Ways to keep children entertained during February half-term

Family playing cards

Many children are brimming with excitement at the thought of being away from school for a week. However, parents can sometimes struggle with ideas to keep their little ones occupied. Half-term does not need to be stressful. In fact, it gives parents and their children the chance to reconnect and spend some quality time together.

Our article is full of inspiration to help keep your little ones busy during February half-term.

Get baking

Colourful cupcakes

Many children love to help in the kitchen and whipping up a batch of cupcakes is a great way to help get them involved as well as encouraging them to be creative.

A simple cupcake recipe

250g unsalted softened butter

250g caster sugar

250g self-raising flour

Pinch of salt

Four medium eggs

Four tablespoons of milk

Muffin tins, lined with cupcake paper cases

This basic recipe will make 24 cupcakes and only takes a few minutes to prepare and 25 minutes of baking and cooling time.

Put some tea towels on your kitchen worktop, pull on your aprons and give your child a wooden spoon. They will love mixing in the ingredients and once cooked and cooled, they can unleash their artistic side and decorate their cakes.

You can buy ready-made icing which comes in a range of bright colours, or you can make your own by adding sifted icing sugar in a bowl with warm water, you just need to follow the instructions on the box regarding quantities.

To give the iced cupcakes a little extra sparkle, children can decorate with ready to use toppers such as hundreds and thousands, rice paper shapes, or even pick ‘n’ mix sweets.

Wrap up warm and go for a walk

Children hand in hand

The weather can be quite chilly in February but don’t let that put you off heading for the great outdoors. Pull on your Wellington boots and winter woollies and spend some time outside.

Emma, who runs the parenting and lifestyle blog Dirt, Diggers and Dinosaurs, lives in the Peak District with her husband and three children. We asked what her favourite activities are to keep her brood busy during the school holidays.

“Our favourite activity is available all year round, it is completely free. We absolutely love going for a walk. February and October half-terms can be a bit of a washout, but who cares? All you need are waterproof suits and wellies for some fantastic puddle-jumping fun.”

Emma explains that her boys love finding sticks on their walks which act as a memento of their trip. She said “Depending on your location, sticks can be plentiful and this means you have a great supply of props at your fingertips. We’ve made journey sticks before, simply take a bit of wool out with you and any interesting finds, think feathers, flowers and leaves along your route, get tied to the stick with brightly coloured wool. Once home you can talk through your route with visual prompts.”

We also asked Emma how her family relaxes during their half-term breaks. “We are an outdoorsy family so when we’re in we like to keep it simple. Hot chocolates and snuggles under a blanket while watching a family film on Netflix. It might sound a bit boring, but sometimes it’s great to just do nothing and enjoy cuddles and kisses from my boys.”

Computer games, board games and jigsaw puzzles

Happy family

Playing games is a great way to spend time with your children. Whether that be board games and puzzles or computer games, it can be a great way to pass the time.

There are lots of types of games available, from classics such as Scrabble and Snakes and Ladders to family favourites like Monopoly and Twister. There are even child-friendly versions of many games which makes it easier for the smallest members of the family to join in.

We spoke to Rachael, a parenting blogger from Hampshire who runs Lukeosaurus and Me. She told us how much she loves playing games with her family. “We recently discovered you can download lots of the classics onto the Xbox One, so we’ve got a few games that we have enjoyed together, like Monopoly. My eldest is five and is also a champ at Wii Bowling.”

Rachael also told us that she loves heading out and about with her family and often visits Forestry Commission sites to let her eldest “burn off extra energy” as well as giving him “the chance to explore and learn all about the world around him”.

Head to the beach

Rock pool

This activity will depend on where you live, but if you can get to the coast then spending a few hours on the beach is a wonderful way to let your children explore. If you live further afield perhaps make a beach visit part of a day trip.

Buy a cheap bucket and spade and let your little ones get creative in the sand. Designing and building sandcastles can keep children entertained for hours. Encourage them to find sea treasure to decorate their buildings with. Things like shells, seaweed and driftwood do the trick.

Eps is originally from the Philippines and is a mum-of-three. Along with her friend, Eps writes on the blog Eps and Amy, she told us “My kids love going to the seaside, they love throwing stones and collecting shells.”

If you happen to go to a beach with rock pools use this as a chance to teach your children about sea life and what creatures can be found in the shallows. Critters such as crabs and limpets are common.

The National Trust website states the importance of checking the tide times if you want to explore the shore. It says “The last thing you want is to be caught out by a rising tide. The best time to set out is at low tide as this is when the greatest number of rock pools will be exposed. To find out tide times you can buy a local tide table, usually from a shop near the beach. You can find daily tide times for your location from websites such as Tide Times.”

Messy Play and Sensory Activities

Messy play

Messy play can be daunting, especially the aftermath, but if you pop your child in the bathtub or shower for their messy play activities it will keep the clean up to a minimum.

This activity is great for toddlers who seem to love nothing more than getting themselves covered from head to toe. The ingredients for messy play can be as simple as whipped cream and cooked spaghetti.

For sensory play, dried rice, Kinetic Sand and desiccated coconut are also firm favourites among parents.

What you give your child for their messy or sensory play will depend on their age range because children, especially young ones, will put things in their mouths.

Simple science experiments

Colour explosion

Science can be done at home as well as at school and these simple experiments will keep your child occupied for hours.

Lava lamps

A little bit of food colouring, vegetable oil, an effervescent tablet (like a vitamin) and an old plastic drinks bottle are the simple ingredients you need to make a lava lamp. Simply half fill the bottle with water, add a couple of drops of food colouring and fill the rest of the bottle with vegetable oil. Wait for a few moments until the oil and water start to separate before dropping in the fizzy tablet.

Your child’s reaction will be priceless!

Growing crystals

There are many ways to grow crystals at home, but this simple method uses Epsom salt, food colouring and a small beaker or cup. Stir half a cup of Epsom salts with half a cup of hot tap water until most of the salt has dissolved. There should be a small amount of salt in the cup which has not dissolved.

Next, add a few drops of food colouring and put the solution in the fridge. After a few hours, your cup will be full of small crystal formations.

Routine can go out the window when schools are closed for half-terms and longer holidays. Household staff can help keep your home running smoothly giving you the time and energy to enjoy this February half-term with your family.

Half-term for February 2019 is around the 12th to the 23rd – however, these dates can change with councils and regions, so it is best to check with your child’s school or nursery to make sure.

Image Credit: Dirt, Diggers and Dinosaurs, Lukeosaurus And Me,

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