All year, we wait for summer to start. For ourselves, we dream of lazy afternoons, ice clinking in a glass and the smell of mown grass. We want our kids to have the summer memories we cherish: days at the beach, long afternoons of sport, picnics not entirely spoiled by wasps.
In other words, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. That makes it doubly frustrating when the warm weather rolls around and reality sets in. It’s hot. The kids are bored. We’re frazzled, maybe sunburnt.
This year is already one of the hottest summers we’ve seen in a while. With all the long blue days we’ve enjoyed already, it wouldn’t be surprising if you’ve already started to run out of ideas. Luckily, in the Teddington area, there’s lots to do. If you’re looking for something quick and easy to keep the kids (and yourself) entertained, here are a few ideas.
The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew are a no-brainer. The chances are you’ve already take the kids here least once.
Fortunately, the good people at Kew Gardens are always coming up with new ways to make the botanical collections interesting and accessible to kids. This year, they’re running three separate experiences all summer long.
The ‘Here Be Dragons’ trail gives kids a chance to hunt for the mythical beasts up and down Kew Gardens, and see a few real-life natural wonders along the way. At the end of July, Gnomus the giant gnome will emerge from his underground home to teach children about the endangered species in the Temperate House. Gnomus is brought to life by the talented puppeteering troupe Puppets with GUTS, and his ‘Caretaker of the Earth’ tour, which runs until September, is certain to get kids thinking. For older kids, Cirque Bijou are staging a breathtaking aerial performance in the Temperate House, every weekend for the rest of the summer.
London Wetlands Centre
If your kids already know Kew inside-out, you might want to consider taking a trip a bit further down the river to the London Wetlands Centre. The Centre is a large nature reserve, just over the Thames from Fulham, with six birdwatching hides. Regular talks and tours enliven the experience for kids. You can feed the birds, or go otter spotting. From the 21st July, your kids can join ‘Dusty’s Wildlife Rangers.’ The Rangers take you and your kids for a whole day of outdoor activities, from pond-dipping to campfire cooking. It’s free with the cost of admission to the Centre.
We Make Footballers at Teddington Lock: July 18th
If you have a daughter (or daughters) who’ve been inspired by England’s World Cup run, then don’t miss this opportunity to bring them along to a free coaching session at Teddington Lock. We Make Footballers work with the FA Girls’ Football Centres to encourage girls to take up the game. Their focus is on making training fun, inclusive and nurturing. Girls aged 7 – 13 are welcome.
The Magic Garden at Hampton Court Palace
All summer long the Magic Garden is open at Hampton Court Palace. It might be the best playground in London. With masses of activities to do, all themed around medieval legends and stories, your kids probably won’t even notice they’re learning a bit of local history. It’s a great starting point for a tour of the Palace, if your kids are at an age where they need a bit of help engaging with history, but it’s also loads of fun in its own right. Tickets for the Magic Garden start at just over five pounds for kids, or twenty for the whole family, and they include admission to the Maze as well.
Younger kids will find lots to do, but at busy times you may want to keep young ones away from the playground’s castles and keeps. It can get hectic in there, so there’s a small but real risk of them suffering a playground accident or injury.
Treasure trails and scavenger hunts are a great outdoor activity, and we have an excellent one just down the road in Kingston. The Spy Mission Treasure Trail starts at the old marketplace and takes you all over town, hunting down clues and visiting the sights of the historic town.
While you’re in Kingston, the Secret Garden Play Café is a perfect day out for younger kids (up to five years old). There’s loads of toys, a wendy house and a ball-pool, plus activity tables where kids can get messy and make something. You can also join your kids in a bit of pottery painting at Wendy’s Workshop.
If your kids are more detectives than spies, there’s a great Murder Mystery themed trail you can do just a little further afield in Richmond-Upon-Thames. Pick up the booklet at TreasureTrails. Be warned, it’s quite tricky, so it’s probably one for older kids (or for you!)
Strawberry Hill House is a short drive away in Twickenham, and this summer the House is giving you another treasure trail option: the Blooms and Beasties Treasure Trail. Kids are encouraged to explore the beautiful grounds of the house and rewarded with a lucky dip from the treasure trove at the end. Tickets are just three pounds.
Ant Survey in Bushy Park – 3rd August
This very local event is the perfect thing for older kids with an interest in science or nature. Last year, a survey of yellow meadow ants in Richmond Park proved that the size of their anthills is directly linked the grassland age. It’s a really important finding, because it gives conservationists a way to determine the age of grassland areas. This year, the same team want to put the science into practice by using this method to determine the age of the grassland in our own Bushy Park. Your kids won’t get a better chance to be involved in a real scientific project on their own doorstep, and it can’t be done without the help of volunteers.