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Half-activities for kids from streaming to pizza making
Photograph: Time Out

The best half-term activities in lockdown London

Keep the kids busy and entertained this February 2021 half-term with some fantastic activities around London

By Caroline McGinn
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If you have kids to look after right now, you might just be dreading half-term a little bit. Let's not go into it. You don't need to be reminded of quite how challenging it is to keep younglings entertained at the best of times. And, as we all know, this is certainly not the best of times. All is not lost however. There are still options available to you (beyond placating them with massive delivery feasts or whatever happens to be on Netflix), even in deepest darkest lockdown. Bring on the culture! Bring on entertainment! Bring on the massive glass of wine at the end of the day!

Natural highs

It might not feel like it, but the longest winter in history is almost over and spring is on its way. Get the buzz by planting dwarf sweet peas in old toilet roll tubes (they can be cultivated on your windowsill from mid-Feb then planted out in March). Or participate in the RSPB’s big garden birdwatch by snapping a tit or a mysterious London parakeet and sharing the pictures by Feb 19.  

Worth a punt: the Royal Parks have a sweet selection of digital half term activities including classes on how to craft eco-pots and birdfeeders, and what to plant when. Sign up here.

Escape reality

Pity the teens: experiencing puberty during lockdown is possibly even worse than homeschooling primary kids, what with there being no escape from your parents, siblings or hormones. But at least online escape games are having a moment (no prizes for guessing why). They’re mostly aimed at adults but it’s easy to find digital breakouts for the whole fam, or for teens and older kids. They range from full-on virtual experiences with Samurais, to low-fi fun like this brilliant Harry Potter teaser, built by a fan on Google Forms. 

Worth a punt: In the olden days teenagers went to raves where live DJs played music. Secret Warehouse, an immersive digi-adventure set in a world where a plague has decimated nightlife, gives an old skool flavour.

Cook schoolPhotograph: Sarah Weal

No, Chef!

In the Before Times, cooking for kids was a delightful weekend activity full of love, attention and the occasional severed thumb. After 11 months of relentless, daily mass-catering, it feels about as heartwarming as chucking chops at a swarm of locusts. Parents, we must step away from the pans. The time has come for them to cook for us. 

Brilliant non-profit org, Cook School is on a mission to help kids do just that. Their super-easy meal kit box is packed with fresh, sustainable ingredients measured out in brown paper. Instructions include cute, fridge-door ready ‘how to’ diagrams on basic cutting techniques, such as ‘the claw’. The meals include fragrant cauliflower curry with coconut milk, veggie burgers and homemade Valentine’s Day granola to toast and serve up to a grown-up, preferably in bed. This is the future; it smells delicious and tastes of coconut.

Worth a punt: Pizza kits from Time In Award-Winner Pizza Pilgrims, and Peter in the Pan. And don't forget our huge list of all the best DIY meals kits being delivered in London right now.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy

Three cheers for any festival or occasion that can make one particular day feel a little bit different from the endless parade of groundhog days around it. Happily it is Shrove Tuesday on Feb 16 – bang slap in the middle of half term, a golden, syruppy opportunity to eat pancakes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and teatime as well. Range beyond the British lemon juice classic, and try blinis with smoked salmon and quail’s eggs (kids love quail’s eggs and any mini-foods), crepes with nutella and fluffy buttermilk stacks with maple syrup and bacon. Or why not consult our list of failry unorthodox pancake recipes, each one supplied by a different London chef?

Worth a punt: If you must, you can order in from one of London’s best pancake restaurants.

Triage a teddy bear

Stave off the ‘but PLEASE DAD, I would take it for walks every day and scoop its poop conversation, and hang out with some commitment-free animals online instead. The indefatigable London zookeepers are hosting a week of virtual half term and fundraising events including #VetsAtHome, where animal-loving children can triage their teddy bears using materials from around the home. Plus, their ongoing Saturday and Sunday night animal bedtime story concept is pure genius. Tune in to their Facebook page at 6.30pm to hear The Tiger Who Came to Tea being read to Sumatran tigers inside their enclosure, or similar.

Worth a punt: Many digitised exhibitions are too much like homeschool, but the Senior Fish Curator’s tour of the Natural History Museum’s Tank Room is weirdly brilliant. 20 million wet specimens, pickled in alcohol - truly a show for our times.

Know what's nice? With or without kids? Walking. Check out London’s prettiest city strolls.

Alternatively if you're just looking for a massive list of cool stuff to stream this week, check out our comprehensive guide.

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