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Half term saviours

Harrassed parents, breathe deep. We know 36 ways to entertain the kids across Berkshire - from Lego film courses and cookery to the best theatre and days out. We've nailed it.

Half term’s nearly here already? I only just put away my flippin’ Christmas tree. Muddy to the rescue with 44 half term saviours across Berkshire and further afield to keep the ankle biters entertained. Anything utterly brilliant and unmissable that I’ve left off? Let me know in the comment box below.

 

Theatre 

Billionaire Boy live stage production

We’re pretty late to the party, but finally, David Walliams’ Billionaire Boy (above) comes to the Theatre Royal Windsor  (19 – 22 Feb).  It’s produced by the same team that created the award-winning West End show Gangsta Granny so it should be a goodie and, knowing Walliams, will be packed with humour for adults too.

Midsummer Night's Dream Watermill Theatre Newbury Berkshire

Head west for the perfect introduction to Shakespeare as A Midsummer Night’s Dream (above) returns to The Watermill Theatre in Newbury (19 Feb – 7 Mar) for a limited run at the end of a UK tour. Fizzing with magic and a large dose of chaos in an enchanted Victorian music hall; secrets, love and mistaken identities collide to the soulful sounds of Nina Simone and Billie Holiday.

Elsewhere, there’s Chloe and the Colour Catcher (above), a charming story about bravery as a young girl goes on a mission to defeat the Grey Queen by unleashing all seven colours of the rainbow (Norden Farm, Maidenhead on 18 Feb and Corn Exchange Newbury, 19-20 Feb). Roll up in Reading for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s fun-filled family concert – Noisy Kids Circus Circus (The Hexagon, 23 Feb). You’ll hear bite-sized pieces from The Greatest Showman, Monty Python, Gladiators and more, mixed with fun and games from your ringside seat!

We’ve also got Norden Farm, Maidenhead, on speed dial with this brilliant line up – a new production of Little Grimm Tales, made especially for children with live puppetry and original music (17 Feb).; Histories Of The Unexpected, a fast-paced show that shows how everything has a history. You’ll never think about the Tudors in the same way ever again… GUARANTEED! (21 Feb).

 

Wellington Country Park, Riseley

Wellington Country Park Dinosaurs NEW

Whoop whoop! Wellington Country Park is one of the first family fun palaces to reopen in 2020. Set an alarm for Sat 15 Feb and go go go. It’s got it all – an awesome adventure play area with giant zip wire, dinosaurs, mini golf, animal farm, jumbo bouncy pillow, miniature railway and more more. Plus from 17 Feb they’re running Space Crafts as well. It’s a guaranteed hit for those with younger children. There’s also a superb cafe serving quality local produce –much it from Wellington Estate itself.

 

Winter Activity Camps, JNL Sports Complex Bracknell, Mon 17 – Fri 23 Feb

girl Snow Tubing winter

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 Bracknell Ski and Snowboard Centre for some slippy and slidey fun. Sign up for the multi-activity camp and they’ll get to grips with snow tubing, Broom Ball, ice skating and skiing. The activities start at 9am and finish at 5pm but you can drop the kids off at 8am and pick them up as late as 6pm. How good is that! jnlbracknell.co.uk

 

Pop-up interiors workshop, Dream Make Newbury, Wed 19 Feb

Girl architect design creative

Huzzah! Arts and crafts I can get on board with. Dreammake is a brilliant Newbury-based biz for creative kids. Annelies, an award-winning architect, started ‘Dreammake’ to fire up kids’ imaginations and introduce them to the world of architecture and design. It’s such a fab idea, you’d be mad not to book up. Take your pick from Pop-Up Interiors and Treetop Living workshops running over half term.

 

The Jelly Lounge, Windsor

As always The Jelly Lounge in Windsor is on it for half term. In addition to the superb soft play area, there are running cookery lessons for mini chefs on Wednesdays and Friyay Fun on, well Fridays. Save your sanity and your home from the mini wrecking balls and book ’em up. The Jelly Lounge serves a damn good coffee, wine, gin and lush fresh food. Park up and relax. You can tire them out, feed them up and head home with a parenting gold star.

 

The Adventures of Brickbeard, Brickies Club, Windsor, Maidenhead and Wokingham, Mon 17 – Sun 23 Feb

Brickies Club Pirate Half Term Workshops Lego Captain Brickbeard and crew on Lego ship

Arrrrrrgh, brick-mates, grab your Jolly Rogers and hop aboard the legendary pirate ship, the Brick Pearl. Send your kids off with Captain Brickbeard for a two-hour Brickies Club pirate-themed Lego workshop aimed at 5-12 year olds. Turn up, get your mission brief and build. Future filmmakers can also make their own Lego Movie (and bank billions of dollars, we wish) at a movie-making workshop. Fun, creative and brilliant went the weather’s totally pants.

If you’re kids are lovers of the brick, Reading’s Brick Show is back  The UK’s very best builders will showcase their talents at Rivermead on Sat 7 – Sun 8 Mar, and there’s lots of activities to get involved in too.

 

Kids Yoga, Swan at Streatley, Tues 18 Feb

young girl yoga downward dog

Release the tension! Yup the kids need to go. Out, I mean go out. And what better place to send them than kids yoga at Swan at Streatley. Two creative yoga workshops for different age groups (4-7 yr olds at 1.15pm and 14-16 yr olds at 2.15pm), where they’ll get to release energy and hit the reset button. You can work on your own tension in the cafe/bar – coffee? wine? Choose your poison and relax.

 

Play in a Day, The Watermill Newbury, Mon 17 – Tue 18 Feb

Play in a Day, The Watermill Newbury, Mon 18 – Wed 20 Feb If you have a child desperate to follow the theatrical Yellow Brick Road , then book them to The Watermill's Play In A Day workshop. Open to children aged 7-11 and 12-16 (Tue 18 Feb, 9am-4.30pm), they'll devise, rehearse and perform their very own production. Cue toe-tapping, rapturous applause and a moist eye. Before you know it, they'll be treading the boards in the West End. For purist jazz handers there's a musical theatre workshop on Mon 17 Feb (ages 7-11).   Art & Pottery, South Hill Park Bracknell This superb and rather grand arts centre in Bracknell is very much a hidden gem. This half term you can pop along for a number of creative workshops from 10am – 12pm with activities running almost every day. On Mon (17 Feb) there's Parent & Child Play Clay for ages 5-8, Thurs (20 Feb) it’s Art Factory for printing and badge making, Fri there's more play with clay (ages 8-12).

If you have a child desperate to follow the theatrical Yellow Brick Road , then book them to The Watermill’s Play In A Day workshop. Open to children aged 7-11 and 12-16 (Tue 18 Feb, 9am-4.30pm), they’ll devise, rehearse and perform their very own production. Cue toe-tapping, rapturous applause and a moist eye. Before you know it, they’ll be treading the boards in the West End. For purist jazz handers there’s a musical theatre workshop on Mon 17 Feb (ages 7-11).

 

Art & Pottery, South Hill Park Bracknell

pottery wheel

This superb and rather grand arts centre in Bracknell is very much a hidden gem. This half term you can pop along for a number of creative workshops from 10am – 12pm with activities running almost every day. On Mon (17 Feb) there’s Parent & Child Play Clay for ages 5-8, Thurs (20 Feb) it’s Art Factory for printing and badge making, Fri there’s more play with clay (ages 8-12).

 

Reading FC Soccer School, The Dome, Reading Mon 17 Feb – Fri 21 Feb

Reading FC Soccer Schools Holiday courses

The Royals are running their incredibly popular half-term soccer school for boys and girls to learn the Reading FC way. Courses are held at 4 sites – The Dome Reading, Goals in Woodley and Henwick Playing Fields Thatcham and Emmbrook School. Sign up for 1 to 5 days depending on the location and event. It’s worth checking the website to see what suits. My eldest loved it. 

 

Go Ape, Swinley Forest Bracknell, open all year

Tree canopy and high rope adventure course Go Ape Berkshire
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. You’ll enjoy a fun-filled hour exploring the canopy, trailblazing and tackling obstacles – finishing on the zip wire. 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.

 

DAYS OUT: Bonnets, Bustles and Top Hats, Windsor Castle, Sat 15 – Sun 23 Feb

Statue of Queen Victoria outside Windsor Castle Norman Mott Castle in Berkshire Queen's favourite palace

Best bib and tucker for a visit to see the queen at Windsor Castle… Queen Victoria, that is. Let your kids run wild-ish and immerse themselves in the bonkers world of Victorian fashion, try on a costume and make a fashion accessory. Plus you’ll get to hear the inside scoop on Queen Victoria’s wedding, which took place 180 years ago this month.

 

EXHIBITION: Wildlife Photographer of the Year, The Base Greenham Common, now – 26 Apr

The Moment, Yongqing Bao Wildlife Photographer o the year fox about to pounce of shocked marmot

Image: Yongqing Bao

Wildlife photography requires patience, lightning reactions and a little bit of luck. But when they get the money shot… POW! the results are extraordinary. This year’s prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition is being held at The Base at Greenham Common Business Park in Newbury. It’s an international showcase of 100 images taken by the very best in nature photographers around the world.

 

Kids Tuition and Courses, Bray Lakes Watersports

Two sailing boats take to the water at Bray Lake Watersports in Berkshire

With temperatures flirting at freezing point, a water-based activity may not spring to mind. But that’s what wetsuits are for, right? They’ll be fine. Bray Lake Watersports offers a fantastic selection of courses from sailing, paddle sports and windsurfing for kids 8+. Learn the basics, brush up on your skills or take your next step to Olympic glory, you can dip your one in the water here.

 

Basildon Park Georgian national trust house and snow covered parkland

As always Waddesdon, above, is on it for half term with one-day family cookery lessons where you and the kids can make lunch in the Manor Restaurant, as well as sweet and savoury treats to take home; plus there’s space-themed orienteering challenges around the grounds with three routes for different ages. The adventure playground and stables cafe and shops are also a big draw. Spend the whole day up here and knacker your kids out good and proper.

Another local National Trust gem, Basildon Park‘s Darcy The Dormouse half-term trail should keep the kids busy for a while – that, and the promise of cake in the cafe. On the opposite side of the county, Cliveden has a love-themed trail; Grey’s Court is teaching kids how to identify trees on its Budding Ranger Trail with a prize at the end, plus kids can get muddy with den building.

 

Absolutely Karting, Maidenhead, open all year

Absolutely Karting Maidenhead karts racing around the track

No need for weather watching, all that’s requires is to feel the need for speed. Absolutely Karting in Maidenhead has a fun two-tier track, you get the usual video briefing, lots of essential info on flags, lights and expected behaviour on the track, ‘rev her up’ and off you go in a 270cc petrol kart, reaching speeds up 45 mph. It’s suitable for ages 8+. So a good option if you have slightly older kids and teenagers.

 

New films 

SonicTheHedgehog_Film

It might be a slight change of costume from his Iron Man days, but it looks like Robert Downey Jr is still living the high life in his new interpretation of Dr Doolittle – he lives in a 19th-century manor house and embarks on an epic voyage to a mythical island to find a cure for Queen Victoria’s mystery illness (released Feb 7). Also out just in time for half term is gaming giant SEGA’s first foray into live-action movies with sci-fi fantasy Sonic the Hedgehog, where the blue hedgehog must prevent the evil Dr Robotnik (Jim Carey) from stealing his powers to take over the world (related 14 Feb).

Emma Film 2020 Jane Austen – boonde woman in yellow dress and black and yellow hat

And finally, for teens, there’s the much-anticipated adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma which has been given a bit of a millennial makeover with a fresh-faced cast including Johnny Flynn of Beast fame donning his best sideburns to play Mr Knightley and The Miniaturist’s Anya Taylor-Joy (released 14 Feb).

 

Further afield 

Who would have thought it was the year of ‘phygital’ painting (a combination of physical and digital, keep up!)? Alison Goodyear’s Paint Park exhibition at MK Gallery’s Project Space involves donning a VR headset, leaving you feeling like you just jumped into a painting à la Mary Poppins. A great one to take your kids to – just make sure you let them have a turn with the headset.

Warwick Castle is one of the slickest family entertainment operations around and Feb half term is no exception. This year kids can learn about archery with the UK’s only Medieval Festival of Archery, plus there’ll be a Winter Birds of Prey display (15 – 23 Feb).

Over in Beds you’ll find the UK’s largest zoo, Whipsnade Zoo (the sister outpost of London Zoo) where youngsters can experience first-hand the life of a vet in the Animal Hospital. Budding vets will learn how to examine, x-ray and perform treatments on different animals and practice on soft toys. Activities included in the entrance price.

Heading to the Big Smoke? There’s the brilliant Science Museum‘s ongoing cool interactive gallery- Wonderlab, with over 50 exhibitions including hands-on, live experiments at the Chemistry Bar and daily shows. The Space and AI tech exhibitions are also worth seeing.

Imagine Children's festival southbank bearded man in red dress on green chair

While you’re in old London Town, head saaaaarf for the Imagine Children’s Festival at the Southbank Centre (12-23 Feb). Twelve days of jam-packed half-term fun in this brilliant annual kids festival. Aimed at 0-12-year-olds, there’s a mind-boggling array of activities and events, hang out with Michael Rosen, Dermot O’Leary, Cressida Cowell and Konnie Huq.

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