Family days out this November 2015
Summer's well and truly over and the evenings are drawing in. Never mind, says Nifa McLaughlin, there are plenty of top treats on the calendar
Imagine a city where children are in charge and can try more than 60 grown-up activities. Don't worry – KidZania in London's Westfield is less Lord of the Flies, more about learning – they can work in a bank, be pilots, firemen (see right), on stage, or fight crime as police officers. They're paid for this too, in kidZos (KidZania's currency), which they can spend on all sorts in Kidzania. Under-fours can play games and solve puzzles in the Kindergarten area, in partnership with the Early Learning Centre, and the dress-up room, in partnership with Mothercare, has tons of fancy dress outfits.
Bear and Caterpillar are best friends. But how will Bear cope when Caterpillar turns into a beautiful, high- flying butterfly? Four- to seven-year-olds will love the puppetry, music and storytelling in this charming tale.
Touring the UK, 9 October-24 December
Let's go fly a kite
Children and adults have flown kites in Afghanistan and South Asia for more than a century – it's a serious activity where you compete to take other kites down. The exhibition Kites from Kabul, at the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, east London, celebrates the story behind this sport. The unique display of handmade kites, photos and videos bring to life the rich history and culture of kite-flying. The museum also has free drop-in activities including arts, crafts, tour trails and storytelling seven days a week in term time, for children aged three to 12.
Until 3 January 2016
A sprinkle of pixie dust
In The Boy Who Never Grew Up, the story of Peter Pan promises a bit of escapism with puppetry, music and fun. Perfect for children aged four and up – or anyone who wishes they'd never grown up!
Touring in November: 7, Lyric Hammersmith; 15, Cambridge Junction; 28, Half Moon, Limehouse, London
Fun and games
If you live in the north east and are looking for new friends for you and your tot, try Squiggles 'n' Giggles in North Shields, a toddler group that holds activity sessions on a new theme each week. Children can have a great time splashing, digging, getting messy and creative and generally having fun. They also run baby massage classes, Giggle 'n' Groove rhythm and rhyme classes and Twinkle Time, a baby group for newborns up.
If you're within striking distance of Edinburgh on a dreary autumn day, head to the excellent Museum of Childhood. See how children were cared for and schooled in the past, and marvel at the huge collections of toys, games, crafts, books, photographs and clothes. There are also dressing-up costumes, a puppet theatre and games to try. So much fun – and not a tablet or smart phone in sight...
Inquisitive under-fives will find loads to do at Abbey House Museum in Leeds. No special knowledge is necessary for their activity days, just heaps of curiosity. November's theme is water, so it's the perfect opportunity for little ones to have fun getting messy – and learn a bit of science on the way.
Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children's Books in Newcastle, has been brilliantly refurbished to make it an even better place for children to discover more about the books they love. Under-fours can enjoy creative, sensory play in the Story Station, or draw, paint and write in the Studio and Word Lab. In The Attic, transformed into Harry Potter's Diagon Alley for the re-opening, they can step into the shoes of their favourite characters and meet authors and illustrators.
For the ultimate pre-Christmas tot treat, it's hard to beat the ever-popular Polar Express. Trains run on the Weardale Railway in Co Durham and Devon's Dartmoor Railway, providing a magical adventure based on the hit movie and award-winning book, complete with visit from Santa when you reach the North Pole.
Come and mark World War II Family Day on 15 November at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry, commemorating those whose lives were lost and the anniversary of the Coventry Blitz. There'll be activities to help children learn more about the war at both the Herbert and the Coventry Transport Museum.
No dad, let alone toddler, can resist a day at an RAF museum – in Hendon, north London or Cosford, Shropshire, both packed with planes from early aircraft to jets of the future. There's an interactive space for little ones to learn more or play at being pilots, and they can sit in cockpits or walk into troop-carrying planes.