FOR many parents, it doesn’t seem that long since they were trawling through the shops for new school uniforms and lunchboxes for their kids starting back school.
Now, half-term is upon us and suddenly parents are faced with the regular holiday dilemma of trying to keep their children entertained without breaking the bank.
So what do Edinburgh and the Lothians have on offer to keep pupils busy during their week-long break?
Tots to teens can try their hand at tennis, athletics, kayaking, swimming, football and gymnastics at Edinburgh Leisure’s half-day, full-day and week-long camps.
The camps will run from Monday to Friday at seven Edinburgh Leisure venues across the city. Prices vary, call 0131-458 2100 for more information.
Learn how to dribble, pass, shoot and defend at a basketball holiday camp at Deans Community High School in Livingston from Monday to Wednesday, between 10am and 2.30pm. Cost is £10 per day or £25 for a three-day camp. Open to children in primary seven through to second year at high school.
Those with an artistic streak can take part in Edinburgh Zoo’s Paint a Panda workshop. Drop-in sessions will take place from 11am to 3pm in the Rainforest Room of the Education Centre on Wednesday and Thursday. Cost is £3 per panda along with the normal entrance charge.
Bird lovers can join the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds at Edinburgh Zoo for a talk about wildlife and conservation. They will be stationed in the Budongo Trail from 11am to 3pm on Wednesday and Thursday.
Meet some furry friends and wriggly reptiles at Ocean Terminal on Tuesday, from noon to 4pm. Children can handle snakes, bunnies and the odd tarantula. There will also be free face-painting, arts and crafts and a pop-up removable tattoo parlour for kids.
An Egyptian mummy has been discovered. Can you enter the ceremonial chamber, unwrap the mummy and find out how the person died? Fascinating Mummies: Unwrap a Mummy will take place at the National Museum of Scotland from tomorrow until next Sunday, from 10.30am. Half-hourly throughout the day (45 minutes duration). Cost is £3 per child, accompanying adult goes free. Suitable for age seven and over. Book on 0300 123 6789.
Do you know where the food on your plate comes from? Or who was involved in producing it? Find out the answers at the Science on a Plate exhibition at John Hope Gateway (ground floor) of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. The free event will run until April 15, from 10am to 6pm. No booking is required.
Join storytellers Ailie Finlay and Marie-Louise Cochrane for interactive stories and games for children with additional needs, their families, friends and carers. The Story Kist: Inclusive Storytelling will take place at the Scottish Storytelling Centre tomorrow, from 11am to noon. Tickets cost £5, family ticket is £16 (four people). Open to all ages. Box office number is 0131-556 9579.
If Scottish tales and songs of the sea are more your thing, join Lea Taylor and Heather Yule at the Scottish Storytelling Centre on Friday at 10.30am. You and me . . . to the Sea . . . ! costs £5 and £3 for concessions. It is open to children aged seven and over.
Special offers and events
A new all-day ticket allowing visitors to Edinburgh’s Camera Obscura & World of Illusions to drop in and out of the attraction throughout the day will be available from tomorrow until next Sunday. Adult price is £10.95, students/senior is £8.95, children aged five to 15 is £7.95 and under 5s go free.
The attraction will also be extending its opening hours until 8pm for the half-term week.
Any child who arrives in full pirate or princess fancy dress at Deep Sea World’s Pirates and Princesses Week will get £2 off normal admission price to the aquarium (not valid with any other offer or family ticket). Storytelling sessions, a coin hunt around the aquarium complete with treasure maps, and pirate games including tug of war and walk the plank will take place from tomorrow until next Sunday.
Get your thinking caps on and take part in a special half-term kids’ quiz at Edinburgh Castle. The prize will be a giant Roary the Lion – Edinburgh Castle’s mascot – which was signed by X Factor rejects Jedward when they visited the Castle late last year.
The quirky quiz for kids will kick off tomorrow at 9.30am and will offer pupils a chance to learn fun facts about the Castle. It will run until the end of March and is free with admission to the Castle.
Get Sporty in West Lothian
West Lothian pupils can make a splash during the half-term break by enjoying free swimming at all West Lothian Leisure pools, from Monday to Friday between 10am and 4pm. Offer is available to children aged 15 or under.
Kayaking and climbing will be among the activities on offer as part of the February holiday programme, for children aged eight to 16, at the Low Port Centre in Linlithgow from Monday to Friday. Call 01506 775390 for more information.
Parachute games, athletics, tag rugby and basketball will be among the activities on offer to primary pupils at Active Fun, Active Feet (AFAF) in West Lothian. It will take place at Fauldhouse Partnership Centre on Tuesday and Wednesday from 10am to 2.30pm, and at Deans Community High School in Livingston on Thursday and Friday, from 10am to 2.30pm. The cost is £10 per day.
Drama and Theatre
Robin and the Big Freeze at Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, will keep children aged four and over entertained with puppets and live music on Tuesday, from 11am to 2.30pm. Tickets cost £6.50, or £24 for a family of four. The Brunton Youth Theatre, meanwhile, will present The Demon Headmaster next Saturday at 7pm. A group of friends take a stand against the actions of their headmaster, who wants to take over the world.
The Demon Headmaster is based on the children’s novel by Gillian Cross of the same name, which was also adapted for CBBC. Tickets cost £6.50, or £24 for a family of four. Book by calling 0131-665 2240.
The Singing Kettle will host its fancy dress party at the Festival Theatre on Sunday, from noon to 3pm, and everyone is invited to come along in fancy dress. Tickets cost £13.
Scottish Opera’s performance of Hansel and Gretel will take place at the Festival Theatre on Tuesday, Thursday and next Saturday at 7.15pm. Prices range from £16.50 to £49.50.
Barbie fans can treat themselves to a special screening of Barbie in A Mermaid Tale 2 at Vue Edinburgh on Thursday at 10.30am. Tickets start from £4.50 and can be booked at www.myvue.com.