Half term fun: rain at the seaside

Let your kids look for the boats with silly names.

I love Mumsnet – especially the weekly summary emailed over on Fridays. But this week was a bit perplexed to see the word half term fun scratched out so it wasn’t clear if we were waiting for a half term of hell/fun. Mumsnet is always intense, and writes for laugh out louds. This post is by Nicola Baird.

But it makes childcare a great deal easier if the children are around you a lot, used to being both entertained and not entertained (depending on their ages!). And if that’s the case half term need be neither fun or hell – it’s  just days spent together (or in childcare or with friends/family until you get back).

For my 12 and 10 year old that is going to mean loads of reading, some house tidying (it’s almost spring cleaning a task we’ve put off for how many years, but now has to be done as I need a lodger). There’s a bit more time to cook meals, we can have friends around – especially those on half term hell/fun trips to the London museums. And we can make that trip to the seaside in the rain.

Listen: rain at the beach is no bad thing if you’ve got the right kit. I loathe walking up steep slopes/steps/dunes when the mercury’s rising and everyone is hot, tired and anxious about missing the train home. So wrap up warm and enjoy the UK’s practically empty beaches without the endless ice cream stall tantrum temptations and with all those visiting winter birds.

This is the closest we've been to a real fishing boat.

Not far from me is the Essex coast – longer than Cornwall! – and at Leigh-on-Sea (easy to reach by train from London) there are four pubs, plus zillions of fish restaurants and a few tea and cake shops. You don’t even need to go inside (although in winter that’s worth paying for) as there are a couple of fish sheds selling cockles in a pot, and two chip shops too.

Leigh seafront when the tide goes out offers a kalediscope of waders, rippling mud and half-beached boats. It’s a very atmospheric estuary, especially in winter. Despite the grey mist and grey water merging into a sort of drizzly miserable February day we saw loads of Brent geese and the cute little Turnstones (like short oyster catchers).

Nell was ecstatic to find heaps of oysters – brought inland by rougher winter seas and the dog adored his first time on a beach (dogs are allowed off lead here from 1 Oct – 4 May). More on birding on beaches with the kids by the Thames Estuary here.

Highlights of this wet day: telling the story of when Pip met Magwitch on the marshes (Great Expectations), finding a pub serving local beer and fish and chips, admiring the boars, and laughing when a guy on a bike cycled past us on the road to Southend Pier whistling “We all live in a yellow submarine…”  You see the skies here are grey as is the sea, but February half term is still a fantastic time to explore the beach. It’s all ours – and there’s no worry about the kids sunburning (or drowning) as it’s hard to do anything but stay a landlubber wrapped in fleeces.

For more ideas about rainy day activities see my book Homemade Kids: thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. Or enjoy your own time together at half term!

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