Harassed parents, breathe. We know 40 ways to keep the kids entertained across Warwickshire and further afield from animation courses and welly wanders to the best theatre and days out.
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 Warwickshire, Coventry 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.
Fresh Air February Weekends, Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park, Sat 15 -Sun 16 & Sat 22–Sun 23 February
Wrap up warm, pack a picnic and head to Compton Verney for two special open weekends. There will be family-friendly, outdoor activities at the Forest School and playground and plenty to explore throughout the park, with an opportunity to try a new history trail. Look out for snowdrops and maybe some daffodils, 10.30am – 3pm. **New for 2020** dogs will be permitted to join their owners on a visit. Access will be restricted to certain areas to protect the art gallery and the local ecology, and there will be a code of conduct for owners to follow. February Half Term is the perfect opportunity for dog owners to be among the first to test out pooch-friendly paths and walking routes. Admission: £5, Under 5s free. Forest School: £3 per child. Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park, Warwickshire, CV35 9HZ, comptonverney / 01926 645500.
The Boy in the Dress themed half-term activities at the RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon
The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) will have a whole host of fabulous activities for young people based around its heart-warming new musical The Boy in the Dress (see above for details) this February Half Term which is on until early March. Highlights include: a day learning the dance moves to Robbie Williams and Guy Chamber’s songs from The Boy in the Dress with Associate Choreographer Carl Harrison; decorating a dress-shaped biscuit and eating it too in a workshop led by the RSC’s own pastry chefs (yum!) and smashing stereotypes with artist Megan Clark-Bagnell in a day of creative-making that breaks all the rules and celebrates the differences in all of us! rsc.org.uk/februaryhalfterm, Tel: 01789 331111.
Get Hands on With History at Kenilworth Castle – Knights and Princesses, Sat 15 Feb – 23
Get set for a truly historic half term and discover what it was like to live, work and fight in a real-life castle. Whether it’s learning to sword fight or transforming into a little lord or lady, there’s plenty of hands-on fun to keep the kids entertained. And once the little adventurers have put their skills to the test, let imaginations run wild as you explore Kenilworth’s mighty castle walls, 11am – 4pm. English Heritage/KenilworthCastle
The UK’s only Medieval Festival of Archery, Warwick Castle, Feb 15-23
Encounter the centuries-old art of archery like never before at the UK’s only Medieval Festival of Archery and marvel at the incredible skill and agility of birds of prey in a Winter Birds of Prey display. Lewis Copson, who has been one of Warwick Castle’s bowman for over ten years, is Warwick born and bred and will be leading a company of more than ten bowmen in the Festival of Archery where visitors can enjoy daily demonstrations and displays. He recently took on Team GB archer and Olympic hopeful Tom Hall in a thrilling display of focus, skill and accuracy comparing the two styles from across the ages. Discover over 1100 years of history exploring all the attractions and castle grounds.
A day out at Twycross Zoo, Atherstone
See over 500 animals from over 125 different species at this 80-acre zoo. A selection of state-of-the-art indoor habitats, are good for escaping any February drizzle: from the award-winning £3.5million Chimpanzee Eden to Butterfly Forest, Giraffe Savannah and Gibbon Forest. Families can also get up close and personal to some of Twycross Zoo’s newest residents, including Sumatran tigers, Jahly and Sialang and Eastern black rhino, Nandi, all of whom arrived at the zoo in 2019 as part of a major European breeding programme.
Theatre & dance for older children and teens
The Boy in the Dress, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, until Sun Mar 8
This exuberant, beautifully directed and moving new musical, based on the best-selling children’s novel by David Walliams, is only on for another month *sob. It features 16 original songs by Robbie Williams and his long-term writing partner Guy Chambers. It’s directed by RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran and adapted by former RSC writer-in-residence Mark Ravenhill. You’ll be toe-tapping and singing the songs for weeks after! Tickets are half price for children – up to four can go with one adult and if you like to live on the edge how about a last minute Friday Rush tickets. Tickets are put on sale every Friday from midday to 4pm only, for shows the following week. There’s a limited number of tickets from £10 or £20, for selected performances!
Box Office: 01789 331111, RSC
UK premiere of Crongton Knights, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Sat Feb 8 – 22
What do you get if you bring together an award-winning YA novel, an inventive beatbox soundscape by Edinburgh Fringe rising star Conrad Murray, six courageous kids and the producing powerhouse behind 2019’s sell-out production of Noughts and Crosses? The answer is a new staging of Alex Wheatle’s explosive coming of age adventure. Adapted for the stage by acclaimed playwright Emteaz Hussain, Crongton Knights is co-directed by Pilot Theatre’s Esther Richardson (Noughts and Crosses) and the Belgrade’s own 2021 Co-Artistic Director Corey Campbell (Club 2B, Freeman). Box office on 024 7655 3055, www.belgrade.co.uk
Swan Lake, Birmingham Hippodrome, Tues Feb 18 – Feb 29
Ballet’s greatest love story returns in Birmingham Royal Ballet’s lavish production. This romantic fable of ill-fated passion, powerfully illuminated by Tchaikovsky’s legendary score played live by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, has bewitched audiences for generations.
Holes, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Feb 18-22
A vibrant new touring production of Louis Sachar’s Holes opens at the Belgrade this month. Two of my kids could not put this book down when they were in Year 6 – and to see what the fuss was all about I read it too. Adapted by the award-winning author from his own much-loved children’s book, Holes brings the gripping story of Camp Green Lake and its inmates vividly to life on stage, using puppetry, music and theatrical magic to recreate their incredible adventures. Box office on 024 7655 3055, www.belgrade.co.uk
Peter Pan Goes Wrong, Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre, Tues Feb 25-29
From the same team behind award-winning The Play That Goes Wrong, Peter Pan Goes Wrong comes to Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre fresh from it’s Christmas West End run. This humorous take on J.M Barrie’s children’s tale is promising technical hitches, flying mishaps and cast disputes. Looks like a goodie for feel-good family fun. Tel the box office on 024 7655 3055, belgrade
BOOK NOW! Sally Cookson’s A Monster Calls, Belgrade Theatre Coventry, Mar 3-7
The Olivier Award-winning adaptation of Patrick Ness’ YA novel for ages 10+ heads out on its first UK tour passing through Cov. Based on the Carnegie and Greenaway Medal-winning novel (the only book ever to receive both awards), written by Patrick Ness and inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd, this powerful production sees the tale of love and loss brought vividly to life by visionary director Sally Cookson (La Strada, Hetty Feather, Jane Eyre). The show is an Old Vic production in association with Bristol Old Vic. Tel the box office on 024 7655 3055, belgrade
Theatre for littlies
Evelyn & The Yellow Birds, Warwick Arts Centre, Sat Feb 15
This lovely-sounding musical show for ages 6+ is the perfect way for the whole family to learn more about the melting pot of influences across the jazz genre. Taking in the story of jazz from the Caribbean to London, Evelyn, a young woman living in Jamaica, decides to travel with her new husband to England, hoping for exciting new opportunities. But she misses the sounds, scenery and sunshine of island life. Then Evelyn finds a new market selling exotic fruits and is transported back to Jamaica. This tiny piece of home away from home gives Evelyn new hope. Over time, she is able to join a welcoming community of fellow Caribbean migrants, and the UK becomes her happy home. It’s presented by Evelyn’s granddaughter Cherise Adams-Burnett, Jazz FM Vocalist of the Year 2019, with a live band accompaniment.
The Little Prince, Warwick Arts Centre, Thur Feb 27 – Sat Feb 29
Don’t miss poet and playwright Inua Ellams’ magical retelling of The Little Prince. In his adaptation of the much-loved story by Antoine de Saint-Euxpéry, the Little Prince descends from an African race in a parallel galaxy. He travels across universes, seeking help to bring peace to his warring planet. His journey as a galactic emigrant takes us through solar systems of odd planets with strange beings, and addresses climate change, morality and how a little person can make a big difference. Children and adults will be transported to the world of The Little Prince with puppetry, music of North African heritage and rich Afro-futurist aesthetic. For ages 5+.
The Slightly Annoying Elephant, Belgrade Theatre Coventry, Tues Feb 25 – Thur Feb 27
This half term Coventry will be getting an unexpected visit from someone big and blue and bossy when The Slightly Annoying Elephant stomps into town as part of a UK tour. Internationally acclaimed puppetry company Little Angel Theatre present a hilarious adaptation of the best-selling book, written by David Walliams and illustrated by Tony Ross. Perfect for kids aged 3-8, the show tells the story of a boy called Sam, who gets a BIG surprise when a tired, hungry elephant shows up on his doorstep. It turns out that Sam got much more than he bargained for when he adopted an elephant at the zoo, not realising that it would actually come to live with him – silly boy! Tel the box office on 024 7655 3055, belgrade
Half-term at Shakespeare’s Family Homes, Stratford-upon-Avon
New for 2020 – Shakespeare XR Shakespeare’s New Place— New for 2020
Step inside Shakespeare‘s New Place to check out the new visitor experience combining augmented reality and virtual reality and see ‘inside’ the grand house where the bard lived with his family for the final 19 years of his life. And if you’re feeling theatrical act out the play within the play scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream using the shadow puppet theatre and create your own puppets. Younger children can enjoy dressing up, colouring in and more using a story sack based on the play. additional charge applies, 12pm-4pm.
What Goes Munch in the Night? Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Shottery, Feb 15 – 23
Follow the trail to learn about how the conservation team is fighting back against those pesky pests that are munching their way through our historical artefacts, 10am-4pm.
Winter Storytime, Hall’s Croft, Feb 15-23
Listen to stories about the house, former owner John Hall and the Shakespeare family, suitable for children and adults, , 12pm-4pm.
Attic Tours, Nash’s House, Stratford-upon-Avon, Feb 18
Take a behind-the-scenes tour of the attic at Nash’s House, the Grade I-listed Tudor house next door to Shakespeare’s New Place that was owned by Shakespeare’s granddaughter Elizabeth and her husband Thomas Nash. Discover witches’ marks on the beams and information about the restoration work that took place in 2016. Tours are free, but limited to 15 people on a first-come, first-served basis at 12pm & 2pm. Please note that there are steep stairs and the tour may not be suitable for those with access needs.
Half-term Welly Wander, Charlecote Park, Feb 15 – 23
Pull on some wellies and explore Charlecote at half-term. Wander the parkland, stomp about in the wet (if it’s raining) and get to know the great outdoors. Create your very own Charlecote story World Book Day in March on your way round and be sure to pick up your special bookmark, all ready to be decorated and personalised, 10am – 3pm.
Half-term Welly Walk, Packwood House, Feb 15 – 23
Ready for an adventure on the welly walk? Pick up a map and a ‘Doodle your dream day’ sheet from Visitor Reception, and head off on a journey together through the woods. Build a den, play hoop-la, splash in the puddles and have your own family adventure. Don’t forget your wellies!
When youy arrive, pop into visitor reception and pick up a Bugs and Beasties Trail. Find out more about some of the tiny creatures that live at Canons Ashby and get out in the fresh air together. Bring your wellies! It may be a squelchy adventure. This trail is free to join in any time during open hours: when you’ve finished pop into the shop to collect your sticker.
February Half-term activities, Upton House, Feb 15-23
Come along to Upton House and Gardens to see what signs of life there are along the Woodland Walk and winter gardens with a free nature spotter sheet. Pop into the Old Kitchen and have a go at some winter paper origami. For a little piece of early summer, head inside the Squash Court Gallery where you’re invited to sit, lie, stop and dream beneath the cedar trees in the immersive installation.
Half-term woodland play, Baddesley Clinton, Feb 15 – 23
Come and explore the estate this February half term and follow our animal sculptures over to our woodland play area, 11am – 3.30pm.
Arts galleries and museums
Wonderful Weaving, The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry, Feb 15 – 29
Two weeks of colourful woven craft daily activities to celebrate the city’s weaving history from cardboard circle weaving – a fun way for children to learn weaving, using cardboard circles to using recyclable materials to make a stunning woven bowl. Designed for age 3+, but all are welcome, £2.50.
Make and Play Engineers – Pixel Art, Coventry Transport Museum, Feb 19 – 26
Pixel art is used to make characters for computer games. Without using computer screens, explore patterns, contrasts and colours as they would be used in pixel art. Kids are tasked with building extraordinary imaginative creatures that could have escaped from computer games using the museum’s resources (from carpet tubes to pipes). Designed for age 2 – 8, but all are welcome.
On Sat Feb 15 young rugby fans can get ready for the Six Nations by using screen printing techniques to design and print their own t-shirt to support their fave team! (1-3pm).A Roald Dahl George’s Marvellous Medicine storytelling session on Wed Feb 19 is now booked up but kids can still come to the drop in craft making extending grannies (as you do!) and paint blowing pictures, 11.30am – 3pm. Then on Thurs Feb 20 children can print their own bold and colourful potion pictures using a concoction of paint, bubbles and foam.
The MAD (Mechanical Art and Design) Museum, Stratford-upon-Avon
Last month saw a brand-new moving sculpture unveiled by The MAD (Mechanical Art and Design) Museum. It has been created inside an old decommissioned telephone box by one of their favourite resident artists, Pascal Bettex, a kinetic artist from Switzerland. The theme of the sculpture is a tribute to William Shakespeare and features several objects relating to the Bard and his plays. Although the Museum now own the phone box, it must remain in place in Henley Street. More than 5,800 payphones have been adopted by communities since 2008. Open Mon – Fri from 10:30am – 4:30pm and at weekends/holidays from 10am – 5:30pm, themadmuseum.co.uk
Half-term: Explore the Future of Transport, British Motor Museum, Feb 15 – Mar 1
Themed around the exhibition ‘The Car. The Future. Me.’ holiday activities will allow children to investigate what the cars of their future might look like through science shows, STEM activity, family trails and tours. FUTURE science shows run at 11am and 2.30pm from Mon Feb 17 to Sun 23 February when Professor Pickle and Doctor Pumpkin will explore different sources of power and bring them to life with a bang! Every day children can make their own car of the future using recycled materials, then light it up with LEDs. Every day at 1.30pm visitors can join the Family ‘FUTURE’ Tour with either Professor Pickle or Dr. Pumpkin. Then excitingly on Thur Feb 20 – for one day only – the STEM ambassadors from MOD Kineton will be offering visitors the chance to code the futuristic Rover Robots (Sphero RVR’s) to successfully negotiate their specially designed assault course. Very James Bond! britishmotormuseum.co.uk/events/families, Tel: 01926 641188.
Teach Rex (Sun Feb 23) & Let’s Animate’s workshops, FarGo Village, Coventry, Wed Feb 26 & Thur Feb 27
The mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex will come to FarGo Village in Coventry for the Teach Rex educational dinosaur show this half term, before families can create their own animated film at the Let’s Animate studio’s plasticine and stop-frame workshops, giving budding filmmakers a chance to create their own movie masterpiece. https://www.fargovillage.co.uk/whats-on/
New Coven of Witches trail takes Shakespeare’s Schoolroom and Guildhall, Stratford-upon-Avon
This new family-friendly trail takes inspiration from the witches’ marks left on a wall in the Schoolroom, dating back to the 15th century, ShakespearesSchoolroom
Make your own musical instrument, Fusilier Museum, Warwick, Wed Feb 19
Family craft event, warwickfusiliers
Meet the Mini-Beast handling sessions, Stratford Butterfly Farm, Feb 15 – 23
There’s plenty on offer for younger visitors during the half term from 15 – 23 February. Children and adults can take part in the popular twice daily Meet the Mini-Beast handling sessions and hold creatures such as a giant African millipede, African land snail and a variety of stick insects.
February Frolics & giant snakes, Hatton Adventure World, Feb 15 – 23
Giant snakes will slither into Hatton Adventure World when the popular family attraction hosts its February Frolics activities during the half term week – daring kids can get up close and personal with a mixture of Boa Constrictors, Reticulated Pythons, Burmese Pythons and a Tegu ranging in size from 5 to 16 feet in length! The handling sessions will take place three times a day at 10.30am, 1pm and 3pm – plus visitors can enjoy an interactive talk from snake experts. There’s also wildlife workshops where visitors can learn how to make bird feeders, toys for the animals in Scales & Tails and learn how Hatton looks after all their weird and wonderful creatures.
3 New films
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).
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 and Lovesick fame donning his best side burns to play Mr Knightley and The Miniaturist’s Anya Taylor-Joy (released Feb 14).
Half-term at Bletchley Park, Feb 17 – 21
Did you know that any number can be represented using a code of only ones and zeros? Take part in games, challenges and crafts which explore how the codebreakers used this to their advantage! Have a go at binary bingo, binary dominos, binary patterns, art and jewellery, alongside exploring some of Bill Tutte’s wider problem-solving challenges in the very place where some of the most secret codes and cyphers of WW2 were broken. Talks and tours are also available to discover more about the people behind the machines that helped break the Enigma cipher at Bletchley Park, including an interactive family tour on Feb 17, 21 and 22 where visitors will learn some surprising new facts, explore everyday life at Bletchley Park in 1941 and might even take part in some secret war work.
EVENT: Oxford Maths Festival, Sat Feb 15 & Sun Feb 16
Organised by the University of Oxford’s maths department this annual fest started in 2018 to encourage younger children to get into the subject with a variety of free talks, workshops and craft sessions across the numeric weekender.
Paint Park, MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, until Mar 1
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
Whipsnade Zoo, Beds
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 entrance price.
Wonderlab, Science Museum, London
Heading to the Big Smoke? There’s the brilliant Science Museum‘s ongoing cool interactive gallery- Wonderlab, with more than 50 exhibitions including hands-on, live experiments at the Chemistry Bar and daily shows. The Space and AI tech exhibitions are also worth seeing.