The Best of… Summer Stuff for Kids, by Anna Morell

Moscow State Circus WOW Kent 2015

The long summer holidays stretch endlessly into the future. ‘I’m soooo bored!’ Cry the adults… So we thought you might like a ready reckoner of boredom busters for the holidays.

A word about travel: If you can’t drive, Arriva is doing a Summer Sizzler day ticket, only £10 for two adults and two kids to go pretty much anywhere on their buses in Kent – in fact to all of the places mentioned below apart from Northward Hill and Leeds Castle.

Here goes:

BEST RAINY DAY SOFT PLAY 

 

Maidstone Mote Park WOW Kent
Mote Park, Maidstone

Maidstone Mote Park – Polar Adventure. Mote Park may be better known for its endless green space, lake and narrow gauge weekend railway, but the leisure centre has a great pool ‘n’ polar adventure feature – great for eights and unders. Have a splash around on the slides and wave machine enhanced water before drying off to (brrr!) chill out on the climbing and sliding equipment in the Polar themed soft play area next door.

Kent Life – play barn. I have tried to get my child to look at the animals, go to the petting corner, jump on the bouncy castle, meet the mascot, bump around on the tractor ride, explore the historic buildings and watch ferret races. I really have. But frankly, what have those things got over a multi-storey play barn? If only you could leave kids there all week (bonus: it NEVER smells of wee here. Manure yes, wee no. Amazing).

BEST BIG TICKETS

 

Brick City WOW Kent 2015
Brick City

Brick City at Maidstone Museum takes little builders everywhere from Mote Park to Milan. They can build whatever they like with bricks galore, as well as taking a mini-tour of the world in Lego form. Adults £4, Under 16s £2, Family ticket £10 (two adults and up to three children).

The Historic Dockyard, Chatham has the V&A’s much-lauded War Games exhibition of children’s war-themes toys through the ages as well as hands-on fun at the Sailors’ Academy on HMS Gannet, and experiments with mad scientist, Doc Yard.

And Leeds Castle has it all – boat and land train rides, landscaping to make elder relatives swoon, the castle (of course), climbing play, the maze, falconry and great dining. Both the Dockyard and Castle have pay once and come again for the year ticket options.

BEST SHOWS

Dartford’s Orchard Theatre has a flurry of child-friendly shows this summer, including Tree Fu Tom, and the Julia Donaldson favourites, Stick Man and Room on the Broom.

Gravesend’s Woodville Halls has Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom – Live On Stage on 7-8 August – read our review here.

For those who like a bit more thrill, the Moscow State Circus is in Maidstone on 28-29 July, then in Folkestone from 31 July – 4 August.

BEST ALMOST-SEASIDES

 

The Strand Gillingham WOW Kent
The Strand, Gillingham

Always check the tides first! But did you know, Gravesend riverfront and Pier was an Edwardian go-to for locals and Londoners? There are historic photos of plenty of paddlers! Take a walk along the Pier with an ice cream and feel the salt in your hair!

Upnor beach – walk from the Arethusa Centre along this forest-edged pebble beach, all the way to the lovely lived-on lightships up at Hoo Marina. Listen to the clanking of halyard on mast as you look out on the yachts moored in front of those cute Moomin-fisherman-style houses across the water on St Mary’s Island.

All Hallows – catch the 191 to All Hallows and follow your nose to the London Stone at Yantlet Creek – officially the end of the Thames and the start of the sea. You may even be able to forage some samphire for tea.

Grain Coastal Park – another bus-friendly destination – walk the nature trail and skim stones from the pebble beach. Have a dip before hitting the pergola’d cafe next to the car park for crab sandwiches and a Cornetto.

The Strand, Gillingham – A shingle beach for strandline exploring and a retro-vibed seafront-style leisure park – home to a properly wonderful swimming pool with slides and a lazy river (float round on a lilo) and water zorbing; mini, crazy and foot golf, a bouncy castle and bouncy slide, mini train; ice cream, swings, slides and a basic ice cream and burger cafe. New for summer is the One Day Fun Pass, giving unlimited access to absolutely everything: £10 child, £12.50 adult. Pack a picnic and go for the day.

BEST WILDLIFE SPOTTING

Cobtree Manor Park has a butterfly walk on 30 July, Mote Park has a bat walk on 8 August and RSPB Northward Hill has a Big Wild Sleep Out on 8-9 August.

BEST SECRET MUSEUMS

 

Tunbridge Wells Museum WOW Kent
Tunbridge Wells Museum

The Tyrwitt-Drake Museum of Carriages in Maidstone. Does what it says on the chassis. Adult £2, child under 5 free.

The Royal Engineers Museum in Gillingham – try rations, try on uniforms and make your own soldier, Tuesdays through Saturdays all summer. Pay once, make unlimited visits all year. Members of the services and their families go free.

Tunbridge Wells Museum – an eclectic tumble of curiosities – old-skool curation at its most glorious what the heck.

Rochester’s Guildhall Museum. We like the Sea Eagle shot down in Rainham. Can you imagine when those things flew overhead – over *your head*?

And the Colonel Stephens Museum at the Kent and East Sussex Railway. Who doesn’t love a steam train?

BEST THINGS TO DO IN A LIBRARY

 

Les Petites Allouettes WOW Kent
Les Petites Allouettes

Les Petits Alouettes – French songs for eights and under every Wednesday at Rochester library. Craft and stories, weekly at several Medway libraries. Explore the deep sea, space, weather, birds and spiders. And Strood library has a drop-in Lego Club every Wed and Fri from 3pm.