School may not be out forever (at least not for everyone), but it is certainly out for the summer, and those long weeks of the holiday can feel a little daunting when there are kids to entertain on top of everything else that needs to be done on a daily basis.
The key does seem to be slotting in some amazing days out in amongst those days when there is no place like home, but with so many options in and around Kent, where should you take the little ones? Here are a few ideas that should give you some boredom-busting inspiration.
To The Beach!
A day trip to the beach may not be high tech, and it may not be full of action and adventure, but that’s okay. In fact, that’s more than okay. Some proper, good old fashioned (or perhaps we should say ‘retro’) bucket and spade fun is often all that is really needed for one of the most memorable days out you can give your children. The simplicity that goes with a beach outing offers you some time to relax and the little ones some time to really be kids – which is so, so important.
Take a fresh picnic with you and plenty of water and you don’t even need to leave the beach to have your lunch.
Great beaches in Kent include Botany Bay in Broadstairs, St Mildred’s Bay in Westgate, Ramsgate Main Sands and Joss Bay in Broadstairs. But there are plenty of others to try too!
Visit a Castle
Kent has plenty of scope if castles are the order of the day. From Leeds Castle (‘the loveliest castle in the world’) to Hever Castle, Anne Boleyn’s childhood home, from the mighty Dover Castle, Kent’s greatest and most fascinating defence to Deal Castle, one of Henry VIII’s favourite pet projects, there is sure to be something that appeals.
Most of the castles offer summer holiday activities to make things even more exciting. Some of those on offer for 2017 include Summer Jousting Tournaments at Hever; Heroes, Heroines and Hoods at Leeds Castle; and Castle Live! at Dover.
The Great Indoors
Sometimes, no matter how hard we might wish otherwise, the weather during the summer is less than ideal. But that shouldn’t stop anyone from having a fantastic time and forgetting all about homework for a while. We’re well used to wet weather in Kent, so thankfully we are also well used to finding ways of entertaining the children when it pours (or it’s just a bit cold and grey).
One such way that the kids adore is soft play centres. They are in abundance in Kent, and we have some of the biggest and best around including Manic Monsters in Edenbridge, Tiny Town in Larkfield, Ollies in Margate and Monkey Bizz in Strood.
Jump For Joy
Another perfect rainy day activity – and one that is currently all the rage – is trampolining. New trampoline parks are springing up all over Kent, and there will certainly be one within a short drive of you, wherever you are. Soar in Gillingham, Flip Out in Chatham, Gravity in Bluewater and Maidstone, AirJump in Orpington and Jump In in Tonbridge are just a few of them.
Wingham Wildlife Park, Port Lympne, Howletts, the Rare Breeds Centre, Kent Life, The Wildwood Trust… Whether it’s a wildlife reserve, a zoo, or a farm, when it comes to animals, Kent has the lot. Many of the animal parks in Kent have plenty to do besides look at the animals (although that is, of course, the main attraction). These things include play areas, activities, keeper experiences, restaurants, soft play, arts and crafts, demonstrations and more. It means that a whole day out is perfectly possible – it is, in fact, recommended (you wouldn’t want to miss out on anything).
Bullfrog Productions Workshops
Drama can open up plenty of opportunities for your child in all kinds of ways. It boosts their confidence, introduces them to new ideas, is a fabulous way to make friends and it could even be something they fancy taking further if they find they have a bit of a flair for the dramatic.
In Kent there are lots of different drama workshops to join in with over the summer, all of which will give your child something fun to do whilst nurturing their artistic talents – and their self-confidence.
Why not take a look at the workshops run by the Stag Theatre, Sevenoaks, along with Bullfrog Productions? This year there are two productions being staged: Footloose for older children and The Little Mermaid for younger ones. Two weeks of full-on rehearsals and then a performance that is open to the public make this an extraordinarily fun venture to be a part of.
Diggerland is an unusual concept, but one that works – and works well. Diggerland is a theme park in Rochester (there are also parks in Durham, Devon and Yorkshire in the UK and New Jersey in the USA) that is all about diggers, trucks, big machines and the like. Far from being boring and ‘grown up’, the parks shows kids the fun side of these vehicles, giving them a chance to actually ride them, drive them, and generally enjoy them. Even if your child isn’t particularly into diggers, a day out at Diggerland is still worthwhile – who doesn’t like a theme park?
Kent & East Sussex Railway
Although open every day to visitors, there are some extra special days that young railway enthusiasts may want to be a part of during July. These are the monumentally popular Day Out With Thomas events, and this year you can book tickets for either 22nd, 23rd or 24th July. A ticket for Day Out With Thomas includes the train ride with Thomas as well as a variety of Thomas & Friends™ themed entertainment. Guests will also have the opportunity to meet The Fat Controller all the way from the Island of Sodor.
This Art of Mine
There are probably very few children out there who don’t enjoy a bit of arts and crafts time – and the same goes for the adults who care for them. Painting a pot or designing a t-shirt appeals to everyone because not only do you come away with something at the end of your day of making, but you’ve used your creative muscles in a way that doesn’t normally happen. Plus it’s a relaxing way to spend some pure bonding time with the children.
Over the summer holidays, This Art of Mine studio in Thurnham (just off the A249) is holding a variety of excellent ways to keep the children entertained including a kids’ photography course, an animation workshop, young artists’ week, imaginary worlds day and clay week as well as a huge number of other fun and fabulous classes and workshops.
Down House, the home of Charles Darwin, has some fun yet educational events going on over the summer break. Learn how to be a butler, make sure your shoes are polished, your clothes are immaculate and you’re standing up straight. Meet the Darwin’s very own butler Joseph Parslow and learn about the etiquette of a Victorian house, from dressing a table to folding a napkin. But make sure you pay attention, as the master of the house won’t keep sloppy butlers around for long! Or set sail on a nautical adventure as you learn the ropes of seafaring, 1800’s style. Meet Captain Fitzroy and learn the art of knot tying and predicting the weather. Don’t let him catch you slacking though or you’ll be mopping the decks for a week! Anchors aweigh as you make your own ship to take home too.
Kent and London have a bit of a symbiotic relationship going on – crossing from one to the other is easy thanks to our fantastic rail network, and the buses too. You can even drive if you’re feeling brave. However you get there, the fact that London isn’t too far away and is packed full of exciting summer holiday activities and attractions to get involved with means that at least one day out of those six (or so) long weeks should be spent there.
As well as all the fun – Madame Tussauds, the London Sealife Aquarium, Shrek’s Adventure, the Tower of London, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, the Transport Museum, the Natural History Museum, London Zoo and a seemingly endless stream of other things – from 1st to 31st August it is Kids’ Week in London. Kids’ Week is when free child tickets for some of the best West End shows come up for grabs, and it can turn any day into something really rather wonderful.
Disneyland Paris is just a short (just under 3 hours) hop further down the line from London, and for a long weekend or even a full week away during summer, there is nothing quite like it. Climb on board the Eurostar at either Ebbsfleet or Ashford International stations, and you will be taken directly to the land of magic itself. And that’s the key thing – the magic. You want to pick just the right time to go with your little ones; they need to be old enough to make the most of all (or at least the majority of) the rides on offer, but they also need to be young enough to experience that one of a kind magic. Just wait until you see the joy in their faces when Elsa, Belle or Buzz Lightyear make an appearance!