Things to do in London this half term: The best things to get up to during the school break

Capital fun: go-karting is sure to be a hit with even the most phone-addicted kids  (Press handout)
Capital fun: go-karting is sure to be a hit with even the most phone-addicted kids (Press handout)

For those of us not spending our half term breaks soaking up some Spanish sun, or hitting the slopes of Val-d’Isère, help is at hand.

London is delightfully full of fun for families during half term; below is everything you need to know to ensure your kids — from toddlers to teens — don’t spend the week glued to the TV (or worse, Tik Tok).

Imagine Children’s Festival

At the Southbank Centre, the Imagine Children’s Festival provides a series of family exhibitions, performances and workshops, incorporating art, music and literature to divert restless types over the break. There will be, among other activities, a dance based on the poet Carol Ann Duffy’s retelling of Rapunzel, an afternoon of stories and rhyme with the ever-popular Michael Rosen, and a new interactive installation for kids to let loose in a room full of… well, stuff.

Until Feb 18, Southbank Centre, SE1 8XX,

The London Anime and Gaming Convention

If your kids are a fan of retro gaming, Japanese anime or if you happen to be in the market for *that* collectible, then this one’s for you. Perhaps best suited to the teens, rather than the little ones, the London Anime and Gaming Convention lands in West London on February 10-12 to kick off the half term weekend. Expect everything from the world of anime, collectibles and J-pop, as well as the chance to test out a range of new and unreleased video games alongside classic titles. Live gaming tournaments will take place throughout, as will interviews with voice actors from the likes of Yu-Gi-Ho! and Hello Kitty. Events run from 10am daily.

Feb 10-12, Novotel London West, W6 8DR,

The Trial of Josie K

 (Unicorn Theatre)
(Unicorn Theatre)

Franz Kafka. For kids? No, really. The author’s observations of totalitarian nightmares translates wonderfully: “She goes to the meetings, she answers the questions, she’s doing everything they ask, but still, nothing she does is right. Sometimes adults just don’t make any sense.” At the Unicorn Theatre, The Trial of Josie K has been billed as a “a surreal, comic and moving new play” that will introduce children to a literary world, but in a relaxed and fun way. The show is aimed at late primary to early secondary school-age children, many of whom might be beginning to wonder about the state of Britain’s trifling bureaucracy, but who might also like to address the issue of who the man in the suit actually is, and why Josie would ever want to throw a custard pie at him.

Until Feb 19, Unicorn Theatre, 147 Tooley Street, SE1 2HZ,

Karting Canary Wharf

Getting kids excited for just about anything can be a challenge but sitting behind the wheel and screaming around a huge indoor racetrack should just about pique their interest. Capital Karts, located in Canary Wharf, is probably London’s best indoor karting track and as it’s suitable for ages 10 and above, it’s something for the kid in all of us. Shorter sprint sessions are there for families pressed for time; otherwise their larger “grand prix” format includes qualifying sessions, a race and of course, the podium finish.

Open daily, Cabot Square, E14 4QS,

Clip ‘n Climb

Bouldering has seemingly soared in popularity in London with a number of centres popping up across the capital in recent years. Clip ‘n Climb is probably the most family-friendly of these spaces with a simple mantra that excludes no one. Their ethos of accessibility is admirable; as a SEND school they accommodate children of all capabilities and needs ensuring genuine inclusivity. There’s also toddler sessions for younger kids or adult-only sessions for the grown-ups. No climbing experience is necessary but with a range of walls to ascend, there should be something here for everyone.

19 Michael Road, SW6 2EJ,

Threads Holiday Studio at the Tate Modern

The Tate has hosted some exceptional exhibitions of late and their latest half-term activity takes inspiration from the current Magdalena Abakanowicz show. The Threads Holiday Make Studio is part of Tate Play, a space aimed at engaging a younger audience in the artistic conversation without, frankly, boring them. The Threads Expanded will encourage children of all ages to knit and weave threads together, draping and hanging the completed patches, swathes and swatches in the great Turbine Hall. For parents worried about a rogue knitting needle, fret not; the equipment has been scaled up for safety, encouraging young ones to take part in a genuinely unique artistic endeavour.

Feb 11- 18, Tate Modern, SE1 9TG,

Storytelling at the Globe

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

The Globe’s storytelling series — which take place each half term — have become a regular fixture for parents looking to bring the bard to life for a younger audience. Specifically adapted iterations of Shakespeare’s most famous tales are told by performers with enthusiastic engagement. A far cry from a sombre recital, these are interactive, exhilarating and an ideal way to introduce children to the works. The Globe’s workshops also feature games and activities tailored to each age-group and centred on individual plays including Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing and, this month, Macbeth. Study sessions and performance workshops are also available for any budding actors aged 15+.

From Feb 16-April 14, New Globe Walk, SE1 9DT,

Twist Museum

London’s latest in a long line of so-called immersive experiences is the Twist museum. Unlike other spaces which might focus on the artist, Twist is dedicated to illusions and how the audience interacts with their new-found reality. It might sound a little smoke and mirrors, but the Twist has had scientists, philosophers and artists all collaborate to create these mind-bending, sense-tricking spaces. Great for kids who enjoy finding out how things work, and just about perplexing enough to keep the grown-ups entertained.

248 Oxford Street, W1C 1DH,

Family Film Club

The Barbican continues to host their much loved family film club which, during half term, is showing screenings of the most recent musical adaptation of Matilda. Roald Dahl’s precocious protagonist has captivated a new generation of audiences thanks to the 2022 film version of the hit west-end show. The screening offers the chance to relive that movie magic, with tickets available at the half term weekend starting from just £3.50.

Feb 18-19, The Barbican, Silk Street, EC2Y 8DS,


 (Jordan Curtis Hughes)
(Jordan Curtis Hughes)

Creating artistic spaces for kids to enjoy can be a chore, but Frameless has relentlessly pursued a way for everyone to meaningfully interact with some of the world’s most famous artwork on a huge scale. The result? A genuinely interactive and playful space that immerses audiences in four distinct galleries. Mirrored ceilings, projected floors and triple height walls give a true feeling of being inside an artwork and offer the chance for kids to learn about and engage with art in an entirely new way.

6 Marble Arch Place, W1H 7AP,

Half term at the Transport Museum

Never mind the relentless strikes. No child need worry themselves with London’s transport woes. Rather, they might enjoy a day out at the London Transport Museum, which will be hosting a busy week of activities throughout half-term. Even the adults might fancy a go on the Elizabeth Line train driving simulator, while others will appreciate the opportunity to play a supersized version of Connect 4, and to learn about the history of the capital’s bus and rail network, complex and historic as it is. The centre is in Covent Garden, too, so close to a host of promising cafes and restaurants. Din Tai Fung, for dumplings, would be a happy way to refuel.

Feb 11-19, The Piazza, WC2E 7BB,

Bizzy Buddies

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

Holiday camps seem to recall a slightly bygone era of innocence and fun. They’re a time of teamwork, of sport and forging lifelong friendships. The Bizzy Buddies Activity Camp looks to re-capture that simpler time with a no-nonsense week held at Chiswick House and grounds. With two camps available, one more sports led, the other focussing on arts and crafts, they’ve tailored a half term programme with a host of activities suitable for children aged from three to 14. Single day, half day and full week sessions are all available, giving parents flexibility, respite and a safe pair of hands for as long as might be required.

Feb13-17, Chiswick House, W4 2QN,

Piracy at the Design Museum

A trip to the Design Museum in Kensington is always a worthy endeavour, half-term or not, but more so during the school holidays thanks to a host of activities aimed at eight to 14 year-olds. Tickets have unfortunately already sold out for the Robot Olympics on February 14, but those less tech inclined might prefer the pirate-themed design workshops, or crocheting with the womenswear designer Peju Obasa

224-238 Kensington High Street, W8 6AG,

Messing about on the river (well, rapids)

Rafting at Lee Valley (Lee Valley)
Rafting at Lee Valley (Lee Valley)

Slightly out of central London but well worth the trip, the Lee Valley White Water Centre is not only a place to keep kids active (read: tire the little tikes out) but a spot for family activities that don’t bore adults to tears. Found in the former Olympic water park, they offer a full days’ worth of watersport, including kayaking, paddle-boarding, white water rafting and something they call “hydrospeeding”. Suitable for slightly older kids, some activities are exclusively 12+. Whatever you go for, aquatic pursuits start from around £12.

Waltham Cross, EN9 1AB,