No sooner are you sending your child off carrying his new lunch box or wearing her Mary Janes, before the next holiday, half-term or summer break appears around the corner… Of course, a whole week or two away somewhere (with a kid’s club to boot) is pretty magical, and we have suggestions for those kinds of holidays on our Travel Channel as well. But if you can only get a few days away with the whole family, then here are some options for days out closer to home with adaptations for toddlers, school-agers and tweens.

For toddlers… Any market, be it with a fashion, antiques or foodie leaning is great at this age, as there is so much to see and do and talk about and explore, just make sure there is some kind of foodie treat that they are holding out for at the end to help see them through.
For School Age… Set this age group a ‘market money’ challenge, whereby they have a set amount of money to spend and have to choose just one thing they love and get it for their budget.
♦ For Tweens… Fashion, crafts or gadget markets are the way to go at this age; again, give them a market day budget to save yourself the debate about whether they can have all three of the great tops or T-shirts they just can’t live without! 

This can happily use up either just a morning or you could max it out to two days – one spent making the crafts, another spent setting up a few ‘stalls’ and having the kids sell their wares. You could do this simply for your own family, or – if you are truly ambitious – see if other families want to join in and make it a proper cooperative ‘crafts festival’ market.
♦ For toddler inspiration… Have a glance through Usborne Preschool Activities Animal Fun book or Paper Scissors Glue by Catherine Woram.
For Primary School age… For inspiration, try the Art In A Box activity cards from Tate, Origami for Children by Mari and Roshin Ono, or try out one or two of Seedling’s kits. 
♦ For Tweens… Take a look at the fabulous Girls World by Jennifer Paganelli, including flowers you can make from fabric and even pom pom decorated pillows, and for boys try some of the Timberkits craft kits.

For toddlers… Give your picnic a theme to keep them busy – perhaps it’s pirates, dinosaurs, fairy queens or teddy bears. Whatever theme your child selects, take a look in your cupboard to conjure up a few picnic props: some kitchen foil wrapped around a cardboard ‘hilt and hammel’ can make an outstanding pirate sword, or colourful pipe cleaners decorating a cardboard headband can make a delicate fairy queen’s tiara. Keep the food simple, set the scene for plenty of imaginative play, invite a playdate friend to join in, then watch the fun begin.
♦ For Primary School ages… Read Florentine and Pig a day or two before, then follow the characters’ lead, cooking up your feast, then packing it all away in a perfect little picnic basket and preparing the bunting to hang from your very own picnic themed tree…
♦ For Tweens… You might need to make this one a bit more of an adventure for this age group. Seek out somewhere that will require a bit more of a walk through a wood (or the bush) before you get to your picnic destination, and perhaps set a few challenges along the way. If your children are less inclined to outdoor activities, you could also invite one of their friends to join in (that way they can gleefully grumble to one another whilst participating in this crazy idea their parents had…). Even the most grumpy of tween will return feeling just a little more in tune with themselves – and you – after a day out in ‘the wild’.

Take a look at our crib notes on notable theme parks here… Almost all of these have something for every age group. And meanwhile, let us know of the truly brilliant ones in your region so we can include these in a Secret City guide to theme parks in the future!

Give your child a good (but not-too-expensive) digital camera for the day (or just an hour), then set a theme – perhaps a colour group, a particular subject (“leaves” perhaps if it’s autumn, or “reflections in puddles” if it’s April showers time), or a shape that they have to identify in a range of different objects. It really doesn’t matter what age your child is – you’ll be amazed at what even a toddler will do with this kind of a project. Of course, after they have edited their photo shoot down to a handful of great shots, you will need to ensure you have them printed out, framed and hung on the wall for everyone to see and comment upon!