February half term can be fun!
February half term isn’t an easy time of year to keep the children entertained, but with a little planning and imagination, it can be fun for all the family.
For years we’ve had a rainy day box full of treasures, that we only bring out when the weather is bad or we are really desperate! It’s a large cardboard box - decorating it was a fun project in itself – and includes craft items, games, jigsaws, puzzles and activities printed from the internet. I adapt the contents every so often, as the children’s interests change. For this half term, my daughter suggested we also make a lucky dip box: we write activities on separate pieces of paper, mix them all up in the box and take turns to pick out something to do.
Craft activities are popular with most children. If you need inspiration, take a look at the CBeebies and CBBC websites. My children also enjoy creating a miniature indoor garden out of craft materials, making and decorating paper aeroplanes, making collages, painting pebbles (choose light ones and varnish when finished) and junk modelling - so keep hold of empty boxes, plastic bottles etc.
Other indoor activities include a treasure hunt (hide unusual objects around the home or write some simple clues), an indoor picnic or camping (you don’t need a tent – just a sheet over a table, cushions/sleeping bags and torches), a puppet or magic show, a tea party for friends or teddies. When everyone’s exhausted, make popcorn, dim the lights and watch a favourite DVD or film on TV.
Children of all ages love hands-on science and you can create indoor tornadoes, volcanoes and edible crystals in your kitchen with basic ingredients. Baking is also a good rainy day activity and CBeebies I Can Cook has plenty of recipes that younger children can follow. Play cafes or hold a cake sale when the baking is complete.
Older children can have fun making their own movie and if you have a computer and some editing software (free with many PCs), they can edit, add music and special effects. Or set them a challenge to go out and photograph 10 unusual or photogenic items in your area (eg a spotty dog, a pink house, a tree in blossom). They can even take part in the amazing Tate Movie project and submit drawings, sound effects, jokes and story line ideas to create a nationwide animated film by children and for children online.
If you decide to go out and about, take a look at special offers from train operating companies as there are often discounts to various attractions, if you travel by train. The National Trust runs children’s half term activities at many locations - try Enjoy England, Visit Scotland or Visit Wales as well as the regional tourist boards, for special offers and activities in your region. Remember, it’s usually cheaper to book tickets online. Also some attractions will accept loyalty points (from supermarkets, for example) or you can find money-off vouchers, if you search online.
Museums and art galleries often have free events on in the holidays - visit the Culture24 website to find what’s on in your area or pop into your local library. Keep museum visits short and check online or visit the information desk first, to find out what’s on for children. Or discover history on your doorstep with the help of BBC Hands on History. Just click on the map to find activities in your area plus there are ideas for indoor and outdoor family activities and tips on finding out what life used to be like on your high street.
For a cheap day out it’s hard to beat a bicycle ride, if the weather is fine. Check out Sustrans for tips on cycling with children and suitable cycle routes in your area. Going for a walk isn’t usually top of children’s lists of fun activities, but with advance planning you can discover plenty of walks with places of interest en route. For useful tips, log on to the Ramblers Association website. The Woodland Trust recommends some excellent outdoor and indoor nature activities or type in your postcode on BBC Breathing Places and discover places in your area where you can get close to nature.
Closer to home, there’s plenty to do in the garden which can involve children. Even if you don’t have a garden or it’s wet outside, you’ll find ideas for indoor planting and activities.
If all else fails, your children could tidy their rooms. Get past the moans and groans and they’ll have fun emptying cupboards and discovering forgotten toys. Just don’t expect their bedrooms to be tidy at the end of it.
Sarah Kingsley is a freelance writer and a member of the BBC Parent Panel.