Visiting the British Museum for a Fun Free Day Out With Kids in London

London can be expensive so I wanted to share with you our day out on Saturday which was lots of fun for children and cheap. The only money we spent was on travel and food. All the activities we did on our day out in London were free.

A toddler in the British museum looking at Egyptian artefacts

Going To The British Museum with A 3 Year Old Child

We had agreed to meet my sister at the British Museum because we wanted to go somewhere inside that wasn’t expensive. I was a little bit dubious about taking children to the British Museum, I  remember finding it pretty boring as a child other than the Mummies exhibit so what was a 3 year old going to make of the museum?

Fortunately my sister had done her homework and discovered there was some sort of children’s trail. It turns out they have quite a few activities targeted at children and we decided to borrow a gallery backpack for under 5s called “Little feet: Alfred the Explorer”. They have a range of backpacks available at weekends for children up to 12 and the under 5s one is available weekdays too. You can borrow them for 90 minutes in exchange for a (refundable) £10 deposit or by leaving photo ID. 

The lady we collected the bag from at the Families desk in the Great Court told us about a family cloakroom area located in the Ford Centre for Young Visitors (halfway down some stairs from the Great Court). This is only available at weekends because it’s used by school during the week, but you can use the main cloakroom on other days. We left our coats in the lockers and it’s also helpful to know it has tables where you can have a picnic, toilets and baby changing facilities.

A red British Museum Gallery Back pack for under 5s with the contents on show

Laminated card providing information about the Little feet: Alfred the explorer backpack

A close up of an activity card

Inside the backpack was a large selection of items including: Alfred the lion hand puppet, a torch, magnifying glass, jingle bells, binoculars, a mirror, a couple of books, some blocks and some fabric. There were also some cards with suggestions of what to do. While a few of the cards suggest specific locations most of them can be used anywhere in the museum eg there is a card which talks about listening to see what they can hear.  This is great because you can choose less busy galleries or those that match your interests.

My 3 year old loved the backpack and insisted on carrying it around the museum herself, mostly with the torch or magnifying glass in her hand. I think it is a great way to help little ones explore.

A 3 year old child with a free british museum backpack on her back holding adults hands on each side

After we returned the backpack we were hungry and although I had brought a few snacks, I didn’t have a full packed lunch with us. There are plenty of places to eat in the British Museum, but we wanted to spend as little money as possible so we decided to head out of the Montague Place exit to where there is a Waitrose supermarket a few minutes away in the Brunswick Centre. Just before we got to Waitrose we saw a Tesco Express opposite Russell Square Station and decided to go there instead because it would be cheaper. Tesco currently do a meal deal (eg sandwich, drink and crisps) for £3.

Coram’s Fields Playground and Park

With a bag full of food we headed off to Coram’s Fields to eat it. If the weather is nice there are a few green spaces you can go near the British museum eg Russell Square Gardens (which has a small fountain area children can play in), but we decided to head to Coram’s Fields which you can only go into if accompanied by a child. It has several play areas suitable for children from toddlers upwards, although they are spaced out across the park which might make it challenging if you go with children of different ages. There is a wheelchair friendly play area, sand pit, paddling pool in the summer, toilets and plenty of benches making it a great place to eat and play.

You can find Coram’s Fields on Guildford Street, WC1N 1DN. It is less than 15 minutes walk (adult pace) from the British Museum.

Toddler play area and sand pit at Coram's Fields playground for children near British Museum

Things To Do At The British Museum, London, With Children

We only really touched the surface of what is available at the British Museum for children. Activities include: 

Gallery Backpacks

Available weekends for a refundable deposit. As well as the backpack we borrowed which is suitable for under 5s there are 6 backpacks on different themes targeted at different ages up to age 12. Collect from the Families Desk in the Great Court (the under 5s pack is available from the Ford Centre on weekdays too). Limited availability.

Activity trails

Short trails around areas in the museum. The one aimed at 3 to 5 year olds covered the Africa exhibit which was closed when we visited. There are also 5 different trails aimed at children age 6 plus. You can pick up the free trail from the Great Court or download the PDF from the museum website.

Art Materials

You can borrow crayons, pencils and paper, just ask at the Families Desk. 

Highlight Objects

There is a list of their 12 most recommended things to see with children including a double-headed serpent and a mummified bull. This is a great way to decide what to see across the museum.

Family Guide

You can borrow an interactive game-based guide for £6 per game and explore the collection through a series of special adventures.  This is the only one of the activities listed which is chargeable.

The Families Desk where you borrow most of the activities from is open weekends and every day during school holidays (based on the Borough of Camden’s school holidays).

A child heading into the British Museum London

The nearest tube stations to the British Museum are Holborn, Tottenham Court Road and Russell Square.

For the latest information and availability check the British Museum's website.
If you are interested in other great free museums in London then visiting the Natural History Museum with children is a must and here are other ideas of museums to visit in London with children.

All about what there is to do on a free day out in London at the British Museum with Children

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