Top ideas for educational outings around Hampstead and Highgate


- Credit: Archant

Children needn’t only learn at home and school. Here, private tutition agency Athena Tuition suggest the best places around town to enrich their minds.

As a private tuition agency, we know that parents across the city hire tutors to boost their child’s learning.

But learning and good grades don’t just come from desk-based graft: so this summer, surprisingly to some, we’ve been recommending that children spend less time at the desk, and more time with parents or tutors out and about learning from the rich environment around Hampstead.

Here are a few ideas to get you started – beginning, in light of recent weather, with indoor activities.

Hampstead and Highgate in wet weather

Hampstead is famously arts-rich, and only 20 minutes from central London’s galleries and museums. But don’t just “do” a visit. Before, during or after the visit, challenge children to research a topic in depth – the famous socialists of Highgate Cemetery; the romance of Fanny Brawne and John Keats; the life of our youngest PM, Pitt the Younger, whose portrait hangs in Kenwood House; the science of unravelling dreams at the Freud Museum; or constellations, which children can view through the Hampstead Observatory telescope.

In the evenings, children can learn to enjoy drama at the Hampstead Theatre and Kilburn’s innovative Tricycle Theatre; and watch relays of central London plays in Hampstead’s Everyman, the Finchley Road Vue and the Swiss Cottage Odeon. Children must study Shakespeare at school whether they love or hate him – so grab any opportunity to see his plays on stage, where they were meant to be seen, giving children the context and understanding of the plays before the classroom readings deaden the enthusiasm. If you venture down to the Globe, take the Thameslink from West Hampstead to arrive on the glass-and-steel Blackfriars Bridge station for one of the best views in London. And after a play, children might like to write or act out plays of their own.

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Hampstead and Highgate in fair weather

Outdoor education experts, like Sara Knight of the Forest School movement, argue that almost anything can be taught outdoors. In most subjects, we agree – and Hampstead Heath is north London’s greatest outdoor classroom. Most obviously, the Heath is a place for confidence-building physical activity: climbing trees, swimming and diving in the ponds, running up the hills. These all improve coordination, and – if children are left alone, learning gauge risks for themselves – give greater independence and improved judgement.

But being outside isn’t just about physical challenges. Outdoor adventures can become subjects for writing – diaries, letters or stories – when you get home. The more memorable the adventure, the easier the writing will be. And you or a tutor can build new vocabulary, grammar, spelling and syntax as they write and talk about what they’ve experienced. The Heath is also a perfect place to learn about geography, biology, geology, and natural history – from stamens, the food chain and pollination to water cycles and erosion.

Further afield

Beyond the boundaries of Hampstead itself, but still within striking distance, children can learn about: the history of the Jewish community in north London (JW3, the Jewish Museum); natural sciences in Bloomsbury (Wellcome Collection, the Grant Museum); and modern and live music (Abbey Road Studios, the Roundhouse, and the Royal Albert Hall, especially during Prom season,).

Finally, and obviously, we recommend that parents not neglect central London. Some of the least-known educational visits for kids are the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition for visual arts (begins next June), the Bank of England Museum for kids who like current affairs, and the grizzly collections of the Horniman and Hunterian Museums for biologists and aspiring surgeons. For children who like reading, introduce Dickens early – start with Great Expectations, which is funny, accessible and gripping – then visit the Dickens Museum, and go on to explore the dozens of other Dickens-related sites across London, from the Inns of Court to the sandy riverbank itself. Of course, the Natural History and Science Museums are unmissable – as is the British Museum, for older children.

As north Londoners, we are lucky to live close to some of the best educational sites in the country. We have theatres, museums, parks and houses that coachloads of school children travel across the country to see and experience. Some of these are literally metres from our own doorsteps. If you’re looking for a better way to boost your son or daughter’s enthusiasm for learning, look outside – you won’t have to travel far.

Athena Tuition is a Hampstead-based agency offering tuition to families across north and central London. This summer, Athena Tuition began offering lessons that take students away from the desk, and into the world around them. In July, the company opened a new office in Edinburgh, while continuing to provide advice to families moving into the UK education system from abroad, particularly from the United States and Hong Kong. Visit