8 April 2019
School holiday activities
The Easter half-term is here and the weather (as ever) is unpredictable, making it difficult to organise plans to entertain the kids while they’re off school and potentially at a loose end.
Even at a young age, children can have widely differing interpretations of what keeps them entertained and stimulated for any length of time, so deciding on plans that they’ll all enjoy can sometimes be tricky. Whether it be outdoor exploring, seeing animals, watching films or getting crafty, we’ve created a guide so you can keep everyone entertained during half term - maybe even Mum and Dad!
The South Yorkshire area has a wide range of destination attractions offering something for everyone, many of which allow you to get out into the open and burn off some energy. While the weather may often be unpredictable, all of our suggestions also offer somewhere warm and dry as an alternative:
- Should you be blessed with sunny weather, Yorkshire Wildlife Park has a wealth of animals to spot and also provides the chance to get up close to a few of the smaller ones! (Doncaster, DN4 6TB; adults £16.00, children 3-15 years old £13.50 - free entry for under-3s)
- For the truly animal crazy, there are also plenty of farms scattered around the area. Aside from the usual furry friends, Cannon Hall has both an indoor play area and outdoor adventure playground, as well as staging special school holiday events such as tractor rides and sheep racing. (Cawthorne, S75 4AT; adults and children £5.95, free entry for under-2s)
- Wigfield Farm offers VIP experiences for specific animals and even ‘Young Keeper’ mornings where older children from 7-14 get hands-on time including feeding, cleaning and handling. (Worsbrough, S70 5NQ; adults £3.00, concessions £1.50 - family ticket £8.00)
- If you prefer a more relaxed day out where manure might not be a guaranteed fixture, Sheffield’s Botanical Gardens run half-term activities around plant and wildlife identification for children between the ages of 4-8, so any budding biologists will have plenty to look at under the magnifying glasses; their ‘Curator’s House’ tea room an ideal place to rest weary legs once the gardens have been lapped. (Sheffield, S10 2LN)
- Essentially a giant warmed greenhouse, the Winter Garden located in Sheffield city centre is perhaps better suited to the colder months and contains over 2,500 different plants. It too has a cafe for snacks and refreshments. (S1 2HH)
- If you want to get more involved with nature, you could visit your local RSPB reserve. At our local reserve RSPB Old Moor, there's an adventure playground, discovery zone with heritage games, family hide and events and activities at weekends and school holidays. Wildlife Explorer packs and activity sheets are available to hire every day and pond dipping kits are available from April to the end of October. The Activity Zone is open during the holidays with a range of free craft activities. Adults £5, children £2.50 - members gain free access. There are reserves all over the UK: Find your nearest reserve.
Contrary to how it may feel, there’s often little reason to spend excessive amounts of money during the school holidays, if at all. When the weather treats you well - or even when it’s on the cold and damp side - why not have the little ones don the wellies and have some fun in the garden?
There are a variety of ways to repurpose recycled household items for garden use, such as:
- Hanging tomato growers from plastic bottles - with some baby tomato plants, string and somewhere to hang, these will give the kids a great lesson in the flowering and pollination processes and, hopefully, lead to one or two tasty tomatoes!
- Egg box greenhouses - using old cardboard egg boxes, compost and some cling film or transparent plastic bags, you can plant any form of seed, from flowers to vegetables.
- Insect hotels - these little garden additions provide protected nooks and crannies for bees and other bugs to nest and hibernate, making use of a range of interesting materials for kids to get hands-on with.
- Lastly, it’s always fun to grow new plants from kitchen scraps: it won’t exactly yield enough food to feed a full family, but children will get a great insight into how plants grow and regenerate.
Theme parks are invariably an exhilarating day out for everyone, with the range of rides providing an endless supply of excitement; if anything, you’re guaranteed a silent drive home. There are often promotions on for families where kids get half-price entry or discounted/free meals in the cafes and restaurants. Also, keep an eye out for free tokens on cereal boxes, soap bottles and snack packaging that might allow you to build up to half price entry or two-for-one offers.
- Sundown Adventure Land is a theme park for under-10s, offering a range of rides and attractions specifically designed for younger children. (Retford, DN22 0HX; adults and children over 90cm in height £16.00 each for advance tickets - free entry for smaller children)
- Diggerland Yorkshire makes all things diggers accessible to kids of every age, from indoor soft play to operating heavy machinery. (Castleford, WF10 5NW; adults and children over 90cm in height £16.99 each for advance tickets - free entry for smaller children)
- Gulliver’s Kingdom boasts a series of themed areas for thrills of all levels, such as Dinosaur Kingdom, Lilliput Land and Adventure Land. (Matlock, DE4 3PG; adults and children £17.95 each for advance tickets)
Baking is always a simple, fun (and relatively cost-effective) activity to do with the kids on a rainy day; just follow a simple fairy cake recipe or make some shortbread biscuits and let the kids get creative decorating them however they like. Whether they overload the icing or go crazy with the sprinkles, they are bound to have fun when they’re making a complete mess of the kitchen!
- BBC Good Food has an excellent extensive list of suggestions, from hedgehog rolls and chocolate jungle jam jars to upside-down banana cake and rainbow cookies.
- Another great list of recipes to try comes from Delish, who feature an experimental, imaginative selection such as owl cupcakes, strawberry shortcake lasagna and chocolate peanut butter bites.
- Ever the reliable source, Jamie Oliver’s site has a dedicated section to family baking and has a welcome choice of more practical recipes that might come in handy for certain situations: teething biscuits, dairy-free cakes and savoury muffins without gluten.
Bonus: Home cinema
After a day of exploring out of the house, there’s nothing better than closing the curtains and getting warm and cosy on the sofa with a film chosen by the kids themselves; the more blankets and cushions, the better! With a small expenditure on some sweet treats or popcorn from the supermarket, you could save a significant amount by hosting a cinema afternoon at home rather than down at the local screen. Better still, use your baked goodies from earlier as the snack centrepiece… Lights out!