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Summer holidays – 68 ways to keep all ages entertained

Schooool's out for summer (nearly!)... and for six weeks at that. Yikes! Don't worry, your trusty Muddy guide is packed with ideas for all ages, from antsy tots to monosyllabic teens, to help it go by in the blink of an eye.

THE GREAT OUTDOORS

Fancy taking the kids camping without venturing too far from home? Check out these options locally, which are more than just a tent for the night. The super popular Big Camp at Ashridge is back on 23 July, where you can pitch up in the National Trust Estate’s Meadow, surrounded by ancient woodland and get involved in the activities that will be put on.

Head to RSPB Rye Meads for the Big Wild Sleepout on 29 July and take part in pond dipping, sunset bat walks and stargazing as you toast marshmallows around the campfire, as well as some early morning Kingfisher spotting. Mead Farm is also opening its gates to campers again this summer for selected weekends, which include dinner, brekkie and a day and a half to enjoy all the farm’s fun activities.

If your bigger kids love getting wet and wild, check out Adventure School with Canoe Trail at Kempston Outdoor Centre, from 26 July – 26 August. They’ll get a full day of team building, life skills and watersports activities, including orienteering, knot skills, kayaking, campfire cooking and bouldering. Neat!

And you’ll totally earn your ‘fun mum’ creds for booking your 10-16 year old onto one of these sessions at Box End Park, running from 25 July – 2 Sept. They’ll spend a morning learning to wakeboard on a cable tow, or trying a combo of stand-up paddle boarding and splashing around in the giant inflatable aqua park.

For younger ones there are some fun nature-based trails going on. Join the Great Big Nature Game at the Ashridge Estate from 25 July – 31 August with Time Trial Tuesdays where participants can race against the clock to search for clues and complete challenges. And, ahoy me hearties! There’s a Skull Island Adventure on 10 August at Stotfold Mill for 5-11 year olds, where they can explore mapping symbols to find the pirates’ treasure.

Finally, if you’ve got littlies at a loose end, there are two trails running in the sensory garden at The Forest Centre in Marston Moretaine – Woodland Animals on 3 Aug and Dinosaurs on 17 Aug.

BEDFORD FRINGE

This fab festival (organised by Quarry Theatre) is running from 21-31 July this year and there’s tonnes to see for kids of all ages. On our list for little ones is cute and quirky production about fitting in, Where the Odd Socks Go on 23-24 July, while Tricky Teddy’s Summer Magic Show is on 29 July.

Middle-sized Mudlets will love helping to solve the mystery of a high level art heist in The Munch Mission! on 24 July, and be enchanted by the puppetry in The Theatre of Widdershins’ production of The Fearsome Giant on 25 July. And witty duo Morgan and West retell Dumas’ The Three Musketeers in their whimsical way on 23 July.

Song Squad will get tweenagers up on their feet on 30 July (age 4-12), while hard-to-please kids will be mesmerised by the Covent Garden Circus Skills workshops and talks from husband and wife team Spikey Will and Tabs on 31 July. Finally, kids’ author and funnyman Olaf Falafel will bring his stupidly funny show to the Fringe on 22 July (for ages 14+).

ON STAGE

A surefire hit for pre-schoolers, Peppa Pig’s Best Day Ever is at The Radlett Centre from 24-25 August and Alban Arena on 20 Aug, while Zog and The Flying Doctors fly in to Watford Palace Theatre from 27-28 July. And the original Donaldson hit, The Gruffalo comes to The Radlett Centre (25-27 Jul) and Grove Theatre, Dunstable (17-18 Jul).

Photo © Mark Senior

Rapunzel and her long locks are doing the rounds with a Tangled Musical Adventure at The Alban Arena (17 Aug), while Immersion Theatre’s al fresco version comes to Hatfield House on 1 Aug and Knebworth House on 25 Aug. And Fireman Sam is at The Radlett Centre on 4 Sept.

Music-wise, Pop Princesses are back with the tunes of Little Mix, Taylor Swift and more on 29 July at The Radlett Centre, and if you’re after the real thing, how about a mum and daughter gig? Book your tickets to Paloma Faith live at Hatfield Park on 5 August.

There’s plenty of silliness to come from Captain Calmity’s Science Explosion (complete with stretchy slime, foam fountains and flying toilet rolls) at the Radlett Centre on 11 August, and Horrible Histories’ author, Terry Deary brings his Twisted Tales to The Roman Theatre of Verulamium (outdoors) on 30 July, where just 3 actors will perform over 100 historical roles. Brother Wolf brings the marvellous Mad Hatter’s Tea Party to the Alban Arena on 26 August, where the Hatter and Hare are stuck in a never-ending tea time (ages 8+).

Dino crazy kids won’t want to miss Dinosaur Adventure Live on 13-14 Aug, when lifelike Prehistoric beasts will be stomping their way around South Mill Arts. And the Beastologists are on the hunt for the horrid Beast of Bedford at The Place Bedford on 31 July in Catch That Beast.

If that’s all a bit bonkers, how about some literary classics performed in the great outdoors? Pack your picnics for Alice in Wonderland at Bridge End Gardens from 19-20 Aug. Two different productions of The Wind in the Willows are at Myddleton House Gardens on 20 Aug, and The Roman Theatre of Verulamium from 20-24 Aug, and Myddleton House Gardens also plays host to The Jungle Book on 24 July and The Railway Children on 25 Aug.

ON SCREEN

Outdoor cinema isn’t just for grown-ups, ya know! Head to Hertford Castle Open Air Cinema on 19 Aug to cath Raya and the Last Dragon (10am) and Encanto (2pm) for just £3 a head, while Sundown Cinema brings Sing 2 (11am) and Encanto (5pm) to Turvey House on 25 July, followed by Moana and The Greatest Showman on 27 July.

And if it’s a rainy day (or you need a chillout from the heat – here’s hoping!) Family Film Club at the Hat Factory Arts Centre in Luton is showing Dolittle on 16 July and Gnomeo and Juliet on 20 August.

MAKE HISTORY

Head to Wrest Park on 20-21 Aug for History in the Park, with live historical re-enactments – experience life in a Victorian kitchen, try some hands-one Medieval events, discover all about Regency crime and punishments, with live Regency music, polo displays on horseback and more fun stuff.

Over at St Albans Musuem on 30 July, ages 7+ can have a go at building a mini Celtic roundhouse using traditional wattle and daub methods, using willow and clay, while learning more about their local ancestors. And, sticking with that era, there are some Celtic Games taking place at the authentic historical village, Celtic Harmony Camp, from 23 July – 7 August, where you can enjoy a full day including activities like a Boudicca Warrior Quest, making a Lughnasadh torch, face painting, clothes making and a fire procession.

Fast forward to the Tudors and there’s a fun Secrets and Seals family workshop taking place at St Albans Cathedral on 2 and 13 Aug, run by an artist in residence who will teach kids to make their own wax seals.

Elle Dillon-Reams

While at the same venue, award-winning actor and poet in residence, Elle Dillon-Reams will run an action-packed Demystifying Shakespeare workshop for 11-16 year olds on 16 August, with accessible texts and character-based activities to help kids get their heads around the Bard’s works in a fun way! Fab idea for those embarking on studying the texts for GCSEs.

EXPLORING THE ARTS

Arts and crafts are always a winner for keeping the little ones busy (and keeps the mess out of the house!). If you live near Letchworth, you might just become a regular at the free Saturday Family Arts Workshops (for under 10s), run by artist Mollie Mclellan in the Kids’ Gallery at Broadway Gallery. You can even just drop-in to the gallery from Weds-Sat for some creative fun with their art materials. Easy holiday win!

At St Albans’ Verulamium Museum there’s self-led sessions during every day of the hols. Crafts in the Colonade runs from 25 July to 31 Aug, where ages 3+ can make a Roman shield or try weaving and costs £2 each (10am-4pm). While on 4th and 18 August there’s junk boat modelling at the St Albans Museum (£3 per child). And at Stotfold Mill on 24 Aug, 5-11 year olds can try a morning or afternoon printing workshop, using a variety of materials.

For keen artists, why not enroll them in an ArtShed holiday camp with daily changing projects and structured activities. There are 1 and 2-day options for Primary age kids, in two locations – St Albans and Harpenden – running from 25 July – 19 Aug on selected days.

Older kids might prick their ears up at the chance to get up on stage in a Musical Theatre Workshop for a full week at the Radlett Centre on 1-5 Aug or 15-19 Aug for 8-18 year olds and at £195 (under £40 a day) it’s not bad for a week’s tuition from professional actors and directors, as an alternative to holiday camp.

ANIMAL ANTICS

The Summer Spectacular at Willows Activity Farm looks set to be another cracker, with a maize maze, new puddle play splash park, Peter Rabbit and his bunny buddies on stage, tractor rides, adventure play area, soft play and farm animal experiences. It’s on from 23 July – 4 Sept. They’re also running an Activity Day Camp, with full, half and school-day options available.

Mead Farm is running its Summer Festival of Fun too, from 23 July – 29 August, with Festival-style shows, sinaglongs, a foam party, and the usual animal adventures. Plus you can pick up an All Access Summer Pass, giving you unlimited visits through the summer for just £26 per child. Bargain, if you go a few times!

Over at Paradise Wildlife Park, the Summer Evenings in Paradise are back on Fridays and Saturdays (until 23 July), where you can see the zoo animals after hours, while enjoying African drumming, live music, wildlife stilt walking, plus face painting for the kids and a Pimm’s truck for the parents – win!

And at Standalone Farm there’s a packed summer schedule, kicking off with Dr Fossil’s Dino Babies Show from 25-29 July, where he’ll share his fossil collection and answer all those burning dino-based questions. Then get up close and personal to creepy crawlies and replites with animal wrangler, Mark Amey on 1-5 Aug for Creepy Critters. From 8-12 Aug, go and see some impressive Birds of Prey do their stuff, swooping and performing for the crowd, with a selfie opp at the end. Annual passholders can book the Forest School activity sessions from 15-19 Aug and finally, there’s a chance to get messy with a Pottery Workshop from 22-26 Aug.

COOL CHARACTERS

If you’re planning a trip to the Leighton Buzzard Railway you might want to pick a date when there’ll be a surprise visitor. Paw Patrol‘s Chase and Skye will be there on 17 July, while there’s a Dinosaur Day on 4 Sept.

Professor Sprout’s Greenhouse – new to the Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour this summer.

Harry Potter fans will be delighted to hear of the latest exhibition coming to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour from 1 July – 12 Sept. Mandrake’s Magical Creatures will reveal some of the special effects secrets from the film franchise, plus you’ll be some of the first to see some new exhibits to the tour including Professor Sprout’s Greenhouse and a scaled down model of the Weasley’s Burrow.

And for more film and TV action, The Nickelodeon Experience is a brand new interactive show, coming to Knebworth House from 14-27 August, for 2-14 year olds. It’ll bring their favourite characters to life with behind the scenes experiences from popular shows, including the Thundermans School for Superheroes, Henry Danger’s Maze and The Hunter Street Escape Room, as well as Paw Patrol’s Adventure Bay, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ underground lair and SpongeBob SquarePants’ Bikini Bottom Beach! Plus get slimed at the Slime Time Party – lovely!

If you’ve got fairy-mad girls or boys, don’t miss the brilliant Tiny T’s Theatre at Home Farm in Elstree, including a Rainbow Fairy workshop on 23 July, afternoon tea with the fairies on 24 July, Rainbow Unicorn Magic on 3 Aug – aimed at 3-8 year olds, Forest Fairytales on 18 Aug, Flower Fairy Magic and Woodland Wildlife on 24 Aug, and finally Wizard of Oz-themed workshop on 30 Aug.

Find more ideas here

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