Friday, 8 February 2013

Free (or cheap!) things to do in half term!

With half term looming and no guarantee of good weather, what can we do to fill our time and keep the young ones occupied?  And the free or cheap side of things comes in when you're self-employed in a seasonal business at the wrong end of the season!

We have 9 days off (including weekends) to fill and while I'm all for the great outdoors and enjoying the beach and mountains that surround us, I cannot bring myself to do a puddle-splashing walk every day!  I don't mind being out and about when it has stopped raining but with the winds and rain we've been having... this half term I just cannot face it!

So, here's our plan for the holiday with wet-weather alternatives in place!  Who's betting we won't even leave the house....

Today my children have their karate gradings at the local karate dojo.  While this is far from free or cheap(!), it is good for their self-esteem, self-confidence and general fitness.  So, after today I hope my little Karatekas will have achieved their next belt grade.  Following the gradings sessions, we will be returning home and (weather permitting!) going on a scavenger hunt on the beach for some dry driftwood to make some picture/photo frames later on in the week. 

After stormy weather, our beach is often littered with driftwood and the little bits of rope from stray lobster pots and buoys - my son loves to collect these and keep them for Grandad so "he can make things with them"!  Although my Mum says, "no more wood, please!" as his shed is slowly getting filled with more seaside treasures than it will hold!

If it's wet, windy or both; we will be making some woven placemats from thick paper/thin card.  My daughter made a placemat like this for one of her Brownie badges and has since decided that she can make these to sell at a local craft fair to save up some money!  I initially talked her down from the £5 each figure, deciding on a much more reasonable 50p... I should send her onto Dragon's Den... she can sell anything!

Today is Chinese New Year - the year of the snake.  There's loads of activities and crafts ideas over at Activity Village.  I especially like this Paper Roll Snake Puppet and this Paper Plate Snake Mobile.  Both really simple ideas which will keep your children happy for a good couple of hours!  With a difference in age range, you can decorate them as simply or as complex as you wish... using anything from tissue paper and sequins to dried pasta and rice!
Then,  you could cook up a nice Chinese meal for tea - the children can get involved with the preparation and cooking (under supervision!) and try and eat with chopsticks!  Good luck!

A very cheap day today - using craft materials that you already have around the house keeps your costs down.

Another day outdoors planned, weather permitting!  The Nature Detectives website from the Woodland Trust is a site that I use a LOT during the warmer weather.  There are loads of printables, spotter sheets and craft ideas, arranged by season, so it's very easy to find something fun to do.  Locally to us, we have a lovely open space called "Wern Mynach" where we can explore nature to our heart's content!  Along with a picnic on the pirate ship, we can send all afternoon there!  We'll be taking the First Signs of Spring spotter sheet and the Texture Trail worksheet.
And if bad weather graces us once again, there are plenty of quiz sheets and colouring ideas on their website too!

Our local church, St. John's, runs a great event usually once every six weeks or so where the town's churches come together and run a "Messy Church" session.  It's not as messy as it sounds and although there's a religious theme to the event, it's not formal and is enjoyed by everyone.  They set out craft activities on tables around the church and there's usually a snack for the children (pancakes this week!) and a short address to the families who attend with a story for the children with a meaning behind it, giving them something to think about.  Here's a link to the Messy Church UK website, have a look around and explore the site - for those who "don't do church" you might surprise yourself!

Wednesday will be a walk to the park!  Our local park is of reasonable size and OK for the kids but sometimes it's worth the 20 minute drive to the next town where the park is fantastic!  With equipment suitable from toddlers right up to big kids (me included!) it's great fun but to fully appreciate it, you need a dry day where you can spend more time outdoors enjoying the space.  So if it's a quick visit in between rain clouds, we will stay local but if the forecast is looking good, we'll venture out of town and visit our neighbouring park. 

Hopefully, we will also take a walk around the town, following the well established Town Trail.  It's good to see somewhere you know well from a different point of view and it's always worth being a "tourist" in your own surroundings!  You often find things out you never even knew, even though you walk amongst them daily!

In Barmouth, we have a RAOB Buffs Club which is used for many community events and get-togethers.  The lady who runs the club is fantastic at getting things organized and involving different age groups in the community.  This week she is holding a Valentine's Disco for the children in the town.  Free entry, so anyone local get your glad rags on and have a dance!

Today's plan is a trip to the local library.  For a small town, we have a lovely library with a great selection of English, Welsh and bi-lingual books for children and adults alike.  My son tends to pick his book quickly and then enjoys playing with the Lego-style blocks they have in the children's corner while my daughter reads nearly the first chapter in each before deciding!  I wouldn't mind but we've got more Lego at home than you can shake a stick at but it's the old tale of someone else's toys are better than your own!

As a Welsh learner myself, the library is a great place to browse books to help with my language skills and the librarians are great as I can practice my Welsh in a real life situation with someone who won't laugh when I make a mistake!

There are also Story Sacks available at our library - these are a great tool as the accessories in each pack really bring the story to life.

Today, we're heading out for a day trip to the National Slate Museum at Llanberis.  From the 14th to 17th February, they have a Model Railway Show on for a great day out for train lovers!  The museum is free to visit and there's plenty to see and do.  As part of the Railway event, children can have free rides on the miniature steam engines and you can even bring your own 00 gauge trains and have a go on the track layouts yourself.
All National museums in Wales are free to visit and it's a great way of getting your children interested in the heritage of the country.  So bring a picnic and your day will be pretty cheap and fun-filled!  The hardest part will be keeping the children awake in the car on the way home so they will go to bed on time that evening!

Well, Sunday will be a day of rest!  A nice relaxed day with a walk along the prom and round the harbour and (if the sun shines...) a well-deserved ice cream!

What do you have planned for the half term break?  Or do you take it one day at a time?  Whatever you decide to do, I hope the weather treats you kindly and there's a smile a day!