London’s National Gallery of Art For Kids

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You will probably only see a collection of art this incredible, free, in London. If you know of any other art gallery like this please else let me know, we’d love to go. We were visiting London with kids, so we took them along to London’s National Gallery of Art to see if this art museum would be fun for them, would they enjoy it? It’s a good place to go for a wet day in London or as an essential part of your London sightseeing. But is it good for kids?

Inside the national gallery of art London
This entrance hall, as you enter the National Gallery in London, is pretty special.

London’s National Gallery of art is simply amazing. They have works by all of the great painters, Van Gogh, Monet, Reubens, Stubbs, Titian, Botticelli, Van Dyke, Constable, Cezanne, Da Vinci, too many to list.

Not just some lesser-known work by the great artist, they have THE paintings, the most famous, impressive, sensational and valuable works, all there, for the public to enjoy and wonder at, just as it should be. See this list of 30 highlighted paintings from the gallery to give you an idea of what to expect.

I have to say here that I am not an art buff. I never studied art and to this point in my life I’ve had very little interest in art (other than Dali, who I adore) but being in London for the last few months, having access to the collection at The National Gallery and the differently amazing art at The Tate Modern( click through for our post on this art gallery for kids), has totally changed my outlook.

I can’t get enough of art galleries now, and this turn around is mostly down to my kids.

I am responsible for their education, we travel full-time, they are homeschooled (also known as worldschooling), so we learn about anything and everything when we get the chance. Learning about art, with them, using the amazing resources the London galleries and museums offer the public, often free, has turned me into an art lover. The kids are well on their way too.

I would like my message to you to be, don’t brush off The National Gallery as “not your thing”, don’t think of art galleries for kids as “too boring and stuffy”, this one, in particular, isn’t. Go, enjoy and learn!

the national gallery of art London exterior view of the building
National gallery of art London

The National Gallery stands magnificently at the back of Trafalgar Square, bang in the centre of London. The building opened as a custom-built gallery in 1838, it has always been free and has an ancient commitment to easy access for all social classes.  To the left of the building above is the modern Sainsbury wing, the two are connected.

The gallery houses the British National Collection of European paintings from the 13th to 19th century.

London National Gallery Art Museum With Kids. Kids using audio guides
The kids enjoyed the galleries and the kids’ audio guides. They learned a lot.

Free Guided Tours – With Kids

This was our first experience of the gallery, we joined a free guided tour one day, just by chance, right place, right time. I wasn’t sure if it would be OK for the kids, these tours are mainly for adults, but it was a winner with my 10-year-old, the 8-year-old, less so, he switched off at the history of the gallery but he did find his new favourite painting, Rousseau’s Surprise!

Our guide showed us some of the gallery’s most definitive works, Botticelli, Van Gogh, and everything in between. I learned a lot.

Free guided tours run every day at 11.30 am and 2.30 pm, they last about one hour. Do check this, things may have changed since our visit.

Audio Guides, for Kids and Adults.

National Gallery of Art London Travel With Kids in UK

Rent an audio guide and you will get so much more out of your visit to the National Gallery.

So far we have only tried one of the 3 kids’ audio tours available, Art Detectives, below. The leaflet presented us with 20 varied and well-known paintings, we found each one in its gallery and tapped the number on the page into the gizmo to hear an extremely kid-friendly description of what was going on.

The narrative is funny, fast-paced, interesting and cool, it holds kids’ attention. Kids and adults will get loads out of this tour and spend time really looking at the paintings, noticing details and discovering their meanings.

An added bonus, each painting in the gallery has an audio guide number on the wall, right next to it. If you tap that number into your hand-held gizmo, you can listen to the adult description too. This means that if any painting in the gallery catches your eye, or the kids’ eyes, you can stop and learn about it.

My 10-year-old, who adores Greek and Roman mythology thanks to Percy Jackson, found dozens of paintings he wanted to explore.

It cost us just £4 for our 3 audio guides, 2 free kids with each adult. That’s an incredible bargain. We found this particular audio tour very easy to negotiate, our most user-friendly so far of all the audio tours we’ve tried in the very best London Museums for kids.

We only have a week left in London this summer, but I hope we can squeeze in one more day at the National Gallery to try another kids’ tour, I checked with the boys, they’re keen.

audio guide for kids at the London national gallery of art
One of the kids’ audio guides at the National Gallery, Art Detectives

Drawing Classes, Family Activities, Workshops and Special Events.

Free talk and drawing sessions take place every Friday at 1 pm. – at the time of writing – please check current times -The museum provides all art materials. These sessions target adults but I have enquired to be told children are welcome.

The range of activities on offer at the National Gallery is immense. Modern museums in London are incredible resources for families and adults, offering weekend and school holiday classes. I can’t tell you all about them, just point you to the families section of the National Gallery website, booking is usually necessary to secure places.

Everything you need for a family day out is here. We particularly enjoy the shop, it’s a great source of books, kits, and art equipment.

Most kids like shops, here they’ll be learning as they browse, why not take something home to encourage them even more?

Here’s a kit we made earlier once we got back home to Richmond, South London (we’re on the south side of Richmond Bridge), Boo’s favourite painting again, the Rousseau.

art related educational toy or gift from the national gallery of art london
Our souvenir from The National Gallery, a toy of Rousseau’s “Surprise!” to build at home. Educational fun play, and a cute ornament for our time in London.

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About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

5 thoughts on “London’s National Gallery of Art For Kids”

  1. Visiting London for the first time this summer and traveling with my 12 year old daughter. This informative article will be great for planning. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for this series on London museums. We’ll be referring to them in May when we are in London on our RTW trip!

  3. Another of our favorite London museums! As I commented on your Tate Modern post, I haven’t ever explored the audio guides in this city, but I will definitely do so when we take our little one for a visit (especially since they are such a great deal!) Another bonus about this museum is that they offer a free bag check, which has allowed us to really maximize our time when we have flown into the city from somewhere else, only to turn around the next morning and fly out for home. I’ll miss all of your London posts when you leave, too! 🙂

  4. How will you tear yourselves away??? London rocks!! Love this! As always, thanks for sharing. Can’t wait for DD10 and I to do that audio tour and trails. Brilliant!


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