Half Term Survival Guide

Every year it happens…

Christmas break seems never ending, they go back and then blink ‘oh hi February half term!!’

It catches me off guard EVERY SINGLE time. And we never go away for it.

So I thought, I’d tell you all the exciting things going on in Harrogate and area this half term so, if like me, you’re reading this in utter disbelief you have X amount of children to entertain imminently, this may give you a few ideas.

1) First up: This probably doesn’t warrant an entry but I’ll be honest, it’s one of my favourite half term activities. It costs very little if anything at all. The stress is minimal and often it’s just what the doctor ordered:

A DAY AT HOME!!

Sounds simple eh?! I think as parents we put so much pressure on planning everything perfectly and honestly some of the best days the kids have are the chilled out ones. Between school, homework, piano, singing, swimming, football, rugby, clubs, activities and more I think they’re exhausted. Cut yourself, and them, a break and have a duvet day!

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Our best days at home include a lay in, pancakes with sprinkles, staying in pyjamas until well after lunch, midday baths with waaay too many bubbles (hello bath bomb/disco baths) building dens, turning the sitting room into a home cinema with volume far too loud or baking (try this recipe of mine on the Fodder blog or these and decorate with all the coloured icing) It normally ends with a floor picnic dressed up in their fanciest clothes (they find this hilarious?!) and a kitchen dance party. Enjoy!

2) A Woodland Walk. We are lucky enough to live near the Valley Gardens and Pine Woods, however often when we go through it’s walking the dog and we try to keep a pace and move them along. Last year we took our wagon and loaded it with a picnic and the goal was to go to Harlow Carr to get fondant fancies and biscuits and walk back. Ha! The kids spent an hour getting just to the field, so I rolled with it. My lot are used to being hurried along so the chance to slow done, stop and count birds, collect leaves and pine cones, wave at all the dogs going past, they just loved it!

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

B tip: Park on Harlow Moor Dr. where it’s free and unlimited, not Valley Dr. And make up your own treasure hunt, think, 6 pinecones, spot two birds, bring paper and crayon for leaf or bark rubbings etc.

3) Harlow Carr - depending on the ages and abilities of your littles, this could be combined with the above. Or it could be an outing in itself. We have RHS membership which is excellent value, it can pay for itself in just a few visits or you can just pay per entry. Acres to run around, slides, the BFG in person … well in sculpture form! This is a favourite for all so be prepared for overflowing car parks and the possible q.

Image via Harlow Carr Pinterest

Image via Harlow Carr Pinterest

B tip: did you know you can pack a picnic? May sound silly but I honestly didn’t realise you could The first few years we went! Or treat the littles to sausage rolls and fat rascals at the Betty’s inside!

4) Fountains Abbey - this has got to be our best value membership - We love it here! Dogs are allowed making it a full family outing and there is so much space making it truly free range for the kids, even when the car park is packed you’ll have space to run!

My trio love Fountains Abbey. Perfect for blowing away the half term cobwebs!

My trio love Fountains Abbey. Perfect for blowing away the half term cobwebs!

B tip: We park at the Deer Park side, further from the child’s play park but a short walk to the gates where it’s less busy. Check their schedule for what’s on, they have awesome workshops, included in your membership or entry price, ‘Make Your Own Clay Face’ workshop on this Feb half term looks amazing!

5) Everyman Cinema - Perhaps your ‘blow the budget day’ but such a good one! Tell me why it took years for this idea to spring up!? Prebook your exact seats ✔️ Comfy Sofas ✔️ Serve wine ✔️ Can bring your food (the hot dog is awesome!) to your seat! ✔️ And totally instagramable toilets ✔️ Oh and my kids LOVE it!!

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B tip: this is irrelevant to the Everyman, but more of general cinema with kids chat, watch a preview of the proposed films with your kids and let them choose! The new Lego movie is out and we will not be seeing it, mine hated the first one and is one of only two films we had to leave early! We’re going for Dragons this half term.

6) The Indoor Funfair at Yorkshire Event Centre* - so it’s £10 entry per child and if you’ve got a few this will quickly add up, I get it!! But follow me on this one, they get unlimited rides for 3 hours, (and there is a good amount there!) The parking is free, and if you’re not riding - just watching it’s only £2 not to mention everyone will be shattered after that, so guilt free slob at home for the afternoon!

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B tip: The days earlier in the week will be quieter, I would say Tuesday morning is the sweet spot, last year it was busier toward the end of the week after people who went early told their friends how awesome it was! Afterwards, beat the q and nip to Fodder for an easy lunch from the Airstream, while they’re cooking you up something delicious, nip in to the shop where there is a basket of free fruit for the kids who just can’t wait for their sausage sandwich to cook! Pick up local milk, eggs, bread and meat from the award winning butchery - Also their giant scones are basically the best you’ll have. Ever. End of story!!

7) ...Take me to the beach! Ok I’ll admit we’re a bit extreme when it comes to how far we deem acceptable to go in the car in one day. But I love the seaside. It makes all our faces smile and no matter the weather ours love it. Bring a water proof mat (I love our Gathre mat) a couple hammam towels and dress in layers. We LOVE Bamburgh and Runswick Bay, both of which have learning potential, the beautiful historical Castle on the beach at Bamburgh and fossils at the latter.

Winter adventures at Runswick Bay

Winter adventures at Runswick Bay

B tip: know where the best fish and chips is before you’re all hangry! Pack dry clothes for the drive home, whack up the heat and enjoy those tired snoozing babes!

8) Bowling. Yup cheesy as it comes but such a good one! I feel really nostalgic on this one, growing up in upstate NY the winters were long and cold, one of my favourite indoor activities was bowling with my friends. Most bowling alleys can accommodate groups of 6+ and have bumpers and ball gliders, meaning a small child who can stand and push a ball from a ramp can manage this family activity. For a cool/hipster vibe in Leeds try Roxy Lanes or for the cheap and cheerful version Hollywood Bowl or TenPin

 B tip: I can’t tell you how much it pains me to throw a gutter ball when my sulky 9 year old (with the benefit of bumpers!!) is loosing 😏 so no tip there, unless you have one for me?!

9) ‘Would you like an adventure now, or shall we have our tea first?’

My girls love a tea party. Now up until recently this was always at home. Finger sandwiches cut out in fancy shapes, (use your heart cookie cutter or unicorn etc!!) fancy biscuits, mini sausages, posh juice. This in itself is a cute half day activity. However with slightly older ones taking them out to an actual afternoon tea can be a sweet, memorable experience! My parents visited us for Christmas this year and treated the older two out for Imperial Tea at Betty’s. They dressed in their best, and I am told, had manners well above their age, as well as just the best time ever. I think children are never too young to understand certain social etiquettes and good manners (and they have to learn sometime!) I find mine will often play up to their surroundings - take them to a packed Pizza Express full of other people’s feral offspring and they may just duplicate that. However given the the opportunity, they’ll shine sparklier than the Markle Sparkle!

Tea and scones at Betty’s

Tea and scones at Betty’s

B tip: for the poshest of treats, and no waiting in q’s prebook for the Imperial Tea at Betty’s. The staff were amazing and they even have a special children’s menu.

10) Goose* - What can I say?! We’re beyond spoiled to have this local gem in Harrogate. Fun and easy day for up to 8/9 year olds and their parents. Amazing play space, WiFi for parents, NEOM bathroom products, proper GOOD food for adults and children. You’ll all want to cry when it’s time to leave.

Part of the amazing play space in Goose... I know - SWOON!

Part of the amazing play space in Goose... I know - SWOON!

B tip - check their opening hours first, half term opening hours are often later so check before you go. Insider tip: their workshops are awesome and book up fast, a little birdy told me slime and pebble painting are due to be super popular!

And finally…

Set yourself up for not failing - be prepared as much as you can.

Arts and crafts are a fabulous rainy day activity. Lots of Lovely Art* are beautiful boxes with EVERYTHING you need to complete the crafts in them, (with beautiful packaging too)! Fun treats like nail polish, temporary tattoos and hair chalk add a special feel to an otherwise ordinary day. Dust off Monopoly, Guess Who and UNO and get ready to get down on the floor and play!

Eva with the Christmas box from Lots of Lovely Art*

Eva with the Christmas box from Lots of Lovely Art*

Order a food shop to arrive on the Sunday evening so you are ready. I love having bowls full of easy peeler oranges, apples or whatever fruit they can easily grab. Pack that snack cupboard… mine graze more than gazelles in half term! Think mess-free raisins, crisps, breadsticks, dried fruit, YoYo’s, popcorn etc. And anything you need for packing picnics if that’s in your plans. I also like to pre-cut cucumbers, carrots, peppers and cherry tomatoes so I can stick them out with meals. Easy dinners like pre-made pizzas for those days when you’re all on the go! Make sure you have plenty of cups easily accessible (if your children are of that age) for them to get their own drinks.

Oh and don’t forget about you!! Book yourself a day at Rudding Spa now to say well done for nailing half term perfectly… Lol I wish…. or go more realistic and just make sure you have a little something for after bedtime. My favourite tipple is a little glass of Pink Particular from Whittakers*… in fact I’m off to grab one now!

  • DISCLAIMER - I work for the Yorkshire Agricultural Society both of which Fodder and the Yorkshire Event Centre are wholly owned subsidiaries of. I also have a freelance working relationship with Whittakers and Goose. I was gifted product from Lots of Lovely Art with no obligation to post any sort of review. However all these companies are ones I often spend my own money with and recommend wholeheartedly because they are awesome!

Bridget MacKinnon