The best theatre shows for kids to see in the West End
London is packed with theatrical experiences, with some shows designed with younger audiences in mind. Shows typically fall into two brackets; either they're either created for kids, or are suitable for both children and adults.
Over the years, many musicals have even featured kids in their cast, including Matilda, The Lion King, Annie and The Sound of Music. They've all inspired upcoming generations of West End stars, so why not encourage your kids to create a love of theatre from an early age. It’s even been shown that theatre can significantly improve a child’s academic performance
Introduce children to the theatre from a young age with our picks of the best theatre for kids in London.
Musicals for kids
Inspire children by taking them to a West End musical. There are even musicals based on Disney films and Roald Dahl books.
Matilda follows the same story as told in the Roald Dahl novel. Matilda is a gifted child, who possesses powerful psychokinetic powers. Her parents don’t care for her. Her evil headmistress Miss Trunchbull wants to get rid of her. So who can Matilda turn to? Thankfully, her teacher Miss Honey and her classmates save the day.
A David-and-Goliath story complete with plenty of cheek, Matilda is a perfect musical for young kids. Once they’ve seen Matilda in London at the Cambridge Theatre, we’ll bet they want to be one of the “Revolting Children” at Crunchem Hall.
Swallow a spoonful of sugar and say hello to the West End’s favourite Nanny, as Mary Poppins is back in London at the Prince Edward Theatre. The lovable Nanny looks after the Banks children, taking them on all sorts of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” adventures with local jack of all trades Bert.
There’s plenty of magical moments, including tap-dancing chimneysweeps on the ceiling and a flying Mary Poppins. Yep, Mary Poppins actually flies. We won’t ruin the magic for younger ones.
Roaring at the Lyceum Theatre since 1999, The Lion King in London continues to entertain audiences from around the world. At the start of the musical, audiences see Simba as a tiny lion cub. Then, as he journeys across the Seregenti, he survives stampedes, stand-offs, and Scar to become King of the Pride Lands.
The Lion King is full of Disney songs that children will have definitely heard before too, including “Circle of Life” and “Hakuna Matata.” There’s also hundreds of puppets on display showcasing the animal kingdom, and they’ll soar over the heads of young children transfixed by the musical spectacle.
West End theatre for kids
As well as West End shows with storylines suitable for younger audiences, there are many West End theatre events created for children. They’re typically based on best-selling storylines or television shows, usually with a running time of around 1 hour — a great length of time for kids to stay focused.
What do you get if you bring world-class illusionists and stuntmen to the West End? Wonderment. In 2021, some of the world's finest illusionists in recent year will come together at the Palace Theatre showcasing their unbelievable tricks and death-defying stunts that really will be an evening of sheer wonder.
Magicians taking part include Chris Cox, who worked on the Hogwarts illusions in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. So if you’re looking for an astonishing show that will leave kids dumbstruck, treat children to an evening of Wonderment.
Sophie and her mummy are sitting down for tea one evening, when the doorbell suddenly rings. They’re not expecting any guests, so who could it be? Approaching the door, they learn that’s it a tiger who loves to drink tea too. Together, the trio enjoy a delightful evening together, complete with songs, dancing, and chaos.
Judith Kerr’s picture book has been read by children around the world, and now the Olivier Award-nominated show is back at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. The Tiger Who Came to Tea is suitable for preschoolers and children who’ve just started school, with lots of call and response lines to get the kids taking part in the action.
Making history exciting for kids can be a struggle at times. But that’s where Horrible Histories comes in. Each summer, Horrible Histories allows audiences to discover gory stories from the past, where centuries-old rulers come to life.
For 2021, we’ll be going back in time to the days of Barmy Britain once more at the Apollo Theatre, with appearances from William the Conqueror, King Henry VIII, and even Queen Elizabeth II. Once your kids have seen a Horrible Histories show, they’ll want to find out even more about monarchs that once ruled Britain.
If you were the richest kid in the world, what would you buy? That’s what 12-year-old Joe Spud thinks about daily, as he’s bought everything beyond his wildest dreams. There’s one thing money can’t buy though, and that’s a friend.
Based on the acclaimed David Walliams story, there's lots of life lessons for kids (and adults) to take away from Billionaire Boy, including the importance of kindness. Be a big kid at the Garrick Theatre and spend the show making memories and laughing with the little ones.
As one of Britain’s greatest children’s writers, Julia Donaldson has seen many of her stories onstage. In previous years, kids have been treated to The Gruffalo and The Room on the Broom, but this year it’s the farmyard adventures of What the Ladybird Heard that take centre stage at the Palace.
Two robbers set out to steal a prize cow, but can farm animals save the day? Plenty of fun happens on this farm, complete with puppets, songs, and silliness.
Photo credit: The Lion King (Photo by Johan Persson)