Half term action, and arty pursuits
Here we go. Half term heaven. You’re either holed up in your country pad, or whooshing down a mountain on a snowboard. But if you’re still kicking around the county, no need to panic. Here are some ideas to get you through.
Caving, XC, Hemel Hempstead
This is one of the biggest indoor caving systems in the whole wide world, and it’s tucked away in Hemel. Good for concentration: kids will be far from all screens as they squeeze through the caves which get narrower and lower. The sessions are abundant: on the hour every hour. Open from 10am-9pm. £9.10 for one session.
FlowRider, indoor surfing, Twinwoods Adventure, Beds
Lower your expectations immediately because the waves won’t look like this. Thrills and spills galore with the indoor FlowRider surfing experience. No surfing experience needed and you don’t even need to know how to swim. Under eighteens need an adult with them, but if you’ve just had a blow dry and don’t want to ruin it, this can be a spectator sport as you watch your offspring whoosh through the very shallow water. Wet suits and boards are provided and the fun lasts for one session. Allow enough time to get into wetsuits. £24.99 for one hour.
Tour of East London’s street art scene, starting at Liverpool Street station, Mon 13, Weds 15, Fri 17, Sun 19 Feb
A two-hour tour of the mystical, hipster East organised by Funzers. I imagine the tour guide will be more fixed gear bike than your average National Trust volunteer. And sometimes life in the Shires makes you long for a gritty blast of Shoreditch. Your kids will thank you for it. You start from Liverpool Street station and there’s some history woven in so you learn about locals from Jack the Ripper to Banksy with the Krays in between. The tour ends when the guides point you in the direction of an optional Brick Lane curry. Age 6+ £14 and £12 for kids. 3-5pm.
Monstersaurus, Broadway Theatre, Letchworth, Weds 15 Feb
For the youngest audience, this is from the people who brought you Aliens Love Underpants. It’s a fast-moving, musical, magical delight. And it’s happening in the brand new Broadway theatre where the paint has only just dried and it’s difficult to visit without saying Wowzers! 11am and 2pm
Marty MacDonald’s Toy Machine, Rhodes Theatre, Bishop’s Stortford, Mon 13 Feb
Bright colours, songs that you think you know the minute they start, and the voice – without a body – of Justin Mr Tumble Fletcher. I went to see The Hippo on the Moon at the Rhodes recently and the theatre foyer and overall atmosphere made the visit feel like a very grand treat. The people who work there seemed to enjoy the experience of a theatre full of children with the generosity of doting grandparents. Big foyer, good cakes, big welcome. 2pm.
Fire! Fire! Museum of London, London Wall, until Mon 17 April
This will necessitate a trip up to the Smoke. But it’s a genuine double bubble. A guaranteed interesting and fun day out and they’ll come back jam packed with history. Imagine what it was like to be in Pudding Lane in 1666. Walk into the bakery. Identify objects that were salvaged from the fire. Immersive and interactive.
Dodos, Natural History Museum, Tring
Dodos were discovered in Mauritius in the late 1500s. In just 90 years they were extinct. Tring is exploring the big birds during half term. You can see one of the few dodo skeletons in the world and take a close look at the first published illustration of the dodo. Draw a dodo, dig for dodo bones in a mini excavation site, and explore a 3D digital dodo. Do everything dodo.
Puppet workshop with master War Horse puppeteers, Discovery Centre, Luton, Tues 14 Feb
This workshop is led by Suzanne Nixon who is an actor and puppeteer who starred in the UK tour of War Horse. This is designed as a family workshop, so no dropping off and sloping off. Age 4+ £5
Tunnel, Museum of London, Docklands, until Mon 17 April
The Crossrail project has been going since 2009 and next year it will finally be open. The name? The Elizabeth line. I watched an interview with some of the archeologists recently and some of them said that this has been the pinnacle of their careers. You’re doing your day job, and the next thing is that you’ve hit upon a Mesolithic tool, or something dating back to Roman Londinium! This is the kind of stuff that could inspire your offspring to pursue a path in archeology. The finds have been discovered all over London, from Abby Wood in the south to Westbourne Park and Acton. Rich pickings in Canary Wharf and also Tottenham Court Road, which now seems to have been a building site for ever.
Create your own graphic novel, Verulamium Museum, St Albans, Fri 17 Feb
Designed for ages 8-13. Learn about the history of the city and then make a comic book inspired by the style of the Bayeux Tapestry. Good back to school show-and-tell fodder.
Church Farm, Ardeley, one whole week of activity
Daily egg collecting at 11.30am every day and you also take home half a dozen eggs. You are furnished with a bag of chicken feed to scatter around in a free and farmyardy way. At 12.30pm every day you can jump on a tractor – all safety measures included. Buy a farm day pass which allows you to feed pigs and cows. Scavenger hunts have been organised for half term to find baby lambs (ahh + baa) and baby chicks. And all in a wonderful setting with other retail and foodie thrills.
Cookery Eatery is run by Emma who is amazingly energetic and inventive. This is an all day workshop at St Christopher’s School, Letchworth. If a basket of fresh veg isn’t necessarily going have the same effect as the suggestion of a pizza, think again. Drop in the names of a few well known chefs and talk about a future career in television and that could help. Age 8-16. £50. A few places left at the time of writing.