Getting out and about over half-term
The half-term break at the end of May has to be the best school holiday of the year – it’s not too long and the weather has finally warmed up. There are no guarantees of sunshine, of course, but that’s no excuse for not getting out and about (barring the odd torrential downpour).
If you’re short of ideas, you could start by looking at the BBC Things To Do site which lists a whole host of activities, some of which might be right on your doorstep. The Hands on History part of the site has a number of free activities too taking place right across the country from Aberdeenshire to Cornwall.
Also looking across the UK, one place you will find some useful pointers to free or cheap activities are the various national tourist boards. Enjoy England is packed with suggestions for places to go and things to do. How about taking the kids otter watching or fossil hunting? These were just a couple of the suggestions that caught my eye when I was browsing the site. Plus, click through to the family fun area for some ideas for family-friendly trips that won’t break the bank.
Follow the half-term link on the Visit Wales website for a variety of fun things to do with the kids. Visit Scotland has a family section that’s worth a look if you’re struggling for inspiration, while Discover Northern Ireland has suggestions for free family days out.
If your children love anything to do with animals and plants, then the Woodland Trust is bound to have something to keep them busy – whether you’re indoors or out and about. The main website has some great pointers, but the best part is the Nature Detectives section. It’s a surprisingly good and bountiful resource. There’s a fee if you want to join the members’ club, but it’s also absolutely teeming with free downloadable activities, creative makes, quizzes, games and puzzles, plus numerous information booklets and factsheets.
Why not fill in a morning or afternoon by taking a wildlife walk in your local neighbourhood? The BBC’s Nature UK site (the home of Springwatch) has a page with advice on how to go about your wildlife walk . All you’ll need to do is to keep your eyes peeled and yours ears open. Alternatively, you could just get your kids, especially younger ones, to do some investigating of their own in your back garden - even if it’s just tracking down minibeasts amongst the grass or under pots and stones. And if you live by the sea or are planning a trip to the beach, then see what you can find together down in the rock pools and on the sand.
If you’re stuck indoors, check out the Green Balloon Club pages on the CBeebies website. There are several ‘make and colour’ activities to have a go at, plus a large selection of short ‘watch and listen’ video reports made by young viewers of the nature show.
Getting active is one of the main benefits of spending time outdoors. And it tires kids out too – always a good thing! The weather should be decent for some of the half-term break, so get the kids walking, scooting, cycling - or just running around in the garden, kicking a ball around in the park, or climbing on the apparatus at your local playground.
Tennis courts are dotted all over the place too. According to the Tennis For Free campaign, there are 2,635 free public tennis courts in the UK. Click on the map on their site to find out where your nearest free ones are - and then it’s a just a case of turning up.
If your children are aged 4-11, you could see if there is any ‘mini tennis’ on offer in your area. It’s a great introduction to the sport but with smaller courts, nets, rackets and lower-bouncing balls. Take a look at the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) website to find out more.
If your kids aren’t into tennis, then why not suggest a visit to your local swimming pool? There are often special offers or discounts available during the holidays. Also, more than 500 pools are currently participating in the ‘Big Splash’ campaign which aims to inspire people to learn to swim – or swim more regularly. Pools supporting the campaign will be offering a range of Big Splash activities and resources.
After all that letting off steam, let the kids chill out - whether that involves watching TV, reading, listening to music or playing games on their console. If they want to go online, there are some great games to be found on the CBBC website.
You could direct younger children to the ‘Make and Colour’ area on the CBeebies website for a stack of printable colouring-in sheets. There are also ideas for making things like finger puppets and bookmarks, plus other more fiddly or messy items, if you don’t mind being on hand to assist and clear up afterwards.
Finally, if someone small is hassling you for some time on the computer, I can recommend the Lingo Show - language learning fun on the CBeebies site. My three year-old is mesmerised by it. Perfect for when I need 15 minutes to chill out myself...
Joanna Youngs is a member of the BBC parent panel.