Your essential half-term Muddy (survival) Guide
Half term is looming large, so in the interest of keeping our sanity, here’s my bumper Muddy guide to the coolest activities, day trips and top notch theatre to keep your kids entertained and save you from tearing your hair out. We can do this without the need of group therapy… but wine is essential! It’s always essential. For those of you without kids and don’t give a damn about half term, I have curated an ‘adult only’ guide (not that kind of adult only, keep it clean) just for you.
ACTIVITIES: BOOK EM IN AND KICK EM OUT
Musical Theatre Taster, The Watermill Newbury, Thur 16 Feb-Fri 17 Feb
If you have a child separate to follow the theatrical Yellow Brick Road to sing, dance and shine in the business of show, then book them in to The Watermill’s two-day musical theatre taster. Open to children aged 8-11 (9am-12noon); ages 12-16 years (1pm-4pm), they’ll learn songs and sequences from hit musicals before curtain up to family and friends. Cue toe-tapping, rapturous applause and a moist eye. Price £40. Before you know they’ll be warbling in the West End.
The Watermill Newbury, watermill.org.uk
Digital Fashion Illustration, South Hill Park Arts, Ringmead, Tue 14 Feb
Think your littlie could give Karl Lagerfeld a run for him money? Book em into this fashion illustration course at South Hill Park. Illustrator and author Erica Sharp will show kids aged 7-17 digital illustration techniques, how to apply colour, texture and pattern to your designs. It’s open to kids aged 7-17, so if your budding Stella wants to learn how put-on to iPad, book them on. It’s a one-day course costing £60. Bye bye Primark, hello prêt a porter.
South Hill Park Arts Centre, Ringmead, southhillpark.org.uk
Reading FC Soccer School, The Dome, Reading Mon 13 Feb – Fri 17 Feb
The Royals are running their incredibly popular half-term soccer school for boys and girls to learn the Reading FC way. Courses are running at four sites – The Dome Reading, Goals in Woodley and Henwick Playing Fields Thatcham and The Pigott School Reading. There are Girls Only days and specific goalie training in addition to the regular kick about. You can sign up to one to five days depending not the location and event. It’s worth checking the website to see what suits you. It’s a fun day and when the oldest Mudlet has done it on the past he has loved it and enjoyed the banter with the coaches.
Reading FC Soccer Schools, community.readingfc.co.uk
Ski & Snowboarding Camps, JNL Sports Complex Bracknell, 13-17 Feb
If you’re not heading off the Alps *sniff*, treat yourself to some hot wine and a cheese fondu – and pack your kids off to the dry slope in Bracknell for ski or snowboarding lessons. Trust me it’s cool. All the cool kids are doing it the days with our current top-flight tricksters having honed their skills on the white carpet. JNL Sports is Bracknell is offering camps over half term for skiers and boarders for all abilities. Lesson begin at 9.30am and finish at 4.30pm but if you need to work, you can drop the kids off early and pick them up as late as 6pm. How good is that! Everyone’s happy. The course costs £43 per day or £173 for the week. Call 01344 789 002 to book.
JNL Sports Centre Bracknell, jnlbracknell.co.uk
Story time: What The Ladybird Heard, The Mill at Sonning, Thurs 15 Feb
No word of a lie, if someone can get the youngest Mudlet to sit still long enough to hear an entire story read (and leaving me to drink a HOT cup of coffee), I’m there. So knackered parents, let’t unite with our littlies for Storytime at The Mill at Sonning. It’s really popular so don’t even think about just turning up on the off chance. The book in question is What The Ladybird Heard by the Queen of kids books Julia Donaldson. There’s also singing, colouring and dressing up to be enjoyed too. So book now to avoid disappointment. Entry is £3.50 per child and includes a healthy snack and a drink.
The Mill at Sonning, millatsonning.com
Woodland Adventure Camp, Blacknest, Sunninghill Mon 13 Feb
In the spirit of letting kids be kids, chuck them outdoors, build dens, light fires (under supervision, natch) get dirty and camp out all day, the Woodland Adventure Camp in Sunninghill’s got it all. Set in beautiful woodland, your little Bear Grylls will explore and make a swanky camp in the woods. They’ll be outdoors come rain or shine, and will play games, tell stories and cook on a campfire and lots more. As long as they don;t have to drink their own wee, it’s sounds like the perfect antidote to school. Suitable for ages 5-12, places are limited and cost £36.
Whittle & Spark, Blacknest, Sunninghill, whittleandspark.com
Script Writing Workshop, Winnersh Library, Fri Feb 17
Think you’ve got a Nora Ephron or Spielberg in your family squad? Fuel their passion for film and drop them off at Winnersh Library from 10.30am-11.30am to learn the basics of screen writing. Suitable for kids aged 8-12, your movie buffs will learn basic skills needed to transform their favourite story into the next Star Wars or Sleepless in Seattle. You can then retire and live a wonderful life wafting about the Hollywood Hills in a kaftan, drinking bubbles all day. It’s only a £1, but you need to book by calling 0118 979 7519. Money well spent.
Winnersh Library, The Forest School, Robin Hood Lane, Winnersh, RG41 5ND, Tel 0118 979 7519
Space Pirate, Brickies Club, Windsor and Maidenhead, Mon 13 Feb
In an attempt to avoid the horror of soft play during half term check out Brickies. They are running a two-hour Space Pirate themed Lego workshop aimed at 5-11 year olds. Space cadet Bucky O’Bricks faces an adventure of a lifetime as he is tasked with rescuing his crew from the slimy tentacles of Captain Calamari and his notorious Space Pirates. Mini master builders will need their brains in gear to tackle the turbulence of seven galaxies and explore many planets. It’s fun, creative and doesn’t involve a padded room and bad coffee. If you can’t the Space Pirate events, you can also pop in to the Brickies Play Centre at Holme Grange. The mission starts at 10am and costs £12.
Brickies Half Term Club, Maidenhead or Windsor or Brickies Play Centre, Holme Grange, Wokingham, brickies.club
THEATRE: IT’S SHOWTIME
Morgan & West’s Utterly Spiffing Spectacular Magic Show For Kids, Norden Farm Maidenhead, Mon 13 Feb
Mutton chops, waistcoats and a cabin set the scene for Morgan & West’s Utterly Spiffing Spectacular Magic Show For Kids. What’s with the long title, guys? With lots of Victorian style comic banter, the time-travelling duo perform a boxful of bafflement and impossibility. The magic is mysterious with brain-bursting illusions with a heavy helping of tom-foolery. A heavy dose of silly sounds good to me. Tickets from £10.
Hooray For Mr Toad, South Hill Arts, Ringmead, Wed 15 Feb – Thurs 16 Feb
I loved Wind In The Willows as a kid, so it’s great to live so near to the spot that inspired Kenneth Grahame down in Pangbourne. Why not revisit the characters in this fun spin off, Hooray For Mr Toad – perfect family viewing during the holidays. Join the bonkers Mr Toad, and his long-suffering friends Ratty, Mole and Badger as they battle against the Crimson Scar and fight to save the river. Expect jokes, beautiful music, singing and dancing. Parp Parp! Tickets: £12
South Hill Park Arts Centre, southparkhill.org.uk
The Hungry Caterpillar, Corn Exchange Newbury Wed 15 Feb – Thur 16 Feb
My experience of taking the mini Mudlet to the theatre usually ends in me drinking a bottle of wine to get over it. Wailing never again. It’s not easy. Getting toddlers to sit still and the endless trips to the loo, is not part of the script. That said, I persevere, because CBeebies and the *ahem* educational apps on the iPad does not really qualify as culture. But this does. The Hungry Caterpillar, a book much-loved by the Mudlets, is being staged for ages 2-7 at the Corn Exchange Newbury. At 55 minutes long, colourful puppets and Eric Carle’s familiar tale I’m thinking this might just be the one when I come home with that warm fuzzy feeling. I’ll make sure there is wine in the fridge… just in case. Tickets £10.50.
Corn Exchange Newbury, cornexchangenew.com
Mark Thompson’s Spectacular Science Show, Courtyard Theatre, Norden Farm Maidenhead, ?? Feb
Science was not my subject at school, but if Mark Thompson had been teaching my class it could have been a different story. Britain’s favourite astronomer has given science a kick up the mum and created this fantastic show that’s like no science experiment you have ever seen.From exploding elephant’s toothpaste and vortex generating dustbins to dancing paste and exploding Pringle tubes, Mark will literally blow your mind. Tickets fro £7.
Courtyard Theatre, Norden Farm, Maidenhead, Norden.farm
Meet The Bugs, Beale Park, Lower Basildon Wed 15 Feb
Bugs large or small give me the heebie jeebies, but kids love ’em. Head to Beale Park on Wednesday and you can meet the bugs – up close and personal. Yikes! So, if you’d like to experience the amazing world of giant insects, meet a snake, stroke a Giant African Snail or get close to a tarantula, then pop along. The event is free and takes place 1.30pm-3.30pm. Normal Park admission charges apply (Adults £7, Kids £5) but you get to see all the birds, animals, ride the train and play in the adventure playground.
Beale Park, bealepark.org.uk
Go Wild Bushcraft, Bucklebury Farm Park, Sat 11 Feb
Yet more opportunity for the kids to go wild, this time at Bucklebury Farm Park. Test their survival skills at its Go Wild Winter Wildlife & Bushcraft Experience. Bit of a mouthful I know, but great the thing about this place is that there’s loads of space to run free. The event will be run by qualified bushcraft instructors who’ll get the children building dens, playing survival games, animal tracking and loads more. There’s a hot dog and a soft drink thrown in too. Price is £25 per child (age 5-11) and includes one accompanying adult. There’s no escape for you on this one, but at least you can do some royal spotting – Prince George and Princess Charlotte have been known to pop in during visits to granny.
Bucklebury Farm Park buckleburyfarmpark.co.uk
Go Ape, Swinley Forest Bracknell, open all year
No matter what the weather, if you want to get outdoors, get some fresh air and have some fun head to Swinley Forest and tackle the Go Ape course. Book by Feb 1o (so you don;t have long) and you can get 20% off midweek adventures (perfect for half term). You’ll enjoy a fun-filled hour exploring the canopy, trail blazing and tacking obstacles – finishing on the zip wire. I have endured many undignified landings on that zip wire. So hopefully you’ll experience a more graceful landing. The Junior Adventure is aimed at 6-12 year-old Tarzans, but if your child is under 6 but over a metre tall they can still join in. Tickets £18.
Go Ape, Swinley Forest, Bracknell, goape.co.uk
Love Stories Half Term Trail, Basildon Park, Fri 10 Feb – Sun 19 Feb
It’s always a bit odd that Valentine’s Day falls in half term. It just doesn’t really feel very romantic (unless you’re child-free, of course). Meanwhile you’re juggling work/life and doing everything humanly possible to avoid that dreaded phrase ‘I’m soooo bored!’ coming from the mouths of your babes. I am hoping Basildon Park have the answer with its half term trail. Pay an additional £2 on the admission fee and the kids set off to find and follow the love hearts around the property unlocking stories of amour from this great house. A chocolate prize awaits them at the end… and you’ll get at least 30 minutes of peace to check your emails (ahem Instagram) and have a cuppa. Entry costs: Adults £12.70; Kids £6.80.
Basildon Park, Lower Basildon, nationaltrust.org.uk
A BIT FURTHER A FIELD
Volcanoes, Bodleian Libraries Oxford, Sat 10 Feb – Sun 21 May
Kids love anything that involves fire and belching… so when it is spewing out of a giant rock it is almost guaranteed to get their attention. Of course Oxford doesn’t have an active volcano. I’ve not completely lost it (yet). In this exhibition you can discover mind-blowing eyewitness accounts, cool stuff about major eruptions like Vesuvius, Krakatoa and Santorini, early art, lava and rock samples plus notes from 19th century volcanologists and explorers. Admission is free and is suitable for all ages.
Bodleian Libraries, Weston Library, Oxford bodleian.ox.ac.uk
Robot Zoo, Horniman’s Museum, London SE23, Sat 11 Feb – Sun 29 Oct
It doesn’t get much cooler than a robotic zoo. Let’s be fair it needs to be impressive to schlep deep into south east London. But it’ll be worth it to see a robotic rhino, a squid with 18-ft tentacles and a mahoosive house fly with a vacuum cleaner for a mouth at the Horniman’s Museum in Honor Oak. all the robot animals are made from everyday machines and gadgets. Through interactive games and challenges the creation will reveal how real anatomy works. How cool is that? Tickets: Adults £7; Kids, £4.
Horniman’s Museum, London SE26, horniman.ac.uk
Magical Lantern Festival, Chiswick House London, Thurs 9 Feb – Sun 26 Feb
Lantern festivals are having a moment. Loads popped up at stately homes all over the country from Longleat to Blenheim Palace over Christmas – and it is now Chiswick House’s time to shine. The Magic Lantern Festival – marking the end of Chinese New Year – will illuminate London with 50 dazzling displays, including the tale of Aladdin featuring a giant lantern genie. And there’s more – check out the virtual reality area, ice rink, pop-up ice bar (now your talking) and tons of great street food. Not that you’ll be able to miss it, but there’s also a giant fire rooster. Tickets: Adults, from £18; Kids £10.50.
Chiswick House, London W4, chgt.org.uk