May half term 2022 runs Saturday 28 May-Sunday 5 June for most London schools, and because of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, two bank holidays fall within the half term break too. We’ve selected some family-friendly events and things to do in London, however old your kids are and whatever your budget is.
BOATING: Few things excite kids more than boats, especially if you tell them they can have a go at rowing/pedalling themselves. With that in mind, pick one of our favourite boating lakes in London, chock full of swans, dragons and other fantastical vessels waiting to be hired out. Not up for doing the work yourselves? Kick back on one of London’s best boat trips and let someone else do the work while you watch the scenery roll by.
SWIMMING: Another kiddie favourite, London has plenty of options for swimming, whatever the weather. From an Olympic venue to local leisure centres, these are some of London’s best indoor pools. If the weather’s on your side, try one of London’s outdoor pools and lidos — you’ll probably need to book in advance if it’s sunny.
ICE SKATING: Stick with us. The seasonal ice rinks are long gone, but London has year-round ice rinks too, including one slap bang in the middle of the Central line.
DIPPY RETURNS: Roll out the red carpet, one of London’s most famous residents is back. Natural History Museum’s diplodocus skeleton replica — known as Dippy to its mates — is back at the South Ken institution after a lengthy UK tour. It’s only here for a few months, and you’ll have to book (free) tickets to the Dippy Returns exhibition if you want in on the action. 27 May-December
THE GRUFFALO: Oh help! Oh no! It’s a Gruffalo! Take your family along to see Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler’s much-loved children’s book brought to life on stage. Artsdepot in North Finchley hosts the production, aimed at children aged 3+ and their families. 28 May-1 June The same venue also hosts Finger Sports tournaments (29 May-1 June) and a production of Lily and Bear (5 June)
ALL HANDS ON DECK: Get the lowdown on ship life at Cutty Sark, where kids can get hands-on with learning how to sail a ship, and to communicate using signal flags, at special school holiday activities. 30 May-3 June
PETER RABBIT: Quantum Theatre take over Royal Observatory Gardens in Greenwich Park for open-air performances of The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny. You can take along a picnic to tuck into as Beatrix Potter’s story is brought to life (something with lettuce in it maybe). 30 May-4 June
WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY: Older kids and teenagers — especially those who love animals or are handy with a camera — might enjoy Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. It’s one of our annual faves, and this year more than 100 stunning snaps are on show from all over the world. Until 5 June 2022
CATS AND DOGS: Horniman Museum’s family-friendly exhibition, Cats and Dogs is still ongoing. It offers an insight into the creatures we share our homes with, looking at the scientific, social and cultural role that cats and dogs play in our world, and offering a chance to experience what it’s like to be a canine or feline. Until 20 October
BEATRIX POTTER: Following Winnie the Pooh and Alice in Wonderland, the V&A Museum continues its foray into children’s literature with an exhibition about writer and illustrator Beatrix Potter, suitable for older children and teenagers. The woman who brought us Peter Rabbit and co. took her inspiration from her work as a conservationist. Find out more and see her drawings and sketches. Until January 2023
MUSICALS: Its launch was somewhat overshadowed by lockdowns and restrictions, so we’ll forgive you if you haven’t seen Frozen The Musical yet… but your kids probably won’t. Seeing the story of Anna and Elsa unfold on stage is the ideal half term treat. Other popular family-friendly musicals running at the moment include The Lion King and Matilda, as well as magical play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
DAY TRIPS: Fancy getting out of London for a day or two? Take a look at our map of day trips from London for inspiration. Particularly child-friendly is a visit to the real-life Hundred Acre Wood, as featured in AA Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books, which celebrate their 95th anniversary this month. Wellington Country Park is also an excellent bet for energetic kids.
Jubilee events in May half term
You may have heard, there’s a bit of a fuss being made about the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee this year. The celebrations officially take place the latter half of the half term week (2-5 June), with street parties, an official pageant and plenty more planned (here’s our full guide to Jubilee events). Looking for something children can enjoy too? Read on.
ZOOBILEE: ZSL London Zoo celebrates with Zoobilee, a week of family-friendly, regal-themed events including a teddy bear’s picnic (bring your own cuddly toy), environmentally-friendly crafts, face painting, quizzes and more. 28 May-5 June
HYDE PARK: Royal Parks celebrates 70 years of the Queen’s reign with activities designed to inspire youngsters to protect the green spaces for the next 70 years. Create a nature crown, plant seeds and take part in regal-themed storytelling sessions. 31 May-1 June
PARTY: Cultural venue Southbank Centre has a whole programme of Jubilee events planned, though many are for adults. However, Party is a play aimed at 2-5 year olds and their families. It’s not particularly Jubilee themed, being about Afonso, who’s desperate to go to his best friend’s birthday party, but with a lively soundtrack and big grand finale, it’ll thrill little ones. 2-4 June