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With travel off the cards, museums, galleries and everything else shut, the big question on our minds is how to make this half-term break different from the past few homeschooling weeks.
But it’s important to remember that even though we may not be able to travel far, it’s still a really good idea to try and provide a break in the lockdown routine during the week ahead. And although exciting travel may not be on the agenda, this is a good moment to regroup and spend some time together.
“Half term provides an important chance for families to take time out together and catch their breath, enjoying quality time without the stresses of work and education,” says Dr Maite Ferrin, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist at Re:Cognition Health. “Enjoying activities together not only distracts from the current situation, but also provides a bonding opportunity. Sharing this time together will help alleviate anxieties, help children open up and give reassurance through this uncertain period.”
In other words, it’s more important than ever to try to find the fun. And the good news is that there is still plenty of fun to be had.
1. Learn to skip
Freestyle jump rope involves feats of acrobatics and skill using special, cheap jump ropes. Learn the moves, string them into a sequence and impress social media followers. Jump Rope Coach Chris Walker provides equipment, video tutorials and online coaching (thejumpropecoachchris.com).
2. Hire a hot tub
If you are all bored with your environment, try changing it. At less than £200 for a four-person hot tub over four days, including set-up, a rented hot tub might be the ultimate family activity. (penguinspas.com).
3. Go star gazing
Half-term week offers a range of celestial events. The Moon at apogee takes place on Feb 18, followed by the close approach of the Moon and Mars on Feb 19 and Mercury reaching the highest point in the morning sky on Feb 24. Keep up to date with Wex’s handy guide (wexphotovideo.com).
4. Have a car picnic
If it’s too cold to sit outside but you need a change of scenery, drive to your nearest scenic parking spot, put on some favourite tunes or a podcast and crack out the sandwiches and a flask of hot chocolate (theaa.com).
5. Dig a hole
Netflix movie The Dig shows what can happen when we start digging. Your kids might not find Anglo-Saxon treasure in the garden, but they can analyse and document their finds, and you get some free gardening to boot. Wikihow.com has suggestions of how to explore the archaeology of your garden.
The Netflix film shows the excitement of digging
6. Build a box-kart
Electric scooters and hoverboards might be all the rage, but the forgotten art of building a home-made go-kart provides a bonding family project (instructables.com).
A box cart
7. Become a detectorist
In 2019, more than 1,300 pieces of treasure were found in the UK – the largest haul since records began. Metal detecting has enjoyed a boom during the Covid-19 pandemic. Join the gold rush. Reviews, advice on where to buy and a handy beginner’s guide are available at thedetectorist.co.uk
8. Spot a sea creature
If you are lucky enough to live by the sea, take advantage of spotting opportunities, from basking sharks to bottlenose dolphins. Spotters’ guides and species information are available at wildlifewatch.org.uk. For the Wales Coast Path, self-guided route information can be found at walescoastpath.gov.uk
Bottlenose dolphins can be seen in British waters
Credit: Moment RF/Catherine Clark/www.cjdolfinphotography.co.uk
9. Navigate without GPS
Make a walk more interesting by learning the basics of orienteering. Leave phones at home and invest in a map and compass. For tips, go to ramblers.org.uk
Who knows what delights you will discover off-the-beaten-track?
Credit: Kevin Holt
10. Plant a fruit orchard
Your child and orchard in 50 years
February is a good time to plant raspberry canes, blackberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, gooseberries and stone fruit trees such as apricots, peaches and nectarines. Find fruit trees at ashridgetrees.co.uk or orangepippintrees.co.uk
11. Forage for food
With the right guidance, a February walk in the woods can provide an abundance of free produce, including fungi, shoots and edible flowers. Ensure you take a reliable field guide with you and seek advice from the Woodland Trust (woodlandtrust.org.uk).
12. Go fishing
Thanks to its classification as a form of exercise, fishing is still allowed under lockdown rules. Rod licence sales increased by 17 per cent last year as people embraced the mental health benefits of angling. Go to anglingtrust.net for tips on how to start.
13. Whittle a stick
Whittling, or wood carving, is a creative way for children to engage with nature and learn safe knife skills. The Woodland Trust (woodlandtrust.org.uk) offers advice on how to do so safely.
14. See the neighbourhood through new eyes
On a family walk, set a challenge to find the most unusual or noticeable buildings in your neighbourhood. Look for the oldest building, the spookiest, the smallest front door or any interesting and unusual architecture.
15. Go on a treasure hunt
Geocaching (geocaching.com) is a treasure hunt for the digital generation. All you need is the Geocaching app and a phone with GPS. A geocache or “cache” is a small waterproof treasure box hidden outdoors. There are thousands hidden all over the UK.
Geocaching is a good family challenge
Credit: Rii Schroer
16. Take a night hike
Always take a route you know and invest in some wearable halogen lights, then explore the world at night (find a beginner’s guide at blacks.co.uk).
17. Make a treehouse
Treehouse building takes a substantial amount of time and skill, but your kids will thank you for years to come. There are many tutorials on YouTube to help you with the basics.
18. Scavenge for nature
Turn a walk into a quest by creating an outdoor scavenger hunt. Be imaginative and create your own. Devise riddles to identify items to find, or use a list from woodlandtrust.org.uk
19. Have an outdoor cookout
Create a fire pit or build a campfire and have a cowboy cookout. If on public land, check the by-laws.
20. Learn Animal-Fu
Fitness app Truconnect, by TV.fit, offers a variety of family-friendly workouts including “Animal Fu”, aimed at three- to seven-year-olds. It helps kids improve fitness, balance, flexibility, stamina and co-ordination. Sworkit (sworkit.com) has a range of free video workouts for children.
21. Tour ancient Rome
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was the digital reconstruction, which took 50 academics and computer experts 22 years to complete. The result is a virtual world with 7,000 buildings spread over five square miles.
Free resources and paid-for content available at romereborn.org
You can’t go here physically, but you can get pretty close
Credit: Getty Images Contributor/David Soanes Photography
22 Learn something new
Curious Campus (curiouscampus.com) offers fun experiential, immersive masterclasses for kids, with lessons including robotics, various instruments, debating and drama.
13. Escape from the wizarding world
Harry Potter fans can try fun team-building exercises, answer trivia questions and do Potter puzzles in this free Harry Potter-themed escape room.
23. Crack the Crystal Maze
Based on the popular 1990s TV show and the The Crystal Maze Live Experience, Dome From Home (the-crystal-maze.com) allows teams of between four and eight to face a range of challenges against the clock. You play via video call, and you even get your very own Maze Master. £20 per person.
Bring the thrills of Crystal Maze to your home
Credit: Channel 4
24. Try some manoeuvres in the dark
National Parks UK is running a range of night-themed virtual events during this month (darkskiesnationalparks.org.uk), which include citizen science projects, presentations from top scientists, interactive tours and nocturnal wildlife spotting.
25. Explore the world
GeoGuessr (geoguessr.com) displays photographs from Google Street View and invites players to deduce where they were taken.
26. Visit a virtual zoo
Several zoos in the UK have live streaming webcams. Viewers can get a glimpse of Yang Guang the panda at Edinburgh Zoo (edinburghzoo.org.uk), Dublin Zoo’s (dublinzoo.ie) elephants and Paignton Zoo’s (paigntonzoo.org.uk) flamingos.
Tian Tian, a panda at Edinburgh Zoo
Credit: Getty Images Europe/ Jeff J Mitchell
27. Bard times
Run by volunteer professional actors and directors, The Show Must Go Online! (youtube.com) provides free digital theatre for Shakespeare lovers.
28. Escape the zombie apocalypse
Add some excitement to family exercise with the app that plays missions and music through your headphones, and encourages you to speed up when the zombies are closing in (zombiesrungame.com).
29. Spend the day at Hogwarts
Hogwarts is Here (hogwartsishere.com) is an online version of the famous school for wizards where Harry Potter fans will find a full curriculum including lessons in charms, potions and defence against the dark arts.
Beats Muggle school
Credit: Film Stills
30. Take a world tour of webcams
If you can’t go sightseeing, bring the sights to you. Live webcams broadcast (skylinewebcams.com) from thousands of locations across the world, from the Piazza San Marco in Venice to Dover Beach in Kent.
31. Paint with Bob Ross
The easy-going hirsute American presenter of The Joy of Painting has gained a posthumous following thanks to the internet, and his official YouTube channel. Check it out and get inspired.
32. Take in some modern art
New York’s Museum of Modern Art provides a detailed multimedia library, so you can browse without the crowds (moma.org).
33. Or tour the Tate
Not to be outdone, the Tate Modern (tate.org.uk) gives younger visitors a wealth of virtual experiences, including a 360-degree virtual video hosted by Nick Grimshaw, quizzes and a look at art broken down into child-friendly categories, such as pets, insects and sea creatures.
34. Take a guided aquarium tour
Virtual visitors to the National Marine Aquarium (national-aquarium.co.uk) can book a one-hour tour (£79.99) hosted by an expert, that gives VIP access to the Atlantic Ocean exhibit, and the chance to meet some of the aquarium’s most popular residents, including Friday the turtle.
35. Join a dinosaur adventure
Jurassic-themed Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure (roarrdinosauradventure.co.uk), in Norfolk, is hosting a series of daily online events and activities starting on Monday at 1pm. Access is via the park’s Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages.
36. Go to knight school
Warwick Castle (warwick-castle.com) is hosting Zoom knight skills classes five times a day from Feb 17 to 18. Hosted by one of the Castle’s knights, participants will learn sword fighting steps and battle skills. Classes cost £2.95 per household.
37. Say lights, camera, action:
The BFI’s Future Film Festival (bfi.org.uk) for filmmakers aged 16 to 25 is hosting free virtual workshops, masterclasses, talks and online screenings between Feb 18 and 21.
38. Go crazy
Crazy golf company Plonk has created a foolproof make-your-own home course guide with templates and instructions (plonkgolf.co.uk).
39. Make a tea bomb
Melting chocolate bombs are so 2020. The latest craze in TikTok-friendly molten confectionery are tea bombs. The translucent globes melt in hot water to release dried tea leaves and flowers.
40. Be a stock ‘trader’
Set up a mock portfolio of shares, assigning a set sum of imaginary money to “buy” your choices, and then track how they get on: the Business section of telegraph.co.uk has all the market data you need to see how your portfolio performs.
41. Escape to an escape room
Epic escapes (epic-escapes.games) have created a £99 box set, which contains three escape room experiences from easy to hard.
42. Help save the planet
iDot stands for I Do One Thing (idot-waf.org.uk) and is the brainchild of the Wildlife Aid Foundation. Sign up for inspiration and ideas about the small things you can do to help save the world.
43. Do the Lego bygge hygge
Bygge (pronounced boo-gah) is the Danish word for building, and Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) is the Danish concept of feeling cosy. Lego (lego.com) has combined the two to encourage families to build together in cosy surroundings.
44. Create a creature
For kids whose creativity needs a goal, Legoland (legoland.co.uk) is offering children the chance to design a mythical creature for its new themed land, Lego Mythica: World of Mythical Creatures, opening later this year. The challenge is open for children aged two to 16.
45. Start vlogging
Become a legend in your own living room by starting your own YouTube channel. To help, Canal Toys Studio Creator kit includes everything you need (talent not included), £24.99.
46. Learn to crack the code
Cypher (cyphercoders.com) is running educational coding camps for six- to 12-year-olds from Feb 23 to March 17. A course costs £195 for five days. There are live sessions every day with a professional coding teacher. Parents also have a free optional 60-minute drop in at the end of each day.
47. Brew kombucha
The health-giving, non-alcoholic fermented drink from sweetened tea has been a healthy staple in the Far East for thousands of years. Making it is a microbiological project in itself (thefermentarium.org.uk).
48. Do some Easter crafting
It’s never too early to get your Easter craft game on. Hobbycraft’s creative Easter range is available online and includes projects including spring wreaths, egg decorating and baking ideas (hobbycraft.co.uk).
Children love painting Easter eggs
Credit: Cavan Images RF/Cavan Images
49. Have an at-home spa day
Make bath bombs (thesoapkitchen.co.uk), stock up on exfoliator and scented candles (aman.com has some gorgeous scents) and settle in for a day of pampering.
Credit: Getty Images Contributor/RossHelen
50. Have a Marvel marathon
Indulge in the original masked heroes. The series of 23 Marvel Cinematic Universe films more than 50 hours to complete. You can find a chronological plan of the order to watch them at radiotimes.com
51. Create an outdoor cinema experience
For £130, you can hire your own outdoor cinema for one night complete with projector, sound system, inflatable movie screen, seating for four and a streaming service (buyagift.co.uk).
52. Have a crêpe escape
Takeaway crêpes, for those lucky enough to live near a crêperie, have been a staple lockdown treat. Queues for two rival crêpe stalls in Hampstead, north London, got so long that police intervened, fearing Covid-19 risk. Luckily, making your own crêpes at home couldn’t be easier or safer. All that’s needed are flour, eggs, milk and butter. Be creative with fillings. Look at telegraph.co.uk/cookbook for inspiration. Or, Crêpe Affaire (crepeaffaire.com) will deliver a DIY Pancake Mix Kit plus toppings for £10, or a ready-made pancake kit for £14.50.
53. Play a check mate
If you’ve watched The Queen’s Gambit, you’ll know there’s more to this ancient game than old men and nerds. Play online with people around the world at chess.com
54. Create a science experiment
Buy a chemistry set or find inspiration online for experiments using household products. For example, pouring vinegar into a container of washing-up liquid, baking soda and food colouring will create a foam eruption. (sciencefun.org).
55. Throw a family mocktail party
Fancy a nil-alcohol negroni, or a virgin mojito? Invest in a shaker, stirrer, and muddler, get dressed up and host a suave soirée (adults are allowed alcohol). Visit telegraph.co.uk/cookbook for inspiration
56. Record a song
Thanks to apps such as Apple’s GarageBand (support.apple.com) making music is easy. Get the family involved in the recording, mixing and lyrics, and let Dad unleash his rapping skills.
57. Join a gymnastics boot camp
London Academy of Gymnastics and Dance (lagad.co.uk) is running half-term classes online with basic activities and gym moves depending on age. Prices start at £10. Or you can find your local club at british-gymnastics.org
58. Have a film singalong
Pick your favourite musical, find the lyrics online (lyricsondemand.com), print them out and settle in for an afternoon of singing and laughs. You can even assign each other characters for the solos.
59. Family’s Got Talent
Showcase your individual talents with a family talents show, and to make it fair, arrange a Zoom judging panel of grandparents or friends.
Count yourself lucky you’re not actually on TV
Credit: Ken McKay
60. Train your pet
Dogs are easy, but what about cats, rabbits or even gerbils? Most pets will learn to repeat desired behaviours if they are rewarded with treats. Go to rspca.org.uk or catbehaviourist.com for top training tips.
61. Build a den
It can be as simple as using a garden table and a sheet, or you can get more creative with branches, bamboo and rope. The Eden Project (edenproject.com) has got some great tips.
62. Learn a circus skill
Not everyone has space for a trapeze, but juggling, magic and amateur contortion are all just as impressive. Sword-swallowing and fire-eating is not advised. For inspiration go to encoretickets.co.uk
63. Master the lockdown haircut
After weeks of lockdown most of us need a trim. Why not try the ultimate in family trust and let your offspring loose on your locks? wahl.co.uk
64. Go to virtual day camp
Camp Beaumont (campbeaumont.co.uk) is hosting free and virtual activities across its social media channels during the week in partnership with the Spread a Smile charity. Activities include baking tutorials, art sessions and a magic show.
65. Spy on the sett
The live-feed webcam in the grounds of the Badger Bar in Ambleside (theglenrothay.co.uk) broadcasts the antics of a colony of badgers that live there. Log on at dusk for the best chance to see them.
Badgers are intriguing animals
Credit: Gary Cook / Alamy Stock Photo
66. Start a family book club
Choose a book that everyone will enjoy (scholastic.com). Listen together on Audible or similar app or read through the week individually and discuss at the weekend.
67. Make candles
You can buy kits from online hobby and craft shops or go it alone and start from scratch. Look at wikihow.com to find out more.
68. Get Among Us
Find out why this game became so popular during lockdown: Among Us encourages players to communicate, collaborate and to occasionally stab each other in the back.
69. Have an eBay boot sale
Declutter and raise some family funds for an end of lockdown treat.
70. Explore your roots
Websites such as Ancestry UK and MyHeritage.com make it easier than every to build your family tree. But before you pay the subscriptions, see how far you can get by speaking to your relatives and doing your own online research.
71. Throw down some pottery
You don’t need a potter’s wheel to try your hand at ceramics. Make plant pots, trinket dishes and vases with an inexpensive starter kit from sculpd.co.uk, which includes video tutorials.
72. Supersize a snack bar
Ever fancied making a giant Wagon Wheel or an ostrich-sized Creme Egg? Go to pimpthatsnack.com for step-by-step guides to creating upsized versions of popular confectionery.
73. Do a good deed
Being kind to others is healthy. It releases feel-good hormones such as dopamine and endorphins. For ideas go to loveleigh.net
74. Play AI Pictionary
Google’s Quick, Draw! neural network (quickdraw.withgoogle.com) is learning to recognise doodles using the world’s largest doodling data set, which anyone can add to.
75. H is for half-term hawk
Keep up to date with Pedro the Owl and the other inhabitants at the Cumberland Bird of Prey Centre. Owner Gary Swainson will be giving regular updates via social media (facebook.com/CumberlandBirdOfPreyCentre).
76. Become a Disney Imagineer
Disney’s Imagineering in a Box is a free online course of videos for children and teenagers, presented by Disney Imagineers, who share the basics of designing experiences such as theme park rides and movies.
77. Camp inside
Camping doesn’t have to be rain-lashed and dismal
Credit: Stone RF/Alexandra Grablewski
Pitch a pop-up tent in the living room or, better still, make one from sheets and chairs and spend a night in a sleeping bag. Don’t forget the head torches and a midnight feast. Go to wikihow.com
78. Make a plant wall
One of the most popular gardening trends of the past few years, garden walls can bring featureless walls to life. Dobbies (dobbies.com) has a self-watering plant wall kit for £300.
Ways to entice teens away from screens
79. Use money saved from not going out and draw up a shortlist of items to buy then have a family vote.
80. Taskmaster: The Board Game, based on the TV show, sets fun, creative tasks which can be done in the house and garden. £19.99 from johnlewis.com
81. Bribe them to leave the house with a coffee gift card.
82. Upcycle something and sell on eBay for cash.
83. Sell old clothes on Depop.
84. Teach them to drive if you have access to private land.
85. Make things to sell in an Etsy shop.
86. Encourage a socially distanced walk with a friend.
87. Invest in a laser tag set (try argos.co.uk)
88. Play a murder mystery game. Episodic games from cosykiller.com take place over months, with players (£25 a month) receiving boxes containing clues. Virtual hosted events are available from £17.95pp at bigheadevents.com
Things to do on Zoom with friends that aren’t quizzes
89. Virtual cook-along
Pick a recipe and friends to cook with, set up tablets in the kitchen and cook together.
Cooking together might help pass the time
Credit: blackCAT/Getty Images Contributor
First find someone with a Pro Zoom account, then make a guest list, set a date, time and theme and start the party. You can live-stream DJs from twitch.tv/directory/music or assign a DJ from the group using the “share music or computer sound” function.
91. Zoom international
The modern-day equivalent of pen friends. Find a friend using the Global Friend app, then, when you know each other, and with parental guidance, arrange a Zoom meet (globalfriendapp.com).
Host a singalong with friends at wired.com
93. Five ways to…
A simple, fun game using the chat function on Zoom, which can include as many people as your Zoom allows. Set a Five Ways To… question and invite answers. Try to set questions that will encourage funny answers: Five ways to… end a date. Five ways to… make a giraffe cry. Give participants one minute to write as many answers as possible and hold a vote on the funniest.
94. Be on TV
Sign up to be in a TV show’s virtual audience at bbc.co.uk.
95. Host a watch-along
Streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+ have their own functions, or watch live TV events with friends, linking via video conferencing. Just add popcorn.
Don’t forget the snacks
Credit: Photodisc/Creative Crop
Choose your challenges from a random charade generator at getcharadesideas.com
97. Zoom Cribs
Cribs is an MTV show, in which celebrities guide a camera crew around their homes. Create your own tongue-in-cheek version, allowing friends to get a peek at your lockdown lifestyle.
98. Desert Isolation Discs
Take it in turns be the guest on your own Desert Island Discs, choosing and playing favourite tracks
99. Send each other spa parcels
Send each other parcels containing a mask, a small bottle of bubbly and some nail varnish or pedicure varnish – set up a zoom and have a spa day together.
100. Start twitching
Lockdown has encouraged a new generation of birdwatchers and this month is the ideal time to start looking out for song thrushes and waxwings. The RSPB website (rspb.org.uk) is a mine of information. Take a walk with a friend and see what you can spot.
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