EVENT AND DO THE LIGHT IS COMING
Imbolc is one of our most longed-for festivals. The the half-way point between the shortest day and the Spring equinox, a time to take reassurance that we are not alone and that the Sun will return. It’s a chance to celebrate the life-giving power of the sun, as its rays start to gain in strength. The festival known in post-Christian as Candlemas – celebrated today (February 1st) – is known as the ‘feast of lights’ and we have some ideas for celebrating it here). Crepes were traditionally eaten on this day – there’s a recipe for them here, alongside other Candlemas treats, including Honey Cakes and Gingerly Baked Custard. Or why not do some Candlemas-themed crafts? Try this hand-cranked storyteller, bend reeds to make a Brigid Cross, pour candles or carve them.
EVENT HALF TERM FUN
The National Trust’s half-term events include solving a murder mystery at Scotney Castle in Kent, travelling back to the 1920s at Nunnington Hall in North Yorkshire and learning about the forgotten origins of fairy tales from around the world at Buckland Abbey in Devon. Find an event near you here.
The WWT preserves the wetland’s natural habitats in the heart of London and across the UK. Ahead of half-term, celebrate World Wetland Day by bringing a friend for free to one of their UK centres over the weekend of February 2-4. Later this month, at half-term, there’s a series of family adventures to enjoy, including a chance to enjoy the magic of mud at Mudfest, family birdwatching at The Big Hideout and Swans Awake, a chance to watch the haunting sight of thousands of swans flying overhead. Find out more here.
Or fire up your family’s imagination with English Heritage as their sites come alive this week. Join characters from the past for historical hijinks and hands-on shenanigans. Find an event near you here.
Have fun, get out and about and get your grey matter throbbing with a Treasure Trail. Choose to explore your local area or a new town or city with a self-guided adventure. Each trail lasts about two hours and features clues, challenges and twists with spy, detective and explorer themes. Choose from over 1200 across the UK.
The Wildlife Trusts look after over 2,300 nature reserves across the UK – take the opportunity to explore some near you. Many have events over half-term – join conservation days, play wild at a forest school, go on after-dark walks, help ring birds, try family forest bathing, and build your own bird box.
Why not take the opportunity of the break to start a journey into birdwatching? The RSPB’s reserves – many of them free – dot the country. Find an event to inspire you – try nest box building, go on welly walks, or try pond-dipping.
Unmissable for Londoners and beyond, the annual Imagine Children’s Festival returns in 2024 for 12 days of fun over half-term. Held in the warm and cosy Royal Festival Hall, at least half of the programme is free of charge; watch theatre shows, enjoy comedians, meet your favourite authors and dance, dance, dance. This year, ticketed shows include Tom Fletcher’s interactive There’s a Monster in Your Show, Motionhouse’s Starchitects: A Cosmic Adventure and talks by Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho and Michael Rosen. Or pick from free events such as a a brand-new version of the smash-hit Grow, ZooNation’s Hip-Hop Half-Term workshops, DJ sets and performances, disco dancing with Prancer the Dancer and live acoustic pop hits at the Wonder Gig, and a creative zone inspired by Rob and Roberta’s Smith’s Art Makes People Powerful. More here
The Museum of London Docklands is an excellent place to go this half-term; warm, dry and relatively uncrowded. This holiday, celebrate the Year of the Dragon at a weekend family festival, celebrate migration with storytellers, chefs and storytellers as well as guided walks of the city.
Meanwhile The Horniman Museum’s exhibitions are bursting with colour. Explore the history, politics and culture of brewed beverages at the Chá, Chai, Tea exhibition or see the raw, honest images of Naomi Hobson at Adolescent Wonderland. Time your visit to coincide with one of the free family friendly events at the venue; make your own slug hotel, join the Twitchers Museum Adventure or slurp down a cuppa at a tea tasting session.
At Bristol’s M Shed, February 13th’s family activity day is themed around ships. Try arts and crafts and find out what sailors got up to at sea. Alternatively, the venue’s Winter Lecture Series explores the life of palaeontologist Mary Anning and her discovery of the first ‘sea dragon’. Pay what you can tickets are available for the talk held at the gallery or online. Or head to the city’s Museum and Art Gallery to welcome in the Year of the Dragon with a feast of performances, crafts and a Chinese-inspired menu! Find our more here
Manchester’s Science + Industry Museum’s Operation Ouch! Food, Poo and You takes a headfirst dive into the digestive system for an unforgettable journey of super-sized science. Events this half-term include the Rust Retreat, a sensory experience inspired by Manchester’s industry, multiplayer showdowns at Power Up and the Story Station. Teenagers will love Art Battle Manchester, as 10 artists are challenged to create a masterpiece in only 30 minutes.
Enjoy festivals and feasts at the National Roman Legion Museum in Wales. Put on a toga and clap for a slave to bring you your favourite dish or make a paper flower garland. And At the National Waterfront Museum there’s a celebration of the Year of the Dragon, plus Drag Queen Story Hour.
Liverpool’s museums and galleries are buzzing with things to do this holiday. Enjoy baby-friendly planetarium shows, join the World Museum’s Youth Engagement Forum for a day of climate activism or rummage around the Maritime Museum to find where the smuggled goods are hidden.
Scottish museums go wild this half-term. Listen to folk stories at the the National Museum of Rural Life, or follow are Rewilding Trail and join a climate change session for kids at the Museum of Scotland.
DO FIRST SIGNS OF SPRING
The snowdrops are out, and they’re beautiful. Why not go for a walk amongst drifts of these first signs of Spring? The famous Galanthus Festival at The Garden House in Devon is in full swing until March 10, or you can find a garden full of them near you here or here. If you’re further north, discover more about them at Scotland’s snowdrop festival, held at venues across the country. Or create your own permanent displays indoors – will you go for tissue paper or origami versions?
If you prefer a more cheering yellow, the first daffodils are beginning to bloom find a National Trust spot full of them near you here or in a garden here. Alternatively, make your own! Find lots of inspirational, daffodil-based lesson plans here and a spectacular experiment for toddlers (or anyone who likes creating strangely coloured blooms) here.
EVENT AND DO SPOT THE STARS
In addition to being a near-magical activity, free and fun, the community of astronomers connects people worldwide. Find out more about stargazing with your family here and our favourite stargazing spots in the UK here.
The clear skies and relatively early sunsets of winter are a perfect time to start your exploration of the skies, and February’s Dark Skies festivals make a good jumping-off point. Learn how prehistoric people navigated using using the stars, try night-time bike riding, lose yourself in electronic music inspired by the night sky, be transported to a nocturnal world of mountains with photographs and poems, take in pop-up planetarium shows, learn about cutting-edge astrophotography and – of course – join stargazing events at venues from churches and white chalk horses to clifftops and even atop Brighton’s i360. The South Downs festival starts on February 10, North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales from February 9, Northumberland’s Noctalgia exhibition is showing now / and Welsh Dark Skies week from February 9th.
LEARN AND DO TAKE THE LEAP
2024 has a February 29, the once-every-four-years leap day. Most people know that traditionally, this was the day when women could propose to men, a custom that seems somewhat archaic now. However, did you know that in Germany, girls leave branches decorated with ribbons on the doorsteps of anyone they have a crush on, that in Taiwan, a married daughter is expected to bring pig trotter noodles to her parents, that there’s a French newspaper that only gets published on this singular date, and that a special club exists for anyone born on the extra day. Find out more here
WHAT WE’RE EATING: RECIPES FOR PANCAKE DAY Here are some of our favourite pancake recipes for Shrove Tuesday. Whether you fancy a vegan treat or a banana dosa with ice-cream tonight - we’ve got you covered. Find the recipes here
WHAT WE’RE READING Is Feminist Attachment Parenting Possible? “I’m pregnant with my first child, and have done a lot of work and a lot of thinking about how to make things more equal between my husband and me. I’ve basically forced him to have weekly conversations about this, and I do believe we’re heading in the right direction.
Except that I hope to breastfeed, and plan to do other attachment-based practices like always responding to cries, prioritizing the baby’s needs, not sleep training, room-sharing, etc. I can’t help but wonder if I’m setting myself up for the sort of parenting that my husband will one day dismiss as unnecessary, and if it’s possible to breastfeed and do all of this other stuff and still have equality?” Read more here