How to keep kids entertained this half-term

How to keep kids entertained this half-term

02/15/2021

How entertain the kids this half-term when you can’t go anywhere! Femail reveals 20 activities to keep you busy – from making your own invisible ink to hosting a family talent show

  • Half-term is here but lockdown has put a stop to most fail-safe activities  
  • Femail has found 20 things you can do at home without too much planning
  • Ideas range from bird watching and a scavenger hunt to a family movie club

Half-term is typically a time for families to get away, but this week millions face a week at home with the children with nowhere to go.

Fortunately there are still plenty of things you can do at home to keep your little ones busy – and Femail has found 20 of the best ideas around.

From stargazing to making friendship bracelets, these activities can all be easily done at home, in the garden, or in your local area. 

Most of them are completely free, although some will require spending a small amount on ingredients or materials. 

They make the most of institutions that have stepped up to provide lockdown activity ideas for families, like the Natural History Museum, Tate or RSPB. 

Although some make the most of the local wildlife, others will introduce children to other countries – and even outer space.  

1. GO BIRDWATCHING IN THE GARDEN

Cost: Free

Where: RSPB; www.rspb.org.uk/fun-and-learning

Who’s in the garden? Get out and explore your local wildlife with the help of the RSPB

Seek and find: This handy worksheet, available in full online, gives you an idea of the sort of birds you can expect to see in your garden, local park or neighbourhood 

Get to know your local wildlife by going bird watching in your back garden or local park.

All you really need is a sharp pair of eyes but a pair of binoculars will make things a little easier if you want to spot feathered friends that are a little further away. 

A camera or pen and paper are also great additions to your explorers pack – snap a picture or make a note of what you’ve seen so that you can identify it once you get home. 

The RSPB has created an excellent worksheet of all the birds you’re likely to have in your local area, complete with pictures and descriptions, to help you on your way. Once you’ve seen one, make a note of where it was spotted so you can keep track. 

2. WRITE SECRET MESSAGES IN INVISIBLE INK 

Cost: Materials

Where:  Science Buddies YouTube channel 

Spy kids: Learn how to make your own invisible ink with YouTube channel Science Buddies 

How-to: The video is super helpful and explains all the materials you need to make it at home

Exchange secret messages by making your own invisible ink from items you already have at home. The Science Buddies YouTube video gives you three super simple methods to try. Here’s one using lemon juice and water:    

  • Squeeze lemon juice into a bowl
  • Add half a teaspoon of water and mix
  • Dip a Q-tip in the lemon juice and use it to write a secret message (or draw a picture)… But don’t let the paper get too wet!
  • Leave the paper to dry. The message will be invisible
  • Run a hot iron directly over the paper for a couple of minutes. The message will start to appear

3. SPEND A NIGHT CAMPING… IN THE LIVING ROOM! 

Cost: Free

Where: At home 

A night under the living room stars: Create your own fort to feel like you’re getting away

Holidays might be cancelled but living room getaways are still up and running! 

4. APPLY FOR A BLUE PETER BADGE 

Cost: Materials and postage

Where: Blue Peter website

Get creative! Apply for a Blue Peter badge

Always wanted to earn a Blue Peter badge but never had the chance? Now’s the time to do it.

The entry level ‘Blue Badge’ is awarded to children aged 6-15 for creative contributions like a poem, a story, some artwork, a model, a recipe, or a suggestion for the show. 

If you’ve already earned your Blue Badge then maybe it’s time to progress to Silver… and beyond! 

Full details are on the website. 

Help your child feel like he or she is spending a night away by setting up a ‘tent’ in the living room using whatever you have to hand – sheets, dining room chairs, sofas and pillows all work! 

Make it big enough so that you can curl up with a bedtime story inside, or watch a film on your tablet or laptop. 

Use fairy lights to mimic the twinkling night’s sky. 

5.  MAKE A MAP OF YOUR STREET

Cost: Free

Where: Your neighbourhood

Liven up your next family walk by helping your child create a map of the street or surrounding area. 

Start by drawing a basic outline of the streets or roads you always walk down and mark up any landmarks they might recognise like a big tree or funny-shaped house. 

Then when you are out for your walk, ask them to point out anything they notice and stop to fill it in on the map. 

Over time your paper map will build up and you can use it as a guide to fill in the blanks. 

Older children will be able to do the whole process from start to finish. Those with a creative 

6. TAKE A VIRTUAL TRIP TO THE MUSEUM

Cost: Free

Where: Museum websites including the British Museum, Natural History Museum and Guggenheim 

Lots to learn: London’s Natural History Museum is a fantastic family day out… and it’s almost as magical to see on screen

Many museums, art galleries and public spaces will be closing their doors, but that doesn’t mean their treasures are lost.

Families can take virtual tours of museums and galleries, including the British Museum in London, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Guggenheim in New York City, thanks to Google Art and Culture.

One of the highlights is Britain’s Natural History Museum, which offers virtual self-guided tour of the galleries, an interactive experience about Hope the blue whale and audio guides narrated by Sir David Attenborough.

The stunning visuals will keep your little ones entertained – and there are plenty of interesting facts to pick up along the way, too. 

7. HAVE A PIZZA MAKING PARTY

Cost: Ingredients

Where: At home

Little chefs! Get the kids involved in making pizza and let them choose their own toppings  

Fed up of cooking dinner for the family? Get the children involved by asking them to make their own pizzas.

There are plenty of recipes available online, including several free options on the BBC Good Food website. This one is particularly good and shows how you can make pizza in four easy steps.

The great thing about pizza is that can be as easy or as complicated as you would like, depending on how much effort you would like to put in.

8. LEARN HOW TO DRAW A T-REX

Cost: Free

Where: Natural History Museum website (www.nhm.ac.uk/take-part/try-this-at-home)

Get ready to d-rawwwwww! The Natural History Museum has an excellent step-by-step video

Is your little one crazy about dinosaurs? Then why not learn how to draw a T. rex with Natural History Museum scientist Zach Dickeson. 

All you need in a piece of paper, a pencil, two felt tip pens (including one with a fine tip) and pencils for colouring in. 

9. RECREATE OLD FAMILY PHOTOS 

Cost: Free

Where: At home 

Bring your family history to life by getting the kids to recreate old photographs. 

It’s a great opportunity to tell them more about any grandparents or family members who might have passed away and will get the creative juices flowing.

If your children are older – or you have a competitive streak – why not divide up into teams to recreate the same picture and see who does it better. 

Zach has recorded a helpful how-to video that takes you through each step of the process and even offers tips on how you can improve your creations.

Once you’ve mastered drawing a T. rex, there are also tutorials for creating your own origami dinosaurs and making your own Dippy the Diplodocus skull.

10. START A MOVIE CLUB

Cost: Free

Where: At home 

After months at home, you’ve probably watched dozens of films (including several children’s favourites on repeat). But nights – or days – in front of the TV are almost unavoidable, especially when you can’t go outside or visit a friend to play. 

To help break up the monotony, why not start a family movie club? At the start of the week, everyone in the house chooses a film they want to watch that week and marks it down on a piece of paper. 

After you’ve watched the film decide on a star rating and make a note. Older kids can even add their own mini review of the movie or write about the moment that most stood out. 

11. HEAD OUT ON A NATURE SCAVENGER HUNT 

Cost: Free

Where: Learning Resources; www.learningresources.com

What can YOU see? This excellent scavenger hunt list will keep the whole family busy

Nature walks are anything but boring because there’s so much to do and see. Whether it’s finding a long piece of grass, an object shaped like a circle, or keeping your eyes peeled for spotting wildlife, website Learning Resources has a free printable sheet with 50 objects to spot or collect, and tick off your list. 

Even if your child doesn’t find everything the first time around, keep it for your next nature walk. Download your free printable here and head out to the park, the woods or the beach.

12. MAKE YOUR OWN SLIME

Cost: Ingredients

Where: Courtney Wohl YouTube channel 

Get your hands dirty! Learn how to whip up your own slime – and then enjoy playing with it

Get your hands dirty and make your own slime using ingredients you already have lying around the house. 

American YouTuber Courtney Wohl created an excellent 3-minute video that guides you through two different ways to make slime. Here’s a brief rundown of one of her methods: 

13. GO HEAD-TO-HEAD IN A FAMILY BAKE OFF 

Cost: Ingredients

Where: At home 

Cooking and baking with children is a great way to introduce them to different foods and get them involved in the kitchen.

To add to the fun, why not suggest a family bake off, with parents and children dividing into teams. You could even do kids vs adults if your little ones are old enough! 

Try choosing a recipe all together and then diving off to make the cookies. The challenge will add an element of friendly competition to the day. 

If your kids are still too young to cook on their own then bake alongside them, asking them to do simple tasks like pouring flour or helping to use the scales. 

  • Pour washing up liquid into a small bowl of water 
  • Add cornstarch slowly, stirring between each add 
  • Slowly stir with a popsicle stick 
  • Once the mixture begins to harden, grab the bulk of the mixture and transfer it to a new clean bowl 
  • Begin playing with it and experiment with the texture  

14. CHECK IN ON ANIMALS AT SAN DIEGO ZOO

Cost: Free

Where: San Diego Zoo; https://zoo.sandiegozoo.org/live-cams 

World renowned San Diego Zoo is thousands of miles away for many British families, but you are still able to ‘visit’ thanks to a number of animals cameras set up across the sprawling site. 

Highlights include the koala cam, polar bear cam and tiger cam, which will offer children the chance to see some of their favourite animals. 

There are also handy activities, crafts and colouring pages available for free on the zoo’s website, making it a one-stop shop for a day full of animal-themed activities.

15. LOOK UP AT THE STARS

Cost: Free

Where: Your garden or street 

David Scotland from family-run camping retailer, Outdoor World Direct, told Femail: ‘Astronomy is a fantastic winter activity you can do from your own garden. 

‘The darker skies make for better astronomical viewing, at less unsociable hours of the night too. While a telescope and binoculars offer unrivalled views of the moon, planets and stars, there is still fun to be had with little to no equipment.

‘For shooting stars this meteor shower calendar details when they are visible in your local area. Also, this planetary guide shows rise and set times of planets and their visibility each night. 

‘There are plenty of apps that use AR technology to help you identify constellations when stargazing too. If it’s a particularly cold night, why not get a  sleeping bag to snuggle up in while observing the skies.’

16. GET MOVING WITH YOGA WITH ADRIENE

Cost: Free

Where: Yoga With Adriene YouTube channel  

Breathe deep: A morning yoga class is a great way to start the day – and Adriene’s videos are straightforward and easy to follow. Look out the ones designed especially for kids 

Yoga teacher Adriene Mishler has been one of the biggest stars of lockdown. Her friendly, easy to follow YouTube videos have kept millions of people moving and she has plenty of clips to introduce yoga to kids, too. 

17. HAVE A FAMILY QUIZ NIGHT 

Cost: Free

Where: At home 

Write your own or find one online, but quizzes are a great way to pass the time without looking at the screen. 

Write questions for younger children around their favourite books, TV shows or films. Or you can even do something simple like animal noises or colours!  

Older children might want to write their own rounds, so you can take it in turn to be question master. 

Get the whole family together for a morning session or put it on the TV or laptop to keep the kids busy for a few minutes so you can have your time to yourself.  

With any luck they’ll finishing the online class feeling a little calmer than when they started. 

18.  MAKE A FRIENDSHIP BRACELET 

Cost: Materials

Where: Tate website; https://www.tate.org.uk/kids 

This one is a little more fiddly, but the results are definitely worth the effort if you can stick with it long enough. 

The Tate is offering lots of free activities and guides for families to try at home, but this is one of our favourites. 

All you need is four strands of thread, scissors and sticky tape. The website has a step-by-step guide on how to weave and knot the strands together to create beautiful bracelets – complete with pictures.      

19. MAKE YOUR OWN PUZZLE 

Cost: Free

Where: Learning Resources website; https://blog.learningresources.co.uk/

DIY puzzles: Cut up a picture (or use this one above) to make a jigsaw for your little ones

UK website Learning Resources is full of fun, easy activities to occupy children of all ages. One great idea is to create your own puzzle for your little one by cutting up an A4 size picture and asking them to put the pieces back together. 

This could be done with a favourite TV or book character, or even a photo of the outside of your house. 

To get you started, there is a free puzzle sheet that can be downloaded and printed here. 

20. HAVE A FAMILY TALENT SHOW 

Cost: Free

Where: At home 

This one is for school-aged children. Give yourselves until the end of the week to learn a new talent (or to practise one you already have). This could be anything from a dance, to singing or playing a musical instrument. You might learn a magic trick, perfect knot tying or be able to recite a poem. 

Stuck for ideas? Why not try the friendship bracelet or slime making above? 

The night of the talent show gives you an excuse to take out the fancy dress box and have a bit of fun. And adults can toast the end of the week with a drink!  

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