28th July 2000 at 01:00
Keeping the children busy over the summer can be expensive, so it's great to see flagship institutions such as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London offering a generous programme of family events - and free entry for under-18s. This is a good opportunity for young visitors to learn while having fun, whether it's by taking photographs, thumping drums or building sculptures (to name but three of the activities that run daily until September 3).

For those aged between five and 11, the Vamp;A has a variety of award-winning backpacks and activity carts which can help turn a visit to the museum into an adventure. The backpacks contain materials for jig-saws, puzzles, games and stories, while the carts enable children - with some help from adults - to create their own Samurai helmet in the Japanese gallery or make their own bonnet in the museum's dress collection.

Special events range from using old magazines to create your own photomontage on the theme of time to joining Surinder Singh Matharu in exploring the sounds of northern India on a variety of musical instruments.

Details: 020 7942 2000.

As part of the distribution of the Heritage Lottery Fund, which has already awarded more than pound;3 million to 45 projects nationwide, the Vamp;A is also reaching out to the two-thirds of the population which doesn't go to museums or galleries. Building on its work with South Asian, Chinese and Afro Caribbean communities, it is trying to foster intercultural understanding with its Sacred Spaces project.

Taking photos of sacred objects from all faiths, from Christianity to Hinduism and Shinto to Jainism, the project brings these together with some of the sacred objects in its own collections for a special Sacred Spaces exhibition (August 5 to September 4). For example, pictures of the faithful reading the Torah at the West London synagogue will be displayed next to the Torah from the museum's collection. The project continues next year.

Details: 020 7942 2208.

On August 6, another flagship, the British Library, celebrates Roald Dahl, who despite rampant Pottermania remains a favourite children's author, top of this year's World Book Day poll.

Running Bear theatre company presents its versions of Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts, using an engaging mix of actors and animal masks to evoke Dahl's rude and rambunctious retellings of fairy tales. The show is free, takes place at 1pm in the BL's piazza, and is followed by the film Matlda, starring Danny de Vito and Mara Wilson (pound;2.50, tickets available on the day). The BL also runs family workshops, including demonstrations of calligraphy, printing and book-making. Details: 020 7412 7332.

Other types of scary monsters stalk through two new Batman animated films from Warner Video - Spellbound and School Dayz (both PG). Set in the year 2039, after Bruce Wayne has hung up his tights, they feature Terry McGinnis, a normal teenager with girlfriend problems and a nosy younger brother, who spends his evening tackling crime in Gotham City. Eat your heart out, Jack Straw. You can buy the pair at any Warner Video stockist for pound;15 until August 20 (usually pound;9.99 each).

More men in tights, as well as criminals of the sword and-dagger variety, at Polka Children's Theatre's staging of Robin Hood by Robin Kingsland (until August 19, including Sundays). Boisterous and thrilling, this tale of the Merry Men of Sherwood Forest, who take from the rich and give to the poor, comes with a hefty dollop of audience participation. Children will need to wear something green, memorise the password ("Lincoln Green"), hiss at the villains and help the heroes find the treasure. Box office: 020 8543 4888.

A more musical way of passing a few days is offered by the Dundee Guitar Festival (August 2 to 6), the biggest event of its kind and now in its 10th year. Performances include the German youth group, Landesjugendzupf Gitarre Orchestra, the Assad Brothers and Paul Galbraith. Lectures feature Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and James MacMillan. Festival director Allan Neave says he welcomes young people "who want to give it a go" to the various workshops, whose subjects include rock guitar, classical guitar, composition and musical technology. Some participants even get to make their own CDs. Details: 01382 432265; Elsewhere, the unstoppable march of the Pokemon continues, as it features in Toy Stories (until September 30), an exhibition of toys loaned by adults and children at Kirklees's Red House in Gomersal, near Leeds. Treasures include some of the first Dinky toys and Second World War-vintage teddies, Cookie the Koala and My Pet Monster figures, as well as Pokemon. Museums officer Helga Hughes says that people "have scoured their attics to bring us their toys - and some children have sent their favourites and written why they are so special to them." Details of family activity days: 01274 335100.

Aleks Sierz

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