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7 really fun London museums for kids

There are so many London museums to choose from! Read our pick of seven in the capital which are great for little ones.

Yellow helicopter at RAF Museum Hendon North-west London

Pictured: RAF Museum London

1. National Army Museum

Situated in Chelsea, this fabulously interactive museum is probably my favourite London museum - and not just because there's a soft play Krypton Factor style obstacle course! The museum is free but an hour in the play base is £5.75 per child aged 1-8 (free for under 1s) and it's best to book online before visiting during school holidays and at weekends. The play base is an army themed zone with many role play opportunities. Our three year old enjoyed making meals for the soldiers and sorting out the post. The main attraction is the soft play with climbing wall, balance beams, tents and slides.

National Army Museum soft play

The rest of the National Army Museum is also extremely child friendly: the 'could you be a soldier?' exhibition includes a life size computerised drill sergeant who puts the kids through their paces; battle puzzles and a shooting activity. The displays about child soldiers throughout the ages and army conditions are thought-provoking for the older ones. Elsewhere in the museum children can try drumming instructions on the battlefield, controlling a tank and designing a military badge.

The spacious cafe sells children's lunch bags and has a delicious display of cakes; all in all a terrific day out.

2. The Postal Museum

Being a postal worker has never been so much fun! This central London museum comprises a role play area, interactive museum and mail train, for which there are various charges. It's best to book online in advance. You can book a 45 minutes session in Sorted, a play area for 0-8 year olds, for £5 a child. Ours had a marvellous time dressing up, sorting out the mail into pigeon holes and working behind the counter. They spent longest in the soft play climbing area where parcels shoot down slides and are hoisted up using a pulley. The exhibition in the museum charts the history of the postal system and again there are plenty of interactive activities. Our seven year old and four year old were particularly engaged by writing messages and sending them to other children down hydraulic tubes....admittedly most didn't say more than 'poo'.

The Postal Museum London

But the thing that everyone was bursting to do was take a ride in the mail train - in fact I think the adults in the queue were more excited than the kids! You squeeze into a tiny compartment (not very comfortable for my 6'4" husband much to the kids' amusement) and take a journey down disused tunnels; stopping at stations where films explaining the history are projected on the walls. It's such a unique experience and over far too quickly; the children wanted to get back on but luckily there were more fun activities to distract on the way out.

3. London Transport Museum

This has been our seven year old's favourite London museum since his first visit as toddler when he used to call it 'the bus museum'. To be fair there are a lot of buses but loads of other transport to discover on a journey through the history of travel in London. There are sound effects to set the scenes and children can stamp a map as they explore each era. There are several vehicles to sit in as a passenger, though it gets very busy in during peak times so be prepared for some queues. Our kids' favourite part is, of course, the transport themed play zone All Aboard with its role play activities. You can become a tube engineer, driver or announcer. There are mini vehicles - a bus, tube, cable car and ferry - to ride and climb on and a soft play area for toddlers. Handily located in London's Covent Garden it costs £17.50 per adult with children free. This is on the pricey side but you can visit as many times as you want for a year. Look out for special events during school holidays and at Christmas. You can also keep costs down by bringing a packed lunch as there are lots of spaces provided to sit and eat.

London Transport Museum riding a bus exhibit

4. V&A Museum of Childhood

A museum about toys has to be fun, right? In this free museum in Bethnal Green there are hundreds of toys behind glass - but luckily lots of opportunities to play as you wander around each floor. It's lovely to look together and chat about what you played with when you were little; you can also pick up a family bag pack which has toys to look to out for and ideas for discussions.

My son was intrigued spotting earlier versions of toys that he plays with, like Lego and action figures, and he and my daughter both loved having a go on the old-fashioned rocking horses. You can relax in a deckchair on beach area while the kids try out the Punch and Judy puppets and play in the sandpit. There are also traditional board games, dressing up clothes and a sensory area as well as free creative workshops held every day.

V&A Museum of Childhood interactive exhibit

5. National Maritime Museum

Another gem of a free museum with loads of activities to fire kids' imaginations. There are two play galleries - 'Ahoy!' for under 7s and 'All Hands' which is aimed over 6s, although our 3 year old was keen to get in on the action. We spent most time in 'Ahoy!' where kids can take on all kinds of roles from captain to chef in a large marine-themed play zone. There's not a just a ship to explore and climb with its nooks and tunnels: little ones can become a polar explorer or ship-builder or even fish in a make believe water area, popular with toddlers.

National Maritime Museum water area role play

In 'All Hands' the main attraction is a pulley system to move and load cargo. Our 6 year old son also enjoyed playing the computerised cannon game and using the phones to send messages.

We explored the rest of the museum, some of which is quite dry for kids, although our son did enjoy running around and finding countries on the huge floor map of the world.

Just outside the museum is Greenwich Park where it's lovely to sit and have an ice cream after all that seafaring fun.

6. RAF Museum

If you fancy driving to a museum in the suburbs, the Royal Air Force Museum is in Hendon, north-west London. We've been visiting this museum since our oldest was two when he'd toddle around the huge aircraft hangers in amazement. The museum has grown as he has and every time we come a new exhibition has opened with the most recent looking at what's it's like to be in the RAF today. There's a also really cool new air themed outdoor play area. Inside the museum kids can climb into several of the aircraft on display as they explore each hanger. Ours love Aeronauts, the indoor scientific interactive play area, where they can pretend to fly miniature versions of the aircraft they've seen; test their reaction times and try out low level hand gliding. There are often workshops going on: we've made a model plane and taken part in a dramatic wartime story. The museum is free, you only need pay for the car park (it's £3 or £4) and a few flight simulators around the museum which charge. There's loads of outdoor space for a picnic on comfy parachute beanbags (and some tables inside for rainy days) and three reasonably priced, quite tasty cafes.

Old Plane RAF Museum London

7. Museum of London

There are two locations for the Museum of London - one in the City and another in Docklands - and both are brilliant and free. The City one works like a whistle stop journey through the history of London. There are galleries focusing on each historical period with lots of interactive features to explore, such as a medieval home and a Victorian street. Archeology is brought alive as kids can handle objects and play games on touch screens. In the modern era exhibition there's fun to be had playing with 1950s toys and a model of a cross section of a London street with different modes of transport above and below ground.

Museum of London

We'd visited this museum several times before we ventured to its East London sister site which focuses on the capital's trading past. It's great for older kids: there's a thought provoking gallery about slavery and the atmospheric 19th century alley with sounds and smells was particularly spooky. The younger ones enjoyed playing with toy boats and cranes and our son was very proud that he could crack the CrossRail tunnel puzzle. We combined our day here with a trip on the nearby Emirates cable car ride which was a breathtaking experience and the kids' favourite-ever London activity.

Hope you enjoyed this round up of London's child-friendly museums and please do tweet us your recommendations too!

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