London’s West End is one of the world’s most thriving hotspots for theatre.
But it’s not just for adults and older kids — there are a number of incredible theatre shows in London for young kids and their families.
While it may seem overwhelming trying to find things for the whole family to enjoy, a trip to the theatre is almost always a good time. Getting your kids acquainted with the spectacle of the stage while they’re young can develop their imagination – and you never know: it may also set a lifelong passion inside of them!
Either way, there are plenty of great shows and performances that both parents and children can enjoy. From Disney classics to Roald Dahl, here are 9 of the best London theatre shows for toddlers and young kids.
Fun London Theatre Shows for Young Kids
By now, parents are no doubt intimately familiar with Disney’s iconic 2013 hit. However, while you may be sick of movie-Elsa belting out “Let It Go” for the umpteenth time, the stage version may lend you a new appreciation for this snowy spectacle.
Disney musicals are always a great choice for families looking to spend a night at the theatre. Needless to say, this won’t be the last Disney musical on this list… However, what sets Frozen apart from some of the others is its commitment to quality production design. To put it simply, the spectacle of the show will amaze both you and your kids.
The show is being performed at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, just minutes from Covent Garden tube station. In keeping with the snowy theme of the show, tickets are much cheaper during the winter.
Winnie The Pooh
Winnie the Pooh is a children’s literature staple. The little yellow bear is perhaps most recognisable in his Disney incarnation, but his creation predates the House of Mouse by a few years, at least.
Unfortunately, old Winnie hasn’t seen as much love and popularity in recent times as he used to. With so many other beloved characters for children to latch onto, Winnie the Pooh has somewhat receded from the public psyche. However, all is not yet lost, and the little yellow bear may be on his way to making a big comeback.
The Winnie the Pooh Musical is evidence of that. While you may be more familiar with his animated incarnation, this version of the character is far more song and dance than you may be used to. As befits a Disney property, the music is stellar, and the puppetry on display is astounding in its believability. While parents may not be fooled, the kids will almost certainly believe that everyone’s favourite honey-loving bear has come to life!
When the show first premiered in New York, it broke records in ticket sales. Now that it’s come to this side of the pond, there’s no better time to get your kids acquainted with Winnie and friends.
The show is running from the 17th of March to the 21st of May at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith and will continue to tour around the UK. While there’s enjoyment to be had for everyone attending, this particular show is best suited for younger kids aged three and up.
The Lion King
In keeping with the Disney theme of the last two entries, here’s another Walt Disney classic brought to life on the stage. The Lion King Musical has performed annually for the past 24 years and is one of the most acclaimed modern musicals thanks to its stunning production design and pulse-pounding music.
By now, most people are already familiar with the story of Simba and his journey toward becoming the King of the Pridelands. The original Disney movie was already chock-full of iconic imagery, setpieces, and songs, but the theatre version is all the more impressive in how it translates those spectacles to the stage.
More than 40 musical instruments are used to produce the awesome soundscape of the Pridelands. Not only is this production a great time already, but more musically-inclined children will find plenty to love and more in this retelling.
There is a catch, however. While it’s not Game of Thrones, the Lion King is one of Disney’s more mature stories and it’s recommended for kids 6 and over. Children below the age of 3 will not be admitted into the theatre, and an adult must accompany anyone under 16. Fortunately, booking for a group is easy.
Held at the Lyceum Theatre on the Strand, this is one production that shouldn’t be missed!
Part of the joy of seeing the world through a child’s eyes is finding magic in even the most mundane of circumstances and places. That sense of wonder can be tough to preserve the older you get, but there are many ways to keep it alive.
Take Stomp, for instance. If you were raised on Disney alone, you might not recognize this unique musical experience, although it’s been performed since 1991. Stomp is an exercise in finding magic and music in the mundane. Broomsticks become musical instruments; clapping becomes a conversation. It’s a fun departure from the clutter of urban life, which can sometimes be incredibly stifling.
While some adults may not see the appeal, the kids who watch Stomp certainly will. Besides its innovative use of rhythm, dance, and props, the show is also very, very funny and has been awarded an Obie, an Emmy, and an Olivier. Many critics consider it to be theatre at its most addictive.
And the best part? Kids of all ages can enjoy Stomp! It’s held at the Ambassadors Theatre in the West End, but you’ll need to book your tickets fast – it’s one of the UK’s most popular shows.
Matilda: The Musical
Believe it or not, there was a time when Roald Dahl was almost as popular as Disney. The prolific writer weaved a huge number of classic children’s books. Due to their dark, often mature undertones, however, Dahl’s stories never reached the same cultural omnipresence as Disney.
Still, Roald Dahl’s stories remain classics in their own right. While they’ve seen a fair few adaptations over the years (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, George and the Giant Peach), none have reached the level of acclaim of Matilda: The Musical.
With music by the brilliant Tim Minchin and a cast of talented young performers, it’s no wonder why Matilda’s musical incarnation is so highly praised. The show still features Roald Dahl’s wicked sense of humour and irony, but it’s brought to life with such zeal and wonder that it becomes more colourful and absurd than dark and cruel.
The show has been performed for over a decade at this point and is currently being performed at the Cambridge Theatre in Covent Garden’s Seven Dials. The tickets go for as cheap as £20. Before you book, however, remember that Matilda still deals with some mature ideas, so leave the really young ones (aged four and under) at home!
The Wizard of Oz is yet another beloved children’s classic. It’s been over a century since it first captivated the minds of young readers – now it’s captivating the minds of young theatre-goers!
However, Wicked: The Musical gives a fresh new spin on the classic fable. Rather than seeing the events of Oz play out through the eyes of Dorothy, we see things through the eyes of the Wicked Witch of the West! That means that even adults already familiar with the material can appreciate this one.
BBC London calls Wicked “a major success,” and critics everywhere have sung its praises. This makes for a great introduction to the world of Oz for kids because it teaches them to empathise with characters who may not always seem the most sympathetic. The colourful scenery and catchy music make this one great for children of all ages.
Wicked is performing at the Apollo theatre next door to Victoria station.
When Aladdin hit the big screen way back in the early 90s, it was an immediate hit. There was a time when Disney could not help themselves in making one success after another. And it’s easy to see why.
The story of Aladdin is a simple rags-to-riches fable brimming with romance and adventure. And let’s not forget the music: the sounds of Aladdin are still one of Disney’s more unique scores, and the music of the stage production is no less catchy.
Iconic Alan Menken hits like “A Whole New World” make a resounding return in this stage version held at the Prince Edward Theatre in London and is touring around the UK too. You may know the story of Aladdin already, but you’ve never seen – or heard – it like this before.
The Unicorn Theatre
Don’t let this list trick you into thinking that the only way to get kids excited about the theatre is with a big show like Frozen or Aladdin. The joy of the theatre remains regardless of what’s on stage.
And the Unicorn Theatre seeks to prove this. As the UK’s largest and most popular children’s theatre, it makes for the perfect introduction to stagecraft for young kids. The company performs shows both old and new, classic and original. What unites their productions is their emphasis on inclusion, equality, and empathy.
At only a few steps away from London Bridge station, the Unicorn Theatre makes for a perfect day out, and your kids will love what they’ve got to show. Better still, the company also makes most of their play texts available, meaning you can take the experience back home with you!
Little Angel Theatre
Like the Unicorn Theatre, the Little Angel Theatre was formed to get kids to engage with theatre. While it doesn’t see the same number of visitors as the previous entry, it’s considered an icon of North London childhoods.
Additionally, unlike the Unicorn Theatre, most of the Little Angel’s productions involve puppetry. The characters are brought to life with such skill that they may as well be real performers.
The emphasis on puppets also makes this a company that even the youngest of kids can engage with. It helps that many of the shows they perform promote wholesome values like empathy and kindness, both of which are important to instil in people while they’re young.
Before you leave London, treat your kids to a trip to the Little Angel Theatre. We promise you won’t regret it.
Have you taken your toddler to the theatre yet?
Be sure to check our full guide of fun things to do in London with toddlers.