18 ways to keep the kids entertained during the summer holidays 2018

Mums and dads – stock yourself up with gin and energy. The school summer holidays are here.

It’s going to be a LONG six weeks and although we don’t have to face this daunting annual headache in Chez Bookworm yet, I’ve done my bit for my comrades in the trenches and found 15 book-themed activities to stave off boredom and retain some parental sanity.

The Tiger Who Came To Tea exhibition. Photo: Damien Wootten / Seven Stories
Photo: Damien Wootten / Seven Stories

1.  Visit The Tiger Who Came To Tea exhibition at Mottifort in Hampshire

See original artwork, learn about Judith Kerr’s dramatic  life and even serve up tea for a life-sized tiger at this special exhibition to celebrate the book’s 50th birthday. If you live a bit far from Hampshire, it will be touring other National Trust properties between now and 2020. Read more

2. See a stage show of your favourite children’s book

There are so many wonderful theatre adaptations these days. For older children, the musical of Matilda is a West End must while York Theatre Royal has The Secret Garden over August.

For the younger ones, The Tiger Who Came To Tea is marking ten years on the stage with a summer run in London, while Wimbledon-based children’s theatre has The Everywhere Bear by Julia Donaldson. We’re Going On A Bear Hunt has a London run at Lyric Theatre too and What The Ladybird Heard is at The Lowry in Manchester over August.

3. Visit your local library and read for free

Getting a new book need not cost anything and your child can return them if they don’t like them – and borrow some more! For inspiration, we asked baby signing teacher and library enthusiast Liz Neale to share the five best library books she has read with her daughters.

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4. Walk The Highway Rat Activity Trail at woodlands around England

Stretch those legs, explore some of England’s most beautiful forest and see if you can spot the elusive rodent bandit! The family-friendly trails are available at 21 Forestry Commission-run locations – read our review of the one at Dalby Forest, North Yorkshire

5. Head to the Lake District – the land of Beatrix Potter 

The author and her stories are inextricably linked with the stunning national park in Cumbria, a place where she spent her childhood summers and later became an expert sheep breeder. Locals are quite rightly proud of the association, meaning there are plenty of activities for Peter Rabbit fans holidaying in the area.

Head to Brockhole, a grand house that was once owned by Beatrix’s cousins, to follow a Potter-themed trail and learn about the wildlife that inspired her. There’s also The World of Beatrix Potter in Bowness-on-Windermere and you can visit her former farm, Hill Top, now run by the National Trust. Find out more here

6. Find some #bookishplay ideas on social media

Instagram is awash with clever play and craft activities for kids, based around their favourite characters and stories. Simply search the hashtags and see what you can find. Good ones to try are #bookishplay, #beyondthebook and #bookbasedactivities.

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7. Immerse yourselves in A World Inside A Book at Discover Children’s Story Centre in London

This interactive exhibition brings some of the favourite Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler stories to life, including The Gruffalo, Zog and Room on the Broom. It closes in September so don’t miss out. Read our review

8. Go to see Christopher Robin at the cinema

Winnie the Pooh author AA Milne was inspired to write the books by his son Christopher Robin and his favourite teddy bear. In this new fantasy film starring Ewan McGregor, Christopher is a father who is prioritising work over his family when the cuddly creatures from his childhood come calling for help. It will be in cinemas on 17 August and you can see the trailer here

Puppet of Joey from War Horse

9. See the War Horse close up at The Dick Institute in Kilmarnock

The wonderful exhibition about the life and work of Sir Michael Morpurgo, which we saw at the V&A Museum of Childhood earlier this year, finds a home in Scotland from August until the end of the year. Read our review and get opening times here

10. Hunt for Charlie and Lola at Newby Hall, North Yorkshire

The sibling duo star in a delightful exhibition of artwork by Lauren Child at this stately home near Ripon. Along with original images, handpicked from the Children’s Laureate’s collection, there is a themed trail in the grounds and the chance to see Lauren’s own dolls house. The Lauren Child Summer Exhibition runs until 7 September. Review coming soon – find out more at newbyhall.com

11. Visit Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books, in Newcastle

A day will not be enough to enjoy the book-themed delights of this wonderful museum and activity centre in the North East. There’s something for all ages of bookworm (parents too!), with sensory experiences, play spaces, exhibitions and engaging storytelling sessions. Plus a cafe where you can feed a tiger tea! Read our review

12. Follow the White Rabbit – and Alice – around Oxford

The main character of Lewis Carroll’s book Alice in Wonderland was inspired the ten-year-old daughter of H.G. Liddell, the dean of Christ Church College. Visit the city to see the places where she lived and played, and the discover the story behind the book.

There are walking tours available and you can also stop off at the Story Museum. Find out more at experienceoxfordshire.org

13. Download free book-themed activity sheets

If you want cheap entertainment for rainy days or while on the move, check out the websites of your child’s favourite authors and illustrators. Most offer activity and colouring sheets themed of their characters and stories to download. We’ve rounded up a few of our favourites

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14. Track down The Gruffalo at Mountain View Ranch in Caerphilly

Hidden on the mountains overlooking Cardiff, this ranch has a hundred acres of woodland for families to explore, whether rain or shine.  It has everything from fairy tree houses and den making to goats and an official Gruffalo Trail, where you can track down wicker versions of the characters. Read our review

15. Make stories like Roald Dahl

The Roald Dahl Museum in Buckinghamshire is sadly closed for the holidays due to flooding. However, you can still experience the storyteller’s magic this summer by taking part in their six week creative writing challenge for budding authors aged five to 12 and their families.

There will be new ideas and activities to boost your story-making skills on the blog every Monday, with participants encouraged to share their work on social media using the #makestorieslikeroalddahl hashtag. Find out more at roalddahl.com

16. Learn how to fly a broomstick like Harry Potter  at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland

Not only is Alnwick one of Britain’s most iconic castles, it was also used as the exterior and interior for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. As well as location spotting, visitors can take part in regular Broomstick Training sessions, open to all ages and included in the entry price.

There’s also a Harry Potter-inspired Wizarding Week starting on 28 August. Find out more at alnwickcastle.com

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17. Follow The Jolly Postman trail at The Postal Museum in London

We absolutely love The Postal Museum, one of London’s newest attractions which made the shortlist for Museum of the Year 2018. Along with the Mail Rail underground ride and postal-themed playspace, the main museum has a wonderful trail for little ones themed around the Janet and Allan Ahlberg book. Read our review

18. Treat them to some new books!

If you want some ideas, check our our reviews and recommendations – all tried and tested by Baby Bookworm and the authors and illustrators we love.

Have you got any suggestions for book-themed days out or activities? Please let us know your ideas!

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