Posts Tagged ‘Weekly review’

Imperial War Museum

Friday, August 1st, 2014

We are huge fans of the Imperial War Museum

Permanent exhibitions here are free to visit, and it’s a family friendly museum that genuinely has a lot to offer parents and children. It recently re-opened after a £40million re-vamp, and as regular visitors we were counting down the days. There is just so much to see there, whether you simply want to marvel at powerful machines, read up on poignant first-hand accounts from soldiers, or try on child-sized uniforms.

The new Norman Foster-designed atrium is impressive (or ‘awesome’, according to one of my sons). It’s four storeys of heavy metal depicting war in all its power – you’ll see missiles, jets, and even a boat bravely chugging towards Dunkirk.

In this centenary year, we were especially keen on visiting the WW1 Galleries. I wanted to spend longer reading, but the children were keen to get back to the tanks downstairs. Sadly, the trench recreations have been scaled back. One of our favourite places to visit, you really got a sense of the hell of trench warfare through the grim smells and realistic sound effects. Less terrifying now, and prettier on the eye, we miss the smellier, darker version.

There are free daily activities throughout the summer until 3 September. Plus a Peyton & Byrne café serving excellent coffee and cakes.


Imperial War Museum
Lambeth Rd, SE1 6HZ
Tel: 020 7416 5320

Aliens Love Underpants – LIVE!

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Our family loves Aliens Love Underpants.

As a book, it does everything an under-five loves. It’s colourful, it’s written in catchy rhyme, and it’s about pants. Oh yes, we laugh our pants off every time.

As a play, I was intrigued to see how it would work. After all, there’s not much plot. Aliens swoop down and steal pants from washing lines, so that they can admire them and play games with them. Underpant trampolines and long john slides – magic stuff.

The on-stage version is all-singing and all-dancing. Aliens appear in a young boy’s bedroom, and the lucky young man then gets a trip to the alien’s planet. He visits their underpants museum, where Kylie’s hot pants are the top attraction, then swoops back down to earth. No-one believes his trip, but ain’t that always the way when it comes to alien abductions?

The cast is tuneful, the songs catchy (I’m still singing Aliens love underpants, I bet you never knew…) and the puppet aliens cute and cuddly. There are loud noises, colourful scenery, and a space ship to admire. The entire show takes about 50 minutes, and there’s lots of audience interaction. Children get to yell out their favourite style of underpants, and help choose the name of the show. What’s that you say? Donkeys love underpants?!

My nearly-four-year-old loved the show. Judging by the noise his fellow theatre-goers made, so did they.

It’s noisy, colourful, catchy and fun and a great first theatrical experience. Oh, and the ‘tippy-up’ seats at the theatre went down well too.

Leicester Square Theatre
Until 31 August 2014
Box Office: 08448 733433
Or book online at
Tickets from £15

Soho Hotel Summer Film Club

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Looking cool in anticipation of the inaugural Summer Film Club at London's Soho Hotel

There comes a time in the life of every holiday-bound parent when some grown-up enjoyment is essential.

A few minutes to sit and think, stare into space, and try and scramble the brain away from a mantra of cook/clean/arbitrate.

But where? And how? And can this be done while keeping the children happy at the same time? YES! Meet The Soho Hotel’s Summer Film Club!

Peace reigns at the Soho Hotel Summer Film Club

The Soho Hotel is in the gorgeous Firmdale Hotel. Not wanting to namedrop, ahem, but while staying/lunching/brunching in the various branches I’ve seen Gwyneth Paltrow, Christina Ricci, Scarlett Johansson and Robbie Coltrane.

The Summer Film Club is genius. A delicious buffet starts at 11.15, packed with teeny burgers, fish and chip cones, dips and fruit kebabs. There’s prosecco for grown-ups (I know! and you’re allowed to drink it while watching the film), Fruit Shoots and fruit juice for children. The film of the day starts at midday in a plush private screening room, with huge flippy-up seats (leather, which means you can easily wipe them down should your children be as sticky as mine). You even get a box of popcorn per seat. The screening room is air-conditioned, and as you’re surrounded by children everyone understands if you need to race a child out to the loo. Child 3, did you really need four Fruit Shoots?

Tickets cost £20 per person, which I think is a bargain given that a slap-up lunch is included.


19 July: Despicable Me 2
26 July: The Lego Movie 3D
2 August: Rio 2
9 August: Frozen 3D
16 August: How to Train Your Dragon 2 3D
23 August: Peter Pan
30 August: Muppets Most Wanted
6 September: Finding Nemo 3D
13 September: ET
20 September: Planes 2: Fire and Rescue

For bookings and more information, contact:
020 7559 3007

Sit down on a BookBench

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

Dr Seuss' 'Things', painted by Sarah Jane Richards. Photograph: Chris O’Donovan for the National Literacy Trust

This has to be one of my favourite things happening in London this summer.

50 unique BookBench sculptures have been created and dotted around the capital, designed by local artists and famous names to celebrate London’s literary heritage and reading for enjoyment. There are four trails to explore, where you can discover green spaces and historic sites, while you look for the BookBenches. At the end of a literary summer, the BookBenches will be brought together in a final display on October 7 and auctioned off to raise money for the National Literacy Trust.So I’m planning a tour.

What’s not to like? It’s free fun, and you even get to sit down at the end of it!

One of my favourites - The Wind in the Willows, painted by Mik Richardson

Stop press!!
Visit the Sherlock Holmes BookBench on 19 July at 1pm for a unique opportunity to see a photo shoot of Sherlocks. The Sherlocks are taking part in a Guinness World Records attempt for the most number of people dressed as the iconic detective.

Bounce off the walls!

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

The weather, as those brave souls battling it out at Wimbledon, will attest is


Nearly school holidays, though. Which will probably mean rain, rain, rain.

Apparently indoor trampoline parks are all the rage in the US, and the concept has spread to Australia, Amsterdam and Singapore. Get fit, have fun, and enjoy being up, up and away in the great indoors where it doesn’t matter if the sun either doesn’t shine, or shines too much.

The UK’s first indoor trampoline park has recently opened near Watchmoor Park, Camberley, in a 27,000 square foot warehouse. Action includes dodge ball, giant foam pits, and angled trampolines that let you bounce off the walls.

Such a great idea, and fingers crossed Gravity Force catches on and other branches start springing up all over the country.


Contemporary Garden Fair

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

How refreshing - an insider garden fair that isn't just for the Chelsea brigade

What a delightful idea.

A garden fair that showcases products and ideas that are realistic and cool. And might just appeal to gardeners who, like me, don’t necessarily know their fritillary from their fuchsia.

Grow London – Contemporary Garden Fair takes place 20-22 June 2014. It describes itself as ‘A one-stop hub of gardening excellence’, and it’s located on Hampstead Heath.

You’ll find stylish flowerpots (no, I didn’t know they existed either), free garden workshops, endless tools and gadgets to buy, and four feature gardens. Plus lots of opportunities to get your hands dirty and up close to lots of gorgeous plants. There’s a Laithwaite champagne bar, Kitchen Garden Cafe, and plant creche where you can dump the plants, pots and tools you’ve bought.

Get some green-fingered advice for children from horticultural advisor to Cbeebies Mr Bloom's Nursery,

For children, there are lots of free activities on Saturday 21 June and Sunday 22 June, all led by Dawn Isaacs, horticultural advisor to Cbeebies Mr Bloom’s Nursery.

Kids’ Schedule:
11-11.45am, 12.15-1pm, 2-2.45pm, 3-3.45pm
Dawn’s hands-on workshops for children will include sowing, making and crafting things for the garden.


Kids free – half term at The Shard

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

London is out there. Somewhere. A drizzly outlook at The View from The Shard

I’ve got vertigo. Not surprising, 800 feet up, with London’s rooftops like a model village below. But it’s not the views. It’s the prices.

A trip up Europe’s highest building seemed an ideal half-term outing. An easy way to get a sense of London’s geography, and a truly memorable experience. I looked into prices and nearly got vertigo.

£29.95 per adult
£23.95 per child (4-15)

Quite a lot? I thought so, for a half-hour outing. Well, 40 minutes if you include the 10-minute wait in the street below, in the pouring rain.

You can book in advance, as we did. Prices then go down to £24.95 per adult, and £18.95 per child. Unfortunately, you then risk getting grim weather and poor visibility, as we did. And it’s worth visiting this half term (26 May to 1 June), when kids (up to two per paying adult) go free.

The 'real time' telescope highlights the main sights. It's a film, so doesn't rely on the weather for good visibility

We still saw most of the main sights, including the Tower of London, the ‘Gherkin’, and Tower Bridge. Whizzing from the ground to floor 33 (you then change lifts) takes an amazing, literally ear-popping, 28 seconds. Watching the lift screen count up the numbers excitingly speedily is fun. But we didn’t get those gorgeous views for miles in every direction.

So the verdict? Worth it, even in the rain. But I don’t think I’d pay nearly £150 for my family of six to visit.

50 Things Before You’re 11 3/4s

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

It’s going to be a busy summer…

I’ve just taken a look at The National Trust’s 50 Things to do before you’re 11 & 3/4s. Lots of inspiration to get muddy, closer to nature, and generally get out and about in our glorious great outdoors. The website lists loads of sensible, fun things to do, and most of them easy to achieve: go on a really long bike ride, climb a tree and build a den. Most can be done in London, including visiting a farm and playing with conkers.

Here’s the full list - how many has your family ticked off?

The best view in London?

Thursday, May 8th, 2014


The view from the London Eye is amazing. If you’re brave enough climb the O2 Arena, then you’ll already have seen London spread out beneath you.

But what you see from the Shard is something else. From the viewing platform at the top, London is spread beneath you like a map. Tower Bridge and The Tower of London look like dinky exhibits in a model village. Canary Wharf is three miles away as the crow flies, but it looks close enough to reach out and touch. And it’s all so silent, as though you’re in an aeroplane.

Soaring views from Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard, London

The Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard, London has just opened. Here’s a picture (taken on my camera phone’s maximum zoom) from the lobby on the 35th floor. Seriously impressive, and I recommend booking in for a cup of coffee and a glass of cola with the children to enjoy it in comfort. Or indulging in afternoon tea. At £15 a head, it’s one of the headiest bargains in the entire city.


Royal Opera House Family Sundays

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Royal Ballet dancer David Pickering leads a dance workshop at Family Sundays ©ROH/Sim Canetty-Clarke

London families don’t know just how lucky they are!

Acres of parks to play in, some of the world’s best museums to visit for free, child-friendly restaurants and more shops than you could browse in a year. I challenge anyone to find a city that’s more family-friendly, anywhere in the world.

Take the Royal Opera House. On the last Sunday of every month (excluding December) families get the chance to discover more about opera and ballet in a fun-packed day. There are masses of exciting and creative activities available, led by dancers and musicians, and might include:- The opportunity to join in fun, interactive singing or dance activities.
- Informal performances from Royal Ballet dancers, Jette Parker Young Artists and Musicians
- Live make-up or stage combat demonstrations.
- Costume dressing up area.
- Design activities led by a professional set designer.
- Backstage Tours (available with Event + Tour tickets only)

These activities run throughout the day from 12 – 4pm. Last entry is 3pm. A number of tickets are available to buy on the day.
Tickets are £5 for adults and £3 for children.

Activities are suitable for children aged six and over, and all children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

Find out more here - and see you there this Sunday.