Best activities for kids in the summer holidays

Schools out – now what to do with the kids? Here’s our roundup of the top activities (for big and little kids alike)

Glamping at Leeds Castle

For kids that love the adventure of camping, and parents that like their home comforts, Leeds Castle offers the perfect solution: their boutique glamping tents – styled as knights’ tents, just to up the excitement factor. In a quiet spot in the castle’s grounds, the glamping tents offer all luxuries, from dressing gowns and hot-water bottles to a cosy wood-burning stove in the tent – ideal for those chilly nights. The castle itself is one of Britain’s most romantic, with plenty of fascinating history – it was home to many kings and queens of England – and the grounds hold no end of diversions, from adventure playgrounds and mini golf to falconry displays and a head-scratcher of a maze.

Tiger-themed afternoon tea at the Savoy

The Tiger Who Came To Tea, written and illustrated by the doyenne of children’s literature Judith Kerr, has charmed children and parents alike since it was first published in 1968. The Savoy’s first-ever children’s tea is a delightfully themed affair, with tiger crockery and an activity book to keep kids amused as they munch through the stripy scones and delicious cakes. “Tiger food” – cupcakes with cream cheese frosting – are a highlight, as are “Sophie’s tights” – mini Battenbergs the same blue and pink as the tights of young Sophie in the book. To wash it all down there’s child-friendly fruit teas or hot chocolate – all served with a smile by the highly professional waiting staff, who are adept at making guests feel special, whatever their age.

The tea costs £40 per child.

SS Great Britain’s aerial acrobatic Summer Spectacular

Credit: Adam Gasson/SS Great Britain

Inspired by real-life stories of passengers and crew on board Brunel’s historic SS Great Britain in Bristol, kids will be wowed this summer by astonishing acrobatic displays and death-defying aerial feats as the Invisible Circus climbs aboard. The SS Great Britain‘s Summer Spectacular sees pop-up performances take place throughout the day until 1 September as the acclaimed circus company brings the famous ship and dockyard to life in breathtaking style.

Peter Pan at Troubadour White City Theatre

All children grow up. Except one. JM Barrie’s much-loved children’s tale is brought right up to date in this dazzling new production. Hosted in this brand-new West London theatre, Sally Cookson’s exciting production is full of sparkle and mischief, with a dastardly Hook and ‘flying’ acrobatics to elicit oohs and ahhhs. If you only take the kids to one theatre performance this year, make it this one.

Suitable for children aged 7 and up. Closes 31 August.

Maid of the Loch at Balloch

Historic ship Maid of the Loch is the last paddle steamer built in Britain, based on beautiful Loch Lomond. A big renovation project is underway to have her engines turning over in the coming months, but in the meantime this is a fun (and free) kids’ attraction. The Winch House next to the Maid is thought to be Europe’s last steam operated winch. Kids can get involved in stoking the boiler, hauling up the cargo or blowing the steam whistle. 

Skelf Island, Castle Howard

Castle Howard near York, one of Britain’s finest stately homes, is launching a new adventure playground this summer, as well as unveiling its magical family of Skelves. Legend has it that Skelves have been inhabiting a secret world over the water of Castle Howard’s lake for centuries. They are said to cause mischief and mayhem high up in the trees, interact with the birds and protect the wildlife. Skelf Island is an ingenious structure of treetop nests connected by rope bridges, slides and nets to emulate the natural landscape. As well as the new playground, Castle Howard’s gardens are fun for children, with meandering woodland paths and parkland dotted with temples and fountains.