What’s On for Half Term in Sussex
Over 30 ideas to entertain kids of all ages over the school holidays
Trails, shows, science, crafts, baking, acting, chuckling, eating and much more to entertain youngsters in this bumper What’s On for half term in Sussex. Here are 30+ ideas – some are even free!
Brighton Science Festival, various locations Sat 10 – Sun 18 Feb
Over 100 events aimed at children and adults include getting creative in the kitchen with Slime Time and Potions and Commotions; an exhibition about an arctic adventurer; mad machine building; monster making; a rocket factory; eco cars; shadow puppets; coding and a guided bike tour of the solar system (kind of). Heaps going on for children – sounds a half term saviour – and some activities are pitched at adults.
FREE Protest! craft sessions, Littlehampton Museum, Tues 13 – Fri 16
Littlehampton Museum has free Suffragette-themed craft sessions this half term making scarves, badges and the like while children learn more about how women gained the vote 100 years ago. It ties in with the current exhibition Vote! Littlehampton and the Suffragettes. The workshops run 2.00pm – 4.00pm, Tues 13 – Fri 16 and are for ages 5 +
National Trust trails, various locations, half term week
Several National Trust houses have children’s trails over half term. Petworth House has a trail, (until 25 March) based on woodland animals and poems, to coincide with its current William Blake exhibition, while Uppark, near Petersfield is encouraging children to spot, listen and draw signs of Spring. At Kipling’s former home Bateman’s at Burwash, solve clues to follow a toy treasure hunt in the garden and house. There’s also a seasonal trail at Nymans near Haywards Heath. Most activities are a small charge on top of regular entry, some have a prize attached.
PART FREE Kids go free at British Airways i360, Sat 10 – Sun 18 Feb
Here’s a good time to get up the big stick and doughnut because kids go free this February half term. That’s up to three free kids per paying adult (no, you can’t just leave them riding up and down all day!) There are also rocket-building workshops taking place as part of Brighton Science Festival.
Lost and Found, Clair Hall, Haywards Heath, Fri 16 Feb
A stage version of the tear jerking story (just me?) of a little boy’s quest to return a lost penguin to the icy North. Tickets are £9.50 each (£9 for three or more).
PART FREE South Downs Dark Skies festival, various locations, Fri 9 – Sun 25 Feb
Wrap up warm and get out for this annual celebration of the South Downs being designated a dark sky site. There are several guided stargazing events and tie-in activities, many of them free or low cost, including stargazing sessions on weekends at Battle Abbey 3 -25 Feb and an open day at Midhurst Rother College, West Sussex on Sat 10 Feb. See my full round-up of the Dark Skies events in Sussex here.
Early Man quest, Battle Abbey, nr Hastings, Sat 10 – Sun 18
Aardman’s latest animated film Early Man, is out in cinemas on 26 January, featuring plucky caveman Dug and his sidekick Hognob. Explore Battle Abbey in search of the characters to uncover centuries of history in one day – successful adventurers get an Early Man mini model making kit. £1 on top of entry.
Sea Stars, Sea Life Centre, Brighton, Sat 10 Feb onwards
Starfish are the latest, err star attractions at Brighton’s Sea Life Centre. The creatures come in a range of different shapes, colours and sizes and not all have five arms – some apparently can have up to 200 – eek! The exhibit is open for half term and beyond. Individual tickets are from £10.50, if bought online, under 3s are free, but check out the various packages for two people upwards.
The Ugly Duckling and Other Tales, The Capitol, Horsham, Sat 17 Feb
There once was an ugly duckling… but don’t worry I’m sure it all ended happily. The tale is linked with The Princess and the Pea, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and The Emperor’s New Clothes in this Hans Christian Anderson adaptation suitable for ages 3 to 10. It’s in the Capitol’s Studio. There are performances at 1.00pm and 4.00pm and tickets are £12.
Comedy Club 4 Kids, Komedia, Brighton, Sat 17 Feb
This is a great concept – regular comedians doing non-patronising material pitched at the over sixes. Jokes and songs about poo, bogeys, space and dinosaurs, with knowing comments and humiliation for the adults. The kids heckle with their hands up and you’ll have a brilliant laugh too – trust me, I’ve been a couple of times.
FREE (ISH) Matt’s Comedy Club Open Mic Night, Pavilion cafe bar, Worthing, Thurs 15 Feb
More family-friendly comedy coming up in Worthing and pitched a bit older with this swear-free, smut-free show for ages 12+ . It’s pay what you like on the night but you’ll have to book a place. It kicks off at 8.00pm.
FREE Smuggling Saturdays, Novium Museum, Chichester, Saturdays until 10 March
The Novium is running a host of free family-friendly activities between 11.00 and 14.30 on Saturdays with storytelling, crafts and talks with object handling all relating to the smuggling heritage of the coast. Also book ahead for a Smuggler’s Sleepover on 7 April.
Natural craft sessions, Sheffield Park & Garden, Uckfield, Mon 12 – Fri 16 Feb
If your kids are feeling crafty, get them to channel it into cone animal making at these drop in workshops at Sheffield Park, aimed at 3-7 year-olds. Plenty of chances to run wild in the woodland afterwards. It’s £3 per child for the crafts on top of entry, with sessions 11 – 12 am.
Ladies of Bodiam, Bodiam Castle, East Sussex, Sat 10 – Sun 18 Feb
It’s all about the women at Bodiam Castle this half term with a prize trail to help youngsters discover the roles that Lady Elizabeth Dallingridge and other local wealthy women played in the establishment of the site. It’s suitable for 5 – 11-year-olds and £2.50 on top of usual entry fees.
Living With Nature, Hever Castle, Kent, Sat 10 – Sun 18 Feb
Find out how to create habitats and encourage wildlife into your garden in this RSPB workshop. Join RSPB volunteers on a stroll around the grounds to learn about natural and manmade habitats or take a self-guided ‘Wildlife Detective’ walk to investigate animal footprints and tracks. In the Castle, learn about nature throughout history from how fur was used to keep warm to which birds belong to the Queen.
Robin Hood, The Old Market, Hove, Fri 9 – Sat 17 Feb
The Old Market has an action-packed adventure for half term with a modern take on Robin Hood, featuring comedy and live music. It’s pitched at ages 7+ and tickets cost £8.50 or £30 for a family of four.
National Trust Snowdrop spots, West Sussex, Jan & Feb
Wakehurst’s displays of snowdrops form huge drifts as you walk from the Visitor Centre and around the trees near the Mansion Pond and a new Winter Garden features snowdrops among the 35,000 plants. Volunteer guides lead a tour daily at 11.30am. At Nymans, Handcross, near Haywards Heath visitors can spot snowdrops, camellias and magnolias underplanted with daffodils and grape hyacinths. Snowdrops can also be found in the bulb meadow in the walled garden. By Valentine’s Day, over 150 different types of plant should be flowering there.
PART FREE Imagine Children’s Festival, Southbank Centre, London, Weds 7 Feb – Sun 18 Feb
12 days of jam-packed half-term fun in this brilliant annual festival for kids. Aimed at 0-12 year olds, there’s a mind-boggling array of activities and events, including a whole clutch of free possibilities in The Clore Ballroom, Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, dance-theatre Tidy Up, Fun DMC, Bedtime stories, plus debut authors comedian Harry Hill and Radio One’s Greg James.
Winnie The Pooh: Exploring a classic, V&A museum, London, until Sun 25 Feb
AA Milne’s enduring bear is the subject of this charming exhibition (the V&A’s first ever family show), which features letters, sketches, ceramic, photographs and fashion. There’s a free pop-up interactive performance each day at 11am, 1pm and 3pm includes role-play and story-telling. Children are encouraged to dress up as their favourite character or bring their favourite cuddly toy.
Knight School, Tower of London, all week
Enrol your youngster to train as a page, then squire before eventually graduating to full knight status (No darling, you can slay your brother with that sword.) They get to create helmets and shields, complete with family coat of arms, defend the tower and all sorts of fun, fighty, knighty stuff.
Noggin the Nogg, Connaught Theatre, Worthing, Sun 10 Feb (plus Horsham, 13 April)
‘In the Lands of the North where the black rocks stand guard against the cold sea…’ Noggin the Noggin and his brilliantly monikered nemesis Nogbad the Bad had been off on their viking sagas a fair while before I even caught them as a kid. They used to be a cardboard stop animation series, now they’re set to enchant a new generation in a live show. Tickets are £9.50 (£8 each for a family of four). It’s also coming up at Horsham on 13 April.
Half term breadmaking at Saddlescombe Farm, Devil’s Dyke, near Brighton, Sun 11 Feb
Get kneading and make bread or pizzas in a traditonal clay oven at this National Trust site. An historic tour is included while you wait for your creations to rise. The Dough? £12 for adults, £6 for children. Booking essential. There are similar events coming up on 26 Feb and for Mother’s Day on 11 March.
PART FREE Devonshire Collective, Digital Weekender, Eastbourne, Fri 9 – Sun 11 Feb
There’s a special weekend at DC1 Cafe & Gallery as it puts on its second Digital Weekender with the theme of Storytelling: Real & Unreal. A technologist explores how fictional technology might actually work, there’s an immersive drama and a stop animation workshop for children on Saturday, then a virtual reality workshop on the Sunday. Events are from free up to £15, check age guidelines.
A Brave Face, Capitol Theatre, Horsham, Sat 10 Feb
Here’s something you can see with teens. The UK’s leading full mask theatre company – Vamos – is back with this play exploring Post-Traumatic Stress, the unseen injury of war, and the impact it can have on families. This compassionate story was created from two years of research with ex and serving soldiers, families and health professionals and follows a soldier from 2009 Afghanistan to his return home. It’s suitable for ages 12+ Tickets are £12.
DROP OFF Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes workshops, The Hawth, Crawley, Mon 12 – Fri 16 Feb
Want to drop your kids off to have some fun over half term? Be quick and you could get them on a week of workshops at the Hawth which culminate in them performing Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes. Somewhat bizarrely I was once given the book for a Valentine’s present and they are cracking silly stories turning soppy princess tales on their heads. The workshops take place 10.30 am to 3.30 pm Mon to Fri and cost £85 (£75 for Youth Theatre members) – bargain childcare! But be warned, there’s limited availability.
Wild Families, Wild in the Woods, RSPB Pulborough Brooks, Sun 11 Feb.
Den building, a bug hunt and creating a village for fairies (and woodlice) are some of the fun things kids can get up to at RSPB Pulborough Brooks on Sunday 11 Feb. It’s £5 per person, drop in between 11.00am and 3.00pm.
Hastings Fat Tuesday umbrella parade Sun 11 Feb / Masquerade Studio, De La Warr pavilion, Bexhill, Mon 12 Feb
Venues across Hastings are welcoming music acts from across the UK for the town’s take on Mardi Gras. There’s also a family-friendly umbrella parade on the Sunday 11 Feb. Tying in with the carnival, children can make your own fantastical mask at the De La Warr pavilion in a workshop led by artist Sinéid Codd. It’s £8 per person aimed at for 8-12 year olds and runs for two and a half hours in a choice of two time slots on 12 Feb. See the latest exhibition while they get crafty.
Shrove Tuesday pancake lunch, Tues 13 Feb, Bluebell Farmhouse Kitchen, Arlington
Take a stroll around the well-loved woods then get stuck into pancakes (and avoid them sticking to your own ceiling at home). Sounds flipping good. It’s £10 each and the lunch is 12.00 – 13.30.
FREE Brilliant Birds, Rye Harbour, Tues 13 Feb
Aren’t birds brilliant? Sussex Wildlife Trust thinks so anyway and its encouraging children (with accompanying adults) to join them making treats for garden birds and spotting some winter visitors out on the reserve. It runs 10.00am – 12.00pm and is free with a suggested donation of £1 per item made.
The Little Match Girl and other Happier Tales, Minerva Theatre, Chichester, Tues 6 – Sat 10 Feb
Having debuted at the Globe in London this beautiful puppet production brings Hans Christian Anderson’s magic to Chichester. The Little Matchgirl is combined with The Princess and the Pea, The Emperor’s New Clothes and Thumbelina. It has been getting great reviews. Tickets are from £20.
Sing-a-Longa Beauty & The Beast, Theatre Royal, Brighton, Sun 11 Feb
Sick of the songs from Frozen? This new singalong event visiting Brighton lets you and yours exercise your lungs along to the live action Beauty and the Beast with Emma Watson instead. You’ll be taught hand actions beforehand and get a props bag. There’ll also be a prize for best fancy dress costumes. It’s on at 2.00pm and 7.00pm tickets are £15 adults, £12 children. All together now… “Tale as old as time…”
George’s Marvellous Medicine, Theatre Royal, Brighton, Tues 27 Feb – Sat 3 March
Remember when Rik Mayall read this on Jackanory back in the day? Absolute classic. Anyway here it is as a live show. A Roald Dahl adaptation that’s perfect for kids ages 5 plus, as George tries to cure his rather mean Grandmother of her nastiness with a special potion. Don’t try this at home! Tickets are from £19.
So You Think You Know About Dinosaurs..?! The Capitol, Horsham, Wed March 14
Dr Ben Garrod pits the knowledge of unwitting parents against their dinosaur-loving kids in this interactive, educational and entertaining show which uses footage from the BBC’s Planet Dinosaur. Tickets are £16.50 (£54 for a family of four). It’s aimed particularly at 5 -12s and complements key stages 1 & 2.
Pom Pom headband workshop, The Wee Store, Hove, Sat Feb 24
Create a cute pom pom headband at this My Craft Party pop-up event at the Wee Store in Hove. There’s space for only eight children, so book quickly. Suggested age 6+. Tickets are £10.02.
Elderflower Fields festival, Pippingford Park, Fri 25 – Mon 28 May
Last few tickets left for this year’s family-friendly Elderflower Fields festival – it’s likely to sell out in a couple of weeks so get your skates on if you want to be there. Adult weekenders are £130, kids tickets are from £1 to £72,50, depending on age.