LondonistLondon's Best Indoor Energy-Burners For Kids
Here’s our pick of the capital's top indoor adventures for kids, for days when the weather's just too rubbish to contemplate outdoor activities.
Get inside a robot in Barking
Enjoy soft play with a difference at the Abbey Leisure Centre in Barking. A permanent art installation designed by performance artist Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, this two-storey part-robot, part-ancient monument is a mini-explorers paradise of tunnels, ramps and chambers. They can wave at you out of its two giant eyes as you relax in the café. Abbey Leisure Centre, Bobby Moore Way, Barking, IG11 7HW
Run free in Canary Wharf
The London Chainstore Parkour Academy within a stone’s throw of Canary Wharf is a dedicated space for practising parkour/freerunning. You can drop in (kids age 7-16 must be supervised by an adult) or sign them up to one of the classes. Don't worry, it's not about your children performing death-defying stunts — the classes teach them the self-mastery, control and athleticism to be able to perform the jaw-dropping feats of adult parkour performers. Trinity Buoy Wharf, 64 Orchard Place, E14 0JY. £10 drop-in (pre-booking advised); £15 per 2-hour class
Get your skates on at Ally Pally
London’s biggest ice rink at Alexandra Palace is open 364 days of the year, so it's the perfect rainy day energy-burner. At weekends, families can skate all day until the teens take over in the evening. There’s also a drop-in toddler class for 3+ years every Thursday 1pm-1.30pm. Adult: £10 Junior/Concs: £9 Family (two adults, two children, or one adult and three children): £34. Toddler class: £8.50 for both child and accompanying adult
Release their inner monkey in Hackney
If your kids are constantly scaling everything, from trees to your furniture, let them unleash their inner mountaineer at an indoor climbing centre. The Castle Climbing Centre in Hackney has five floors of top-roped climbs and bouldering walls (where you clamber up without a rope), plus auto-belays for climbing solo. If you're an experienced climber, you can simply register and take the kids climbing. If you’re a newbie, check out the Family Taster (£20) – a 1.5-hour climbing and bouldering session for parents/carers with children aged 5-17. The Castle Climbing Centre, Green Lanes, Stoke Newington, N4 2HA
Or check out Clip 'n Climb in Chelsea. No experience needed — you can just turn up, have an induction, clip into the auto-belay system and climb the 22 brilliant challenges around the centre. Then kids can test their mettle on the vertical drop slide — not for the faint-hearted! Clip 'n Climb, 19 Michael Road, SW6 2ER.
Head for the Olympic Park
You’re spoilt for choice at the various Olympic venues. For the littlies, there's VeloBalance at the Lee Valley VeloPark. Kids aged 2-5 can whizz around on balance bikes, with games and activities to help them get the hang of two wheels. Great for youngsters with a need for speed. Lee Valley VeloPark, Abercrombie Road, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, E20 3AB. VeloBalance: £5 inc bike & helmet hire.
At the Lee Valley Athletics Centre, meanwhile, check out the Star Track courses. Run during school holidays, your budding athlete will be coached in the main athletic disciplines, including hurdles, sprints, javelin and high jump. Lee Valley Athletics Centre, 61 Meridian Way, Edmonton, N9 0AR. Star Track athletics course, Feb half-term: £68 per child (5 days for 8-12 years); £28 per child (three days for 6-8 years)
At the London Aquatics Centre, treat the kids to an Aquasplash session: a giant 20m inflatable obstacle course in the pool for kids to clamber over and leap off. All kids wear life-jackets, so it’s fine for non-swimmers (under-8s must be accompanied by an adult so you get to join in the fun). For over-8s who can swim, there’s the 40m Extreme Aquasplash in the main pool. Booking is essential. London Aquatics Centre, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, E20 2ZQ. £7.50 adults, £5 under-16s
Run away and join the circus in Hoxton
Sign up to the circus with a Youth Experience Day for 8-16 year olds at the National Centre for Circus Arts in Hoxton — experience the thrill of the trapeze and tightrope walking, and learn skills such as the diabolo and juggling. £56 per child National Centre for Circus Arts, Coronet Street, N1 6HD
Jump around in Acton
Got the kind of kids that never seem to run out of energy? Take them to Oxygen Freejumping trampoline park in Acton, let them loose on 150 connected trampolines (it even has them on the WALLS), an obstacle course, foam pit, basketball hoops, dodgeball and runway with airbag, and we guarantee they’ll be silent with exhaustion in the car on the way home. Oh, and the cafe serves great coffee and handmade pizzas. Bliss. Oxygen Freejumping, Unit 15, Vision Industrial Park, Kendal Avenue, W3 0AF. £12.50; children over 5 can jump alone; under-5s must have an adult with them
Anyone for tennis?
Children between 3 and 10 can get stuck into the world of tennis with Mini Tennis, a great programme created by the Lawn Tennis Association. Led by professional coaches, everything is smaller to suit little people — courts, nets, rackets — and they use lower bouncing balls. A perfect starting point for your mini player to become the next Andy Murray/Heather Watson. They're split into age groups and there are over 50 courses at indoor locations across London. Search for courses here.
Hop on board
OK, so it’s not strictly inside, but it is completely undercover. The purpose-built BaySixty6 Skate Park beneath the Westway is the perfect playground for budding skateboarders over 7 years old. For newbies, beginners sessions for £5 are on Saturdays from 10am-12pm, with lessons on offer. There’s also the Honour Roll Skateboard Club, where kids can learn the basics of skateboarding for free. Bay 66, Acklam Road, North Kensington, London, W10 5YU
Any more top suggestions for where to let the kids run when it's raining? Let us know in the comments below.