Not all the panto dames have hung up their drawers (you can catch Aladdin at Hackney and Dick Whittington in Hammersmith until the 6th and Julian Clarey and Dawn French are strutting their stuff at the Palladium until 13th Jan) but if your children are still on holiday and panto seems too like Christmas, these three shows are all mesmerising.

1. Circus 1903 at Southbank

circus 1903 southbank

to 5 January. Larger-than-life puppet elephants (from the War Horse puppeteers) join a huge cast of circus acts from around the world in this turn-of-the-century spectacular. Heart in your mouth moments with wobbling tightropes and terrifying knife throwing, jugglers that move so fast your eyes feel funny and superb elephant puppets that instantly seem real, all interspersed with the Ringmaster’s hilarious bursts of magic with lots of audience interaction. You’ll leave exhausted from a family extravaganza you will never forget.

2. Philip Pullman's Grimm Tales at Unicorn Theatre

grimm tales unicorn christmas 2018

to 6 January. Three excited kids open up the big red book past their bedtime on Christmas Eve, and are transported to the worlds of Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel. The young audience were giggling and gasping throughout  – there are some jump out of your seat moments (a special mention goes to the Juniper Tree Tale). The set is stunning and the performances fantastic. Ages 8+.

3. A Christmas Carol at the Old Vic 

Christmas Carol Old Vic

to 19 January. Stephen Tompkinson's Scrooge confronts ghosts past and present in this gloriously moving feast of hope! Ages 8+.