Children need to be out and about

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I ALWAYS worry whenever there is a school holiday that I won’t have enough planned for the children - paving the way to the eternal cry of “I’m bored” – possibly one of my most loathed expressions ever.

So in a bid to stave off the inevitable, I spend the weeks running up to the time off compiling lists of suitable things to do. These consist of days out, days in (especially given the current crazy weather) and days of both.

Mostly I try to get the offspring out, whether it is raining cats and dogs or not. They are very much like short-tempered puppies which require lots of regular exercise with many treats and rewards.

To leave them cooped up in the house all day does nothing but spell trouble. And with three of them in tow there is no way I could cope with the fall out in triplicate.

This half-term week I have been visiting my family in Newcastle. This was largely prompted by the fact I and my gang of old school chums had been invited by a very dear mutual friend to be Godmother to her six- month-old twin babies.

As she lives in Dublin and the rest of our group are in different corners of the country, it seemed the sensible plan for us all to come “home” to the North-East where we met all those years ago.

So this week a certain part of the city has been overrun with small children who have turned our collective parents’ lives upside-down with their youthful antics and non-stop energy.

Coming back to the city you left behind nearly two decades ago is always very odd. In the last few years I have only ever come back for relatively short bursts while I visited various relatives.

But this week was different. The other half had to work so I decided to brave doing three small people on my own – in someone else’s house. Although people are very kind and say things like “please treat this like your own home”, there is no way you would ever contemplate that.

And the children, sensing things are different, simply forget all the rules – like what time they are meant to go to sleep – and play up no end.

This week I have become sick and tired of having to go into their shared bedroom and urge them to keep the noise down – and this is because I want to get to sleep, not because I fear they may wake each other as I would at home. They seem to be having far too much fun – anyone would think they were on holiday!

When I was growing up in Newcastle I obviously didn’t have any children and so, short of the local park, I was at a loss for what to do with my offspring. The last thing I wanted was to let the days drift by without the children doing anything.

No matter how exhausted you may feel, the one thing I have learned as a parent is make sure you get out every day. Otherwise the dreaded cabin fever sets in. This can be handled fairly well in your own home, but when you are guests in someone else’s house it is not always that easy.

Thank heavens for the internet. A quick scout round a search engine threw up enough great ideas to keep me going all week.

I have also spotted quite a few great ideas in Sheffield too – in case we decide to head back home before the half-term week is up.

There is no end of things to do – from taking part in lambing days at a local farm to helping to paint a giant Chinese dragon in local libraries. I defy any child to say they are bored at all.

And the best thing about all these activities is the children are learning without even knowing they are being educated. They can collect stamps on passports as part of Sheffield’s Children’s University. Each stamp they get earns points towards certificates which they can be awarded at school.

The Sheffield City Council backed Passport to Learning allows children aged 5 – 16 the opportunity to try something new and learn a new skill or take part in an activity outside of school hours.

Just like a travel passport, passports are stamped each time they take part in an activity in the city and with this they collect learning “credits”.

The more activities they do outside of school the more credits they collect – ultimately being turned into bronze, silver or gold awards.

And for the month of February only the passports are free. For information about the Sheffield Children’s University and the Passport to Learning, call 0114 203 9134 or click on