These next few months are busy ones for us; we’ve got several birthdays coming up and, of course, Christmas on the horizon. Although I love buying gifts for family and friends (and receiving them, ahem!), these days I’m all about the memories and so like to invest in experiences. Alfie, my eldest, turns 11 in a couple of weeks time and I’m taking him to theatre as part of his birthday present; last year we took him to the New Scientist Live exhibition in London. We were in Guatemala when Tess turned 7 and enjoyed a fabulous day touring Lake Atitlan by boat and, for Sam’s next birthday in March, he’s asked to go to Peppa Pig World (yes, two very contrasting experiences!). We also often give the kids tickets to see a show at Christmas, an experience we can all enjoy together. So, with the celebration season on the horizon, I’ve come up with a list of days out and gift experiences for kids that I think are perfect for birthdays, Christmas and beyond! If you have any more suggestions, I would love to hear them.
Be Lewis Hamilton for the day
My husband has always said that he’d love a track day for a gift one year but I had no idea that this was a present option for kids as well. But what was once the domain of adult petrol heads is now available for kids too; children as young as 11 can take to the track and be their favourite racing car driver for the day. And we’re not talking about any old cars here, on days out with Trackdays, kids can sit behind the wheel of a range of incredible cars including Porsche, Lotus, Ferrari and McLaren. My favourite is the Junior Aston Martin experience; what child doesn’t want to be James Bond?! These experiences are especially designed for children and are available at selected driving centres across the country. Buckle up!
Learn to be Willy Wonka
We’ve previously made chocolate in Guatemala and the kids had an amazing time so I know that my children would love this gift experience, especially my daughter Tess. There are various options around the country including the My Chocolate Workshop, which gives chocoholics the chance to make gooey treats to take home and enjoy. The session includes making and decorating a chocolate button before moving on to chocolate truffles, created from fresh cream and dark chocolate (for children 8 and up). Hotel Chocolat also runs one-hour chocolate workshops for children aged 5 to 13 where budding chocolatiers learn the history of chocolate and how chocolate is made before decorating their own (invariably messy!) masterpiece. If you’ve got teenagers then Melt London offer a chocolate bar making workshop for teens that sounds really fun.
Become a zookeeper
A huge number of zoos around the UK now offer kids the chance to become a zookeeper for the day and I think this is the perfect gift for animal-mad children. Chessington World of Adventures offer four-hour Zoo Keeper experiences where kids get to work in the Children’s Zoo and Wanyama Village, meeting the resident ferrets, capybaras, meerkats and more. This gift experience is for children aged 7 to 16 years. At the London Zoo, kids aged 11-15 years can work alongside a zoo keeper with a variety of animals including giraffes, monkeys, llamas and coatis. Woburn Safari Park in Bedfordshire, offer a fantastic zookeeper experience for children aged 8-15 where kids can get stuck into mucking out and preparing food for some of the animal residents. You’ll get to meet the Lorikeets, feed penguins, hold an owl and meet the comical lemurs.
A night at the museum
There are lots of museums that offer overnight experiences but one that is top of our list is the Dino Snores event at London’s Natural History Museum. Held monthly, this unique sleepover allows children aged 7 to 11 the opportunity to explore the museum after dark. Kids get to explore a torch-lit trail, making dinosaur t-shirts, watch a science show and then go to sleep in one of the NHM’s incredible halls. HMS Belfast in London offers the brilliantly named Kip in a Ship event, where children groups of 20 children can sleep in real sailor’s bunks while learning all about life on board a warship. Although the experience is geared towards groups (schools, scouts etc..), wouldn’t it make the most awesome birthday party?! At the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, children can experience the underwater world after light’s out with the Sleeping with Sharks experience. Enjoy a twilight tour of the aquarium (and find out if fish sleep!), as well as arts and crafts, games, a big screen movie and a midnight snack.
Hold your own Hedwig
If your child has dreamed of having their own Harry Potter owl (and, let’s face it, which child hasn’t) then there are some wonderful days out that allow kids – and their parents – to get up-close and hands-on with birds of prey. The Hawk Conservancy Trust offers a half-day Children’s Owl Experience where kids aged 6-11 can handle and fly a variety of species of owls, which may include a Tawny Owl, a Boobook Owl, a Great Grey Owl and a Long-eared Owl. Kids also learn how to identify owls and then dissect owl poo to discover what they eat! For an experience that includes other birds of prey, Falconry Days offers a Family Activity Day that includes a guided tour, and meet and greet with the various birds native to the park, and a hands-on flying session. And, if your child is really bird-crazy, then consider taking them to Puy Du Fou in France, home to the most spectacular bird show!
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Disclosure: This is a collaborative post, all views are, as always, entirely my own. Photo credits Unsplash.com.