Family learning adventures in December 2017

Southbank Centre Christmas Market © India Roper Evans
Get set to banish the dark nights and winter chills with our seriously merry and bright selection of the best educational activities for children (and parents!) this December.

Walking in a Nordic wonderland

Warm your cockles this Christmas at the Southbank's magical Wintertime (till 4 Jan) when it transforms its 17-acre site into a Scandi landscape complete with Alpine chalets, festive forests and giant glittering baubles. Join Danish children’s theatre company Teater Refleksion and take a journey through the dark and beautiful night with Night Light (19-31 Dec), enjoy an afternoon of Nordic-themed music, storytelling and craft for all the family (23 Dec), catch award-winning international clowning sensation Slava’s Snowshow (18 Dec-4 Jan) or join a carol singalong accompanied by the magnificent Royal Festival Hall organ (14 Dec).

Southbank images © India Roper-Evans

Really wild show

Go animal crackers at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo (1-2 & 8-9 Dec) and light up your winter nights with its brand new lantern trail. Wrap up warm and visit the hilltop Zoo after opening hours to discover the wonder of Wild Lights – giant animal lanterns, towering flowers and twinkling fairy lights illuminating a 1km path around the grounds. Head along the shimmering glitter ball path, past the glowing fire garden and look out for shining stilt-walkers and colourful characters along the way. With mince pies and hot chocolate on hand, there's a chance for some seasonal glittery face painting too!

Constructing Christmas

The ultimate LEGO® adventure, BRICKLIVE returns to London with its first ever festive special at the Saatchi Gallery (till 7 Jan). From brick-built Christmas decorations to a dedicated Star Wars zone, the show is a must-visit for blockheads of all ages. Build a giant block Christmas mosaic, tag a 24-metre brick graffiti wall, craft a wheeled creation for an adrenaline-fuelled ramp race and check out previous official LEGO® Star Wars sets (including a 6ft long super star destroyer fleet), before constructing your own creeper and playing the game on consoles in the Minecraft zone.

Water way to celebrate!

Illuminated boats, festively lit historic locks, a water fountain and music create a magical atmosphere reflected by the waters of the Grand Union Canal in Leicester at this year's Foxton Locks Illuminated Boat Festival (16 and 17 December). Taking place by the 200-year-old Locks (a 'staircase' of 10 locks that lets around 4,000 boats travel up and down Foxton Hill each year), expect a majestic parade of boats, miles of twinkling fairy lights, traditional carol singing and festive music from across the world alongside Christmas stalls, fairground and a selection of seasonal refreshments.

'We’re walking in the air…'

Well, it just wouldn’t be a proper Christmas without Raymond Briggs and his classic tale of one boy's heartfelt love for his frosty friend. Twinkling with festive spirit, The Snowman has transported children for a record-breaking 20 years on stage thanks to its magical mix of dancing and live music – including the famous Walking in the Air. Complete with dancing penguins, reindeer and Father Christmas himself, you can catch it at London's Peacock Theatre (till 31 Dec), The Mayflower Theatre, Southampton (10-14 Jan), Milton Keynes Theatre (17-20 Jan) and Theatre Royal, Brighton (24-28 Jan).

Kids' competitions to enter in December 2017


WICKED, the award-winning West End musical, together with the National Literacy Trust, is proud to announce the eighth year of the prestigious WICKED YOUNG WRITER AWARDS. Entries close on 12 March 2018.

Pieces of original writing can be submitted, either individually or as part of a school group. The overall winners from each category will win a VIP family experience to the West End production of WICKED, including an exclusive backstage tour and cast meet-and-greet, £50 book/eBook tokens, plus £100 worth of books for their school library donated by Hachette Children’s Books. The individual school with the highest number of entries will receive a bespoke writing workshop at their respective school.


Entries are now open for the UK round of the Toyota Dream Car 2018 global competition, calling for children to let their imaginations run wild and come up with great ideas for cars of the future.

Young people are asked to draw or paint their dream car, presented against a background that shows where they imagine it being driven. The artwork should be accompanied by a short explanation of how the car works and what makes it special. Submissions must be hand-drawn or painted, not computer generated. Paper must be in A3 size or smaller.

The closing date for entries is 16 January 2018.

There will be gold, silver and bronze winners in each age category in the national competition. They will be invited to a special prize-giving ceremony at Toyota’s headquarters in February. Prizes will include iPads, tablets and Toyota goody bags. Their entries will also go forward for consideration in the global competition and the chance to win the trip of a lifetime to Japan.

The age categories are: under-eight, eight to 11 years old and 12 to 15 years. All entrants must live in the UK.