Here are some unusual ideas for things to do with the children during the holidays. They all involve getting out and about into your local community and looking at your home town with new eyes. And they don't cost as much as a day at a theme park either.
See how much your town has changed. First you need to find some old pictures of your town, city or village. Try your library's local history section for a book of old pictures. Britain in Old Photographs is an extensive series of books for towns all over Britain, and many local history groups publish their own old photographs books. Next, see if you can find the places in the old pictures, and try to photograph them from the same position. Single use cameras can be bought from as little as Ł2.99 if you don't want to hand your camera over to the little ones! Warning! Many pictures were taken from the middle of the road in days when there wasn't so much traffic to worry about. Don't wander into the road trying to get just the right angle..
Have a 'look up day'. This is a variant of the last idea. Look above the level of the shop fronts in your local high street. You will find extravagant architecture, carvings, date plaques and chimneys all of which are reminders of your town's past. (Sorry, this won't work if you live in Milton Keynes). Maybe you will be able to guess a previous use of the building. In the 1970's many cinemas were closed down and turned into bingo halls or supermarkets, so if a building looks rather grand for it's current use, it may have been a 'picture palace' in the past.
Go and make a record of your local war memorials. You could photograph or draw them. The Imperial War Museum is building a database of all the war memorials in Britain. Memorials include outdoor ones, usually with crosses or a sculpture of a soldier, and indoor 'Rolls of Honour'. Sadly many memorials are being lost as churches are deconsecrated and others are simply falling into disrepair. Make a record of those who died for our freedom. Visit the Imperial War Museum's UK National Inventory of War Memorials.
Local graveyards and cemeteries are fascinating. Are any famous or historic figures buried in your local church? What is the oldest readable stone? Which is the most interesting design, the most beautiful angel? My local church has a collection of stones with skulls on them. This is also an opportunity to teach the children not to run over the graves, and to remind them that other people will be there for quiet reflection, so even if it's out of doors they must still be quiet. A donation to the church funds would be nice if you decide to do this.
Go on a Wildlife Safari. Go to your nearest park, woodland, pond or river and see just how many different types of wildlife live there. Ponds and rivers will have fish, frogs, voles, ducks, insects and maybe geese or swans. You don't have to be an expert, just be able to spot the different types. The park will have different types of birds, squirrels and insects. If you are lucky enough to live near woodland you might see deer as well. Visit Natural England, the Scottish Wildlife Trust or the Irish Wildlife Trust for more information on wildlife in your area. English Nature also has some ideas for a wildlife safari in your own garden.
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