School’s out for a week so wrap up warm and get out and enjoy some time with the children. Jaine Blackman gives some suggestions for half term

The forecast is for mainly sunny skies for most of next week – good news for parents with youngsters on a half term break.

If you’re planning to go out and about, there’s plenty going on in the Oxford area.

Here are some ideas for you: Story time and more Barefoot Books, the independent children’s book publisher on Banbury Road, Summertown, always has plenty on to keep youngsters occupied and this half term is no exception.

Events and activities include: on Tuesday children’s musician Nick Cope will be entertaining from 1.30pm to 2.15pm, tickets £5; on Wednesday Jonathan’s Jungle Roadshow (£10 per child) gives youngsters the chance to meet reptiles and invertebrates up close from 2pm to 3pm; on Thursday there will be a magic and juggling show (2pm to 3pm, £10 over fives) and on Friday from 9.30am to 3.30pm there will be an Out Of This World science workshop exploring star constellations, constructing rockets and seeing how astronauts really live while in space. (Suitable for children aged five to nine; £30, lunch included.

For details of these and other events see Oxford’s Story Museum in Pembroke Street also has plenty of half term events. See for details.

Fun for free The Pitt Rivers offers a treasure trove of weird and wonderful exhibits to interest the youngsters – what child can resist a shrunken head?

With free admission the museum offers family friendly activities every Sunday from 2pm to 4pm with sorting boxes, trails, colouring sheets and crafts.

For half term from 1pm to 4pm, Monday to Wednesday, the theme will be Home Sweet Habitat. Youngsters can explore how animals and humans make themselves at home, and build their own den. There will be crafts, object handling and a family friendly talk at 3pm.

And don’t forget to have a look around the Oxford University Museum of Natural History on Parks Road, which you walk through to get to the Pitt Rivers.

Animal crackers Snap to it to visit the UK’s only zoo for crocodiles and alligators Crocodiles of the World in Burford Road, Brize Norton (open 10am to 5pm daily, adults £8.95, child £6.50, ages two and under free).

At the zoo, which celebrates its first anniversary of moving to its new premises today, visitors can see more than 120 crocodilians (the word to group all species, including alligators) large and small.

See for details.

Cotswold Wildlife Park is another half term favourite. It exhibits more than 260 different species of animals at the park set in 160 acres of landscaped parkland and gardens, near Burford (10am to 5pm, adult £14.50, three to 16 £10, under threes free).

See for details.

Inside story Half term will see visitors exploring Oxford Castle Unlocked with a selection of castle characters guiding them on their way. In Tower rooms, prison cells and in the atmospheric crypt, inhabitants will linger, waiting to meet, greet and tell their tale. Adult £10.25, concessions £8.75, ages five to 15 £6.95, under fives free. Open daily from 10am, last tour 4.20pm. See for details.

Get active Ice skating, inflatable sessions and pool discos, table tennis and badminton coaching are just of the few things on offer at Oxford City Council leisure centres this half term.

For details see

Going wild Notcutts Garden Centre, at Nuneham Courtenay near Oxford, is hosting a free wildlife hunt for children.

Youngsters can win a chocolate lolly if they find toy animals hidden around the centre and can also meet some live creatures at the store’s pet centre. Ask a member of staff in store for more details.


Oxford Mail:

Author Jason Ayres works from home in Bicester – he’s aiming to complete his latest novel by the end of February – but will be taking a break from writing to focus on his sons Ollie, seven, and Jamie, four, this half term.

“We will probably spend a fair bit of this half term at home, purely because of the time of year,” says Jason, whose books include Fortysomething Father and Austerity Dad.

“I’ll probably get them involved in a few activities like cooking – as it is pancake day on Tuesday.

“If the weather’s dry and not too cold, we will probably go out to the park some days.

“It’s my birthday on Monday and we are planning on coming into Oxford on the bus – which the boys love, sitting at the front on the top deck, pretending to drive.

“We’ll have lunch at a child-friendly restaurant – somewhere like Giraffe – and then we might visit one of the museums or have a walk around the Castle.”

Jason’s tip for parents is: “Be prepared for disruptions due to the weather and try and focus on indoor activities.

“Have plenty of paper, pens, and creative stuff on hand, and there’s no harm in letting them stay up a bit later in the school holidays.

“You might even earn yourself a lie-in.”

Oxford Mail:

Mum Yesim Nicolson, pictured with husband Lee and daughters, who runs Angel Maternity ( from her home in Witney, will be juggling work and caring for daughters Aleyna, three, and Elodie, one.

“I will be taking some time off as the girls’ nursery isn’t open all week, but will be working as much as possible as we [Angel Maternity] are exhibiting at the Baby Show in London on February 20 to 22 and there’s still lots to organise. We’ll be out and about as much as the weather will permit. I’ll be checking out and for inspiration for things to do.

“We’ll definitely be visiting Blenheim Palace at some point during half-term.”

Oxford Mail:

Freelance copy writer and marketer Dawn Massam will be cutting back on her workload to spend time with children Maisie, 12, and Annabel and Oliver, both three. “It’s nice not to have to set the alarm clock or do the school run but it does wreak havoc with work,” says Dawn, of Abingdon, who last year organised a chilli festival in the town.

“I’m planning on doing lots of arts and craft activities with the children during the holidays and if the weather stays cold then there will be lots of baking. We will get out too – we’ve recently discovered Geocaching and will be doing more of that.”

“A perfect half term day would start with cuddles with all the kids in bed, a leisurely breakfast and a trip out somewhere local.

“The one tip I would give to parents is make full use of your local children’s centres, they often have a holiday programme and can be invaluable if you have young children.”

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