Family-Friendly February : Why the Barbican’s Great for Kids This Winter

Family-Friendly February

Of all the attractions you might visit on a winter break in London, one that’s spent with your kids in tow, to be specific (perhaps during the half-time school holiday?), then wherever you’re staying in the capital – whether it’s very central like The Piccadilly West End hotel or anywhere else for that matter – you’ll find the extremely easy-to-get-to Barbican Centre is a simply terrific venue…

Family-Friendly February

 Squish Space

(Barbican Centre Silk Street EC2Y 8DS)

If your little ones truly are little, then you might value – because, well, they’ll really value – a mid-morning, lunchtime or afternoon spent at this specialist play area for young ’uns that’s located on the Centre’s excellent, activity-packed Level G. To be precise, it’s a multi-sensory play space, which is what makes it so impressive and ideal for sprites with energy to burn.

Specifically designed to cater for the under-fives, it’s the brainchild of artists India Harvey and Lisa Marie Bengtsson (in collaboration with Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning) and enables attendees to roll, prod, discover and redesign via the use of flexible materials, as well as, of course, their imaginations – the most important component. An ideal place for your tykes to blow off steam then ahead the return back to your accommodation and perhaps using that Rainforest Café voucher or two at Piccadilly Circus? Please note, though, that Squish Space has limited capacity; the venue’s busiest at 11am–12noon each day, especially on Fridays.

 Big Barbican Adventure

(Barbican Centre Silk Street EC2Y 8DS)

But what if your little ones are that bit older? Don’t sweat it because the brilliant Barbican Centre has that covered too. Intended for full-family participation, this do-it-yourself trail is designed to engage minds and bring together ‘adventurers’ of all ages as, together, they seek to uncover the secrets of the Barbican itself; via the likes of cryptic-clue-solving, drawing activities and, of course, games aplenty.

The adventure can be undertaken at certain times of the day, when you can just drop into the Centre and kick-off the trail as you see fit (after you pick up an information kit to help get you started). And, don’t doubt it, comfortable shoes – as well as determination and even a dose of courage (!) – are highly recommended, as the trail will take you outdoors as well as indoors throughout the venue. All in all, though, the 1-2-hour-long activity – suitable for kids, parents and grandparents – is great, physical fun. At any rate, it’s a long way from a Piccadilly spa day; that’s for sure!

 The Conservatory

(Barbican Centre Silk Street EC2Y 8DS)

Finally, if you’re struggling to find something for you and your family to fill the time with on a wintry Sunday over an upcoming half-term break in London, how does an hour or two spent in an exotic-plant-filled, terrapin-packed and, well, nice and warm conservatory sound? Only open to the public on select Sundays and Bank Holidays – but throughout the year – the Barbican Centre’s Conservatory is the second biggest of its kind in the entire capital; a veritable tropical oasis hidden away on the cusp of The City (ideal then for a visit before venturing back ‘west’ for a highly satisfying and equally-as-exotic Indian afternoon tea?).

In total, it’s home to more than 2,000 different species of plants, trees and fish; among which are, yes, terrapin – but also the likes of koi, ghost, and grass carp from Japan and America, in addition to other cold-water fish like roach, rudd and tench. Moreover, the Conservatory’s attached arid house comprises a considerable collection of cacti and succulents, as well as an impressive over-wintering array of cymbidiums (cool house orchids).