The Ten Best: Children's shows

Nikki Spencer rounds up the best shows to entertain the kids this summer

Young children adore the book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, and they've been loving this big scary monster of a show by Tall Stories. The sequel, The Gruffalo's Child, premieres in the autumn at the Polka Theatre, Wimbledon.

New Theatre, Cardiff (029-2087 8889), to 2 July, then touring; www.tallstories.org.uk

2. Mary Poppins, London, (£25-49)

This tale of the supercalifragilistic nanny (right) will keep the kids entranced with its amazing sets and dance routines, not to mention characters flying through the air. There's huge demand for tickets, but a limited number are kept back and sold each morning for that day's performance.

Prince Edward Theatre, London W1 (0870 850 9191), booking to 1 April

3. As Far As I Can Sea, Anglesey & touring (free)

As Far as I Can Sea is a brand new show for children aged four-plus, which is touring National Trust properties over the summer. The show is free, but tickets must be booked in advance and normal property admission fees apply.

Plas Newydd, Anglesey, North Wales (01248 714795), 24-25 July, then touring; www.nationaltrust.org.uk

4. The Crock of Gold, London (£8-£12)

London Bubble will be giving promenade performances – part theatre, part outdoor installation – across the capital's parks this summer. The Crock of Gold is an Irish tale filled with leprechauns and philosophers, talking animals and mystical gods.

Sydenham Wells Park, London SE26, 30 June to 2 July, then touring (020-7237 1663; www.londonbubble.org.uk)

5. Midnight Hull & touring (£11)

Aimed at a slightly older audience than previous Watershed shows, Midnight, adapted from a Jacqueline Wilson story, is for nine- to 14-year-olds. It centres around Violet, a dreamy and quiet 13-year-old who is bullied by her older brother.

New Theatre, Hull (01482 226655), to Saturday, then touring; www.watershedtheatre.com

6. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, London (from £14.50)

Catch it while you can: Chitty makes her final flight on 4 September. Jason Donovan is back in the driving seat as Caractacus Potts, with Alvin Stardust as The Child Catcher (above).

Palladium, London W1 (0870 890 1108; www.chittythemusical.co.uk)

7. Dracula - the Blood Count, Manchester (£6.50–£14)

This bloodcurdling outdoor spectacle is great for fearless children (it's not recommended for under-eights). As darkness falls, you meet creatures of the night rising from their graves.

Heaton Park, Manchester (0161-236 7110; www.feelgoodtheatre.co.uk), 21 July to 7 Aug

8. The Lion King, London (£20-£50)

This knocks spots off other West End shows and, in a multicultural city, it's refreshing to see a family show that doesn't have an almost exclusively white cast. If you can, get aisle seats in the stalls: the performers come close enough to touch.

Lyceum Theatre, London WC2 (0870 243 9000; www.thelionking.co.uk), booking to 26 March

9. The Little Mermaid, York & London (from £3.50)

The Theatre Royal has teamed up with the Polka Theatre in Wimbledon, so families from both ends of the country can enjoy this adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's much-loved fable. For children over five.

Theatre Royal, York (01904 623568; www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk) to Saturday; Polka Theatre (020-8543 4888; www.polkatheatre.com), 6 to 30 July

10. The Shelter, Edinburgh (from £4)

The award-winning En Masse theatre company brings The Shelter to the Edinburgh Fringe, and transforms the audience (nine-plus) into the inhabitants of a Second World War air raid shelter for the night as the sirens wail and bombs fall.

Underbelly, Edinburgh (0870 745 3083; www.smirnoffunderbelly.co.uk) 6 to 28 August

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