Things to do in London: V&A Museum of Childhood Festival of Play, Saturday 20 – Sunday 21 July 2019

This weekend, the V&A Museum of Childhood is running the Festival of Play – Saturday 20 – Sunday 21 July 2019, as part of the 100 year celebrations for Montessori teaching in the UK.

Montessori St Nicholas is running outdoor games at the Festival of Play – Maria Montessori was a pioneering influencer who identified early on that children can learn by doing. Play based learning is part of her holistic approach that has continues to influence contemporary education. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), children spend 90% of their time in doors. Montessori St Nicholas believes that should change, with children encouraged to learn by engaging with nature – and about where food comes from. 

For the V&A Museum of Childhood this is the biggest party of the year the biggest celebration of the power of play. From designing musical instruments, to outdoors activities organised by Montessori, to making your own Video Game, every activity is free, drop in and for all ages. Play is an essential part of every child’s life. It is vital for their enjoyment as well as social, emotional, intellectual and physical development and is one of the key themes for the new galleries. The Festival of Play is a collaboration with University College London’s Playing the Archive project.

The programme is as follows:

Build, Break & Re-build
11:00 – 16:30, Marble Floor
Artist Matt Shaw is offering everyone an opportunity to get involved in the creation of a giant structure for the museum’s Marble Floor.

Outdoor games
11:00 – 15.30 (group games at 12:00, 13:00, 14:00 and 15:00), the Lawn
The team of experts and students from Montessori St Nicholas charity will be organising outdoor games all day on the museum’s lawn.

Play Market!
11:00 – 16:30, Open Studio

  • Learn about and play different games from around the world with artist Dan Jones
  • Try Sense of Play playing cards made by the UCL team.
  • Pretend to be a museum curator and decide which objects are valuable.
  • Build a musical instrument using digital device and craft.
  • Try out games made by the V&A’s Games Designer in Residence Matteo Menapace
  • Make a badge with artist Alison Somerset-Ward.Give it a try: AR and VR Prototypes
    12:00 – 16:00, Open Studio and Rachel Whiteread’s Village’ area
    Experience play in augmented reality and virtual reality in an experimental project made by students from the Royal College of Art. Ages 8+


Time Telephone
10:00 – 17:30, Museum entrance
Dial the Time Telephone to speak to children from the past and present and learn new games to play.

Robot Sculpture
11:00 – 12:30 and 14:00 – 15:30, Make it Happen area Create your own unique robot sculpture!

Baby Sensory Play
11.00 – 15.00, Optical Toys area
Explore different types of materials and play things made especially for little ones.

Workshop: How to make a Video Game
11:30 and 14:00 (60min), Hickory Room
Come and make your own 3D adventure video game. Ages 8+

Play Films
11:00 – 16:30, Summerly Room
Watch a series of archival and recent documentaries on children’s play.


The V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green is part of the V&A family of sites and the UK’s National Museum of Childhood. It is the largest institution of its kind in the world and holds in trust the nation’s childhood collections, with a unique story to tell as East London’s first museum. In October 2018, the museum announced plans for a transformative redevelopment project that will enable the much-loved institution to become a world-leading museum of design and creativity for children, families and young people.

Playing the Archive is an ambitious research project exploring the nature and technologies of play in the past and present day. It is about the people who play, young and old. Funded by EPSRC, the project will make the Iona and Peter Opie manuscript archive at the Boldeian Libraries publicly accessible online for the first time. The Playing the Archive team have also created many of the interactive events and resources at the festival, including the Time Telephone, where visitors can hear the archive spoken by today’s children.

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