30+ things to do for kids of all ages this May half term
Will the region's children be bored senseless, running circles around the kitchen table? Not on our watch! We've got exhibitions, festivals, and fun galore for teens and tots alike.
SOMETHING FOR HISTORY BUFFS
Excellent: a list of fun stuff to do that also counts as “educational” — instant smug parenting. First up is Jubilee Jousting at Stonor Park on 3-5 June, where you and the kids will be whisked back to the days of chivalry and entertainingly dangerous sport. The knights throw in slapstick humour, encourage the audience to take sides and to boo and hiss aplenty, and there’s all sort of japes with swords and balls and chains. Oh, and a dress-up competition, judged by the real knights themselves, so the littlies should raid the fancy dress box for their finest knight/dragon/princess/royal regalia. See our full breakdown of the weekend here.
But why limit yourself to one historical era? The Half Term Fun at Chiltern Open Air Museum spans the centuries throughout half term. Kids can get stuck into all sorts of crafts (make swords, crowns, Jubilee bunting), dress-up, and frolic among the immersive displays.
Over at the Oxford Museum of Natural History, there’s an exhibition all about the revolutionary 19th century palaeontologist Mary Anning, on until 30 June. It’s a really interesting bit of history, and a great piece of historical girl power.
Or, if your little one is of the opinion that trains are the greatest thing to have ever graced God’s earth, they’ll be chugging mad about this next one: the Cholsey & Wallingford Railway is running special celebratory trains for the Jubilee weekend, 3-4 June. Book tickets for a picturesque, steam-powered journey through the South Oxfordshire countryside — and be sure to spring for the optional tea and cake, too.
Then, don’t miss the Half Term Codebreaking at Bletchley Park near Milton Keynes from 2-4 June. As well as the standard ‘TOP SECRET’ mission packs for kids to work through, the Park is holding special codebreaking sessions for families with children aged 7-14, taking place between 11-15.30.
There’s also Medieval Fool School at Oxford Castle & Prison, running 28 May – 5 June, which teaches the kids all the essentials of being a proper court jester. Juggling, tickle-feathers, jester hats…all the hits.
SOMETHING TO WATCH
Oh yes, darling, our children love the theatre. Specifically, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, everyone’s favourite childhood picture book brought to life on stage at The Oxford Playhouse from 2-4 June. Expect plenty of tea-guzzling, orange stripes, and clumsy chaos.
Also worth catching is the performance of Peter Pan at Cogges Farm near Witney on 1 June. A production by the award-winning outdoor theatre company Illyria in celebration of its 30th birthday, this boasts real high-rope flying. We’d expect nothing less!
Or, try Milton Keynes Theatre‘s staging of the play Cluedo from 30 May – 4 June, based on the classic detective board game. It’s set to be chock-a-block with entertaining mystery for the kids and nostalgia for the grown-ups.
And you DEFINITELY won’t want to miss Muddy favourite Giffords Circus, pitching up at Blenheim Palace from 2-6 June with its Mexican-inspired ¡Carpa! show. Bright colours, jaunty music, the sights and sounds of rural Mexico — and Giffords’ trademark charming style. I can’t wait.
But why settle for one circus when you can have two? From 29 May – 4 June, the award-winning John Lawson’s Circus is at Millets Farm Centre near Abingdon, bringing an extra gymnastic appeal to the standard farmyard delights. (While you’re there, note that PYO strawberries starts 28 May.)
You can also catch a range of films at the super-cool MK Gallery, projected onto the big screen with locally-sourced refreshments to munch through. Try Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore (1-2 June) or Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (29 May – 2 June).
SOMETHING FOR BALLS OF ENERGY
Need to get ’em out and about? The MK Gallery is currently offering ‘Bramble Ramble’ kits, which you pick up from the gallery to enjoy in Campbell Park. The answer to your anxiety over not providing Enid Blyton style childhoods, they’re full of sweet ways to get stuck into nature and the outdoors. And entirely free!
There’s also Waddesdon Manor’s much-loved Colourscape, which returns from 28 May – 5 June. If you haven’t been before, it’s a labyrinth of space, music, and colour made out of 56 interconnected chambers at the Aviary Glade – quite trippy, loads of fun, and total IG fodder. In fact, there’s a whole slew of special family activities on offer: a new animal adventure trail, crafts, and special seasonal picnics.
Or, try a local staple — you don’t need to stick to special events, after all! Willen Lake in Milton Keynes is a dead cert. Let them splash about or go for something a bit more hardcore: Treetop Extreme? Windsurfing? Kayaking? Take your pick. The Park also offers classes (paddleboarding/wakeboarding/sailing, etc) for kids and adults alike. Or, try a May Half-Term Camp at The Little Gym in High Wycombe, for active tornadoes aged from 3 to 12 years. You can sign your little one up for a Ninja, Vaulting Volcanoes, or Happy Handsprings Bootcamp, or full day sessions. Meanwhile, Rush Trampoline Park, also in High Wycombe, is always a good time. With 100 wall-to-wall trampolines, it’s the perfect spot for wearing out energetic children. And yes, there’s a mezzanine café for you to sit sedately while the madness unfolds.
SOMETHING FOR TEENS
A music festival should do well to satisfy the sulky grumps, and there are two to pick from this half term, just a hop over the border into Glos. First up is Cotswolds weekender Lechlade Festival (27-29 May), with a line up that includes Alexandra Burke and Irish rock band The Boomtown Rats. It’s determinedly family-friendly: there’s also Total Wipeout-style inflatables, woodland skills workshops, and storytelling on offer. Then, Wychwood Festival pitches up at Cheltenham Racecourse from 3-5 June, with a line up that includes Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Boney M. Another family-friendly affair, there’s also comedy, a kids’ lit festival, and workshops for all ages (including model-making with Aardman, AKA the creators of Wallace and Gromit).
Teens like getting their groove on? Take them to see Britain’s Got Talent dance legends Diversity at the New Theatre Oxford on 30-31 May. The dance show centres around the world of social media, the internet, and how we connect in the digital era, and features some truly show-stopping routines, light arrangements, and physical storytelling.
Older kids might get a kick out of the Potters Arms Comedy Festival in Amersham from 2-4 June, which offers a line-up of amazing comedians in nightly 8pm shows in aid of Ukraine. (There’s also a Kids Comedy session at 4pm on 4 June for younger ones). Names include Zoe Lyons, Simon Brodkin, and London Comedy Store’s Edge. It should feel suitably grown-up for any sulky so-and-sos and be a cracking good laugh for you, too.
Over the border into Berks, at The Nature Discovery Centre in Thatcham, the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust is holding a Teen Rangers Wildlife Club (for 12-16 year olds) on the morning of 4 June. Expect cool activities, bush craft skills, and getting stuck in with vital conservation efforts.
SOMETHING TO CELEBRATE!
Much excitement this half term, what with the whole Platinum Jubilee thing (and a four day weekend for us grown-ups, baby!). Sounds like one hell of an excuse to head to the capital and partake of the parties there. On 2 June, The Queen’s Birthday Parade will feature over 1,400 parading soldiers, 200 horses and 400 musicians going down The Mall, as well as RAF fly-bys. Then, on 5 June, more than 6,500 performers will be dancing, singing, and celebrating outside Buckingham Palace for The Queen’s Pageant, with a starry list of celebs including Ed Sheeran, Sir Cliff Richard, Gary Lineker, Bill Bailey, and Gok Wan. (Dazzle the kids, then indulge in some shopping for mum…?)
Can’t be faffed to head to London? There’s plenty happening right here. Blenheim Palace is throwing a fabulous Food Festival, headlined by Raymond Blanc 2-5 June, that boasts lots of demos and workshops, including a kid-oriented ‘Mindblowing Food & Science Show’. You can also follow a Jubilee Trail, telling the story of Blenheim’s connection to the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
More celebratory options? Take your pick! There’s a street-party-style party (2-5 June) on at Bletchley Park featuring bright bunting and live 1940s music. Or, Banbury Museum has a fun museum trail chasing the Queen’s escaped corgis as well as a Jubilee Craft Day (1 June). Or, the Chiltern Open Air Museum has suitably Vintage Jubilee Celebrations with popular 1940s music playing from a US Army Air Force Jeep and Lindy Hop dance classes for all ages. Proper parties galore.
Considering a day trip this half term? Check out our bang up-to-date insider guides to some of the best places to visit in the UK