Even if school is almost out for winter, Hogwarts is decidedly in. There are still some tickets available for Harry Potter: A History of Magic at the British Library in London — if you can go outside the core school-holiday period. The exhibition combines centuries-old British Library treasures, including the oldest items in the collection, the Chinese Oracle bones, with original material from publisher Bloomsbury and JK Rowling. Artefacts include broomsticks, wands and crystal balls — even an actual bezoar stone (fans will recall its dramatic role in the books as a poison antidote). Events alongside the exhibition include an alchemy workshop on December 12 in conjunction with the Science Museum.
At the Foundling Museum in central London, a new trail takes fans of Jacqueline Wilson’s Hetty Feather books around the museum, exploring the collection and Hetty’s life in the Victorian children’s home through art-based activities. You can also dress up as foundling boy or girl, build a model of the Foundling Hospital, personalise a bed for a foundling or design a new Foundling Hospital building. On December 17, the Waldegrave Ensemble is giving an animal-themed family concert at the museum. A free creative workshop follows, for age five up.
Eureka!, the award-winning National Children’s Museum in Halifax, is hosting digiPlaySpace until April 15 next year. This is full of exciting gizmos for kids to touch, control and play with; combining fun and learning, with robots, electronics, stop-motion animation, music and gaming. The exhibition is fully physically accessible and Eureka! has an access guide with detailed information for visitors with sensory conditions.
The 14 exhibits include Pop ’n’ Lock (be filmed busting your best dance moves to create your own stop-motion animation); Sphero Speedway (race a robotic sphere around a speedway and learn the basic elements of computer programming at the same time) and Line Wobbler (test hand-eye coordination in an LED game).
The Jewish Museum in north west London is holding an afternoon of family activities on December 10, from 1pm to 4pm (cost included in museum entry fee: family ticket, £18, covers two adults and up to four children). You can make a clay chanukiah; an edible dreidl; a candle; Chanukah jewellery and Chanukah cards; decorate a ceramic tile with Chanukah images; play a dreidl game; handle Chanukah objects from the museum collection and take part in puzzle activities and games. Looking ahead to 2018, the fun includes BabyJazz; Debutots interactive storytelling and drama, a family ceramics afternoon and Diddi Dance dancing games and exercises.
At the National Gallery, the festive activities should appeal to teenagers. Visitors are encouraged to share their favourite gold artwork on social media using the hashtag #ArtGold. Snapchat users can give selfies an Old-Master sparkle with a National Gallery inspired gold-frame filter. Labels on the walls highlight the golden facts about specific paintings, while a series of online films provides a more in-depth exploration of the use of gold in art. Further golden activities centre on the halo in art .
The V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, east London will hold Make Some Noise Days, from December 27 to 29, a celebration of music, singing and noise making. Visitors can join the performers in an audio walk, interactive shows, instrument making and more.
At the National Portrait Gallery, the family activity base is open from 11am until 4pm every weekend and on weekdays during school holidays, with free activities and drawing materials to help young visitors explore the collection, displays and exhibitions.
Themes include Adventurers and Explorers; Sketch; Pop-up Gallery (create a 3D model and fill printed frames with your drawn portraits) and for 14-21s, a free forum on portraiture inspired by Julian Opie after Van Dyck.
At the V&A in Kensington, Winnie-the-Pooh, Exploring a Classic opens on December 9. Shedding new light on the creative collaboration between Milne and illustrator E.H. Shephard, the exhibition explores the world of A.A. Milne’s philosophical bear.
As well as Hope the blue whale, the Natural History Museum has hundreds of new specimens, such as a giraffe skeleton; a 120-year-old, 300kg Turbinaria coral and a slice of the 4.5-billion-year-old Imilac meteorite.
Events for families include Investigate, in which participants can examine real natural history specimens with the support of the museum’s science educators.
For children under seven, there is a free fairytale puppet show on December 2 and 29, exploring natural history and science topics in a fun and engaging way.
And do not forget the ice rink and fairground carousel, until January 7.
Ice rink fans should also check out the one at JW3, with music, glimmering lights and — for little ones, penguin stabilisers and seated banana toboggans. Zest café and restaurant will be serving hot chocolate, mulled wine, pizzas, doughnuts and more.
Do not miss the two major exhibitions at Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books, in Newcastle. Bears! (until March, bring your teddy) features ursine characters including Andy Stanton’s dancing bear of Mr Gum fame and the quarry of Michael Rosen’s We’re Going on a Bear Hunt). Comics has classics for the parents; new artists for the younger visitor and a chance to create your own. There are activities for all ages (some focus on Christmastime stories).
KidZania London offers four-to-14-year-olds more than 60 “real-life” activities to try. Spanning 75,000 sq ft, it is an indoor city, blending learning with reality and entertainment. Each career at KidZania is designed to teach essential life skills such as financial literacy, team work and independence. Children can spend their “earnings” and even open a bank account once they have earnt over 75 KidZos.
Seasonal activities include Frozen face painting at the Snazaroo painting studio, a magical parade around the city and dancing and karaoke in the dance club with the Just Dance game, as well as a look at how the season is celebrated all around the world.
Dulwich Picture Gallery is holding a special event on the weekend of December 16 to 17, as part of its Tove Jansson exhibition. The Polka Theatre’s Moomin puppets will make a special appearance and there will be art activities and storytelling. The exhibition runs until January 28.
The Tiger Who Came to Tea is at ArtsDepot in north London from December 5 to 31. Following a smash-hit West End season, the tea-guzzling tiger is back at Artsdepot in December, bringing us magic, sing-along songs and clumsy chaos. The show is an adaptation of Judith Kerr’s children’s book, adored by generations. BSL interpreted and relaxed performances are offered on some dates.
The Snow Queen is at the Polka Theatre, Wimbledon, until February 4. The show centres on Kai and Gerda and their friends, who reimagine the adventure of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic winter fairytale.
Drama workshops to accompany the production will run on certain dates. BSL and relaxed performances are available.
Suitable for adults and older children, Rothschild & Sons is coming to the Park Theatre in north London, from January 24 to February 17.
This musical by Broadway songwriters Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick (Fiddler on the Roof, She Loves Me) and Tony-nominated writer Sherman Yellen, is the story of Mayer Rothschild, his wife and sons, who despite being trapped behind ghetto walls, dream of a day when they are no longer locked in or anyone like them locked out.
Young people could also use this time to plan for the summer — maybe to follow Morgan Nineberg’s footsteps and work at Jewish Camp America — which Nineberg describes as “a life changing adventure, adding: “little did I know that months later I would come home with hundreds of memories, endless stories and incredible friendships. No two days would ever be the same. But every day was filled with fun and laughter, brought to me by the incredible campers who spent their summer attempting to impersonate my British accent.
“Having 30 days after camp to travel America at the end of my J1 visa meant I got to tick off numerous places that were on my bucket list, including Miami, New Orleans and Chicago.
“Camp America has helped me become a confident, patient and carefree person, teaching me to always try any new and exciting challenge that comes my way. What could be better than spending your summer trying new activities, exploring new cities and making friends to last a lifetime?”
TO AVOID DISAPPOINTMENT
Check dates, times and availability of events and activities well in advance and, wherever possible, book early.