navigated through the displays in chronological order and will see plenty of fascinating things from the Roman times all the way through to when the docks in the 1970s. Don't forget to print out your free activity sheet to bring with you and also look out for the Trails designed for under 5's.

Where: No.1 Warehouse, West India Quay, London E14 4AL Cost: Free

15. Museum of Brands

best museums in London for kids things to do in London with kids
Photography: Museum of Brands

For a retro trip down Memory Lane it doesn't get much more nostalgic than Museum of Brands! Founder Robert Opie has collected a whopping 12,000 (and counting) items spanning from Victorian times to the now following the evolution of all kinds of brands. With everything from WWI Oxo cubes to pre-war Kitkats, 70's fave sweet treats to modern day essentials, kids will have a ton of fun taking a trip through the Time Tunnel to discover history, wrapper style. We love that the museum also has its own special Sensory Guide which includes information about lighting, sounds, uneven floor ways, and exit spaces, plus permanent and temporary exhibitions.

Where: 111-117 Lancaster Road, London W11 1QT Entry: Adults £9, Children £5 and Family Tickets £24

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