10 things to do with the kids this half-term break
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Half-term needn't be a wash-out or financial disaster, if you try our easy ways to entertain children on a shoestring in Norfolk and beyond.
• 1 — Have a doll's tea party or a teddy bear's picnic. Even older children can be persuaded to have some small-scale fun if they can help make a miniature feast. Serve your picnic on a doll's tea set if you have one and make sure that everything is fairy-sized. Try dainty sandwiches and vegetable crudities cut into shapes with biscuit cutters, tiny cakes, mini biscuits and jelly made in eggcups.
• 2 — Feed the birds. The RSPB is encouraging families to save their local birds by offering them food and shelter. Even the smallest food scraps or bowl of water can make a huge difference. Make your own speedy bird cake by cutting a small hole in the bottom of an old yoghurt pot and threading string through the hole, knotting on the inside – leave enough string so you can tie the pot to a tree or bird table. Allow a block of lard to warm up to room temperature, cut into small pieces and put into a mixing bowl. Add birdseed, raisins, peanuts and grated cheese and squidge together to mix. Fill the pot with mixture, set in the fridge for an hour and hang outside for the birds.
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• 3 — Make tasty treats. For no-cook fudge, put 175g of softened butter in a bowl and stir in one small can (around 175g) of condensed milk. Gradually add 800g sieved icing sugar and mix together. Turn on to a pastry board and knead until soft and easy to handle. Roll out to a thickness of 1cm and cut into squares or shapes. Leave overnight on a wire rack to harden. Experiment with flavours – you could add peppermint essence or sieve in 75g of cocoa with the icing sugar to make chocolate fudge.
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• 4 — Create your own volcano using modelling clay, baking soda, food colouring, liquid dishwashing detergent and vinegar. Model the volcano out of brown and green modelling clay and add a red ring around the rim to make it look like red-hot lava is flowing out of it. Make your volcano around 10cm high. Scoop out a hole at the top of the volcano and stir in a tablespoon of baking soda, a few drops of red food colouring and a few drops of liquid dishwashing detergent. When you're ready for an eruption, pour in around 100ml of vinegar and stand back!
• 5 — Build an indoor den. It can be as easy as a blanket or duvet draped over furniture or the slightly more sophisticated version where your children colonise a cupboard. Once the den is built, provide torches, cushions and activities for the children to use in their new lair.
• 6 — Personalise your wellies (temporarily, at least) with old nail varnish. Take a pair of plain wellies and lay on their sides. Decorate with one shade of nail varnish and leave to dry for five minutes. Turn over and continue your design, then repeat with other colours of nail varnish until you're happy with your design. Make sure you are in a well-ventilated room! Designs will
chip off after around a month, or can be removed with nail varnish remover.
• 7 — Make eggshell mosaics with the eggshells left over from cooking. Wash the shells well and soak overnight in different coloured food colouring – the longer you leave them, the deeper the colour. Dry on kitchen towel. Draw a picture on a large sheet of paper and fill in with different coloured egg shells – stick on using glue.
• 8 — Turn an old shoebox into a shoebox bedroom in an afternoon. Paint or stick paper to the sides and insides of the box and then decorate. Photographs from magazines can be stuck on the walls as pictures, a piece of felt can become a carpet and you can make furniture out of old matchboxes – a large one makes a bed, small ones make chests of drawers – egg boxes (use them to make chairs) and old tea boxes to make wardrobes. Lights can be made out of old bottle caps and curtains made of fabric scraps can be hung from wooden skewers. You can also turn your shoebox into a puppet theatre, a treasure chest, a Tardis, a guitar or a wagon, complete with wheels and a string to pull it by.
• 9 — Older children will love a mocktail party, and the ingredients will cost only a few pounds and encourage them to drink fruit juice. Encourage everyone to dress up and then create your mocktails. For a Ghoulish-ous Mocktail, mix one carton of mixed tropical juice, one large bottle of lemonade and two drops of green food colouring. If you have any grenadine syrup, add a tablespoon to the bottom of each glass which makes the top of the drink green and the bottom red! For a Gentle Sea Breeze, take one carton of cranberry juice, mix with one carton of pineapple juice and serve over a glass of crushed ice. Garnish with mint if you have any. A Sunset Cooler is a carton of cranberry juice and a carton of orange juice mixed to taste with lemonade, while a Fruit Burst adds a carton of pineapple juice to the Sunset Cooler recipe. Experiment and make your own mocktails.
• 10 — Get outdoors. February is a particularly good time to hear native bird song because it's at this time of year that British birds are at their most vocal. Ideal for early birds who rise at dawn, harness that energy and head to a woodland area as early in the morning as you can and listen out for what you can hear. If you record the sounds, you can play them back at home and identify the birdsong using books or the internet.