10 low-cost ways to entertain the kids during the holidays

Tue, Apr 3, 2012, 01:00

Easter is coming – and with it the promise of chocolate and two weeks off school. Want some relatively low-cost ideas to entertain the kids that don’t all involve ripping the foil from their stash of eggs? Read on . . .


You’re pretty much obliged to either partake in or organise an Easter Egg hunt. From Strokestown Park in Co Roscommon ( strokestownpark.ie ) to Belvedere House in Mullingar ( belvedere-house.ie) to Emo Court in Co Laois ( emocourt.net), you’ll find the Easter Bunny has been busy hiding eggs and drawing maps to find them. See schooldays.iefor details of one near you.

Alternatively, have some small friends around and invite them to find eggs in your garden. Colour-code them according to age so the pre-schoolers look for blue eggs, the four- to six-year-olds look for green, and so on. That way the smaller ones have a sporting chance of finding some before they’re scoffed by their elders. Maps and clues will make everything more interesting.


The days are getting longer, so moaning from youngsters about being dragged outside and away from whatever electronic gadget is in favour can be deftly ignored. Bring them to the local park, instigate a game of football on the beach or strike for pastures new. See coillteoutdoors.iefor details on forest parks and 150-plus recreational areas around the country.


Spring has sprung – and with it a whole new crew are waiting to meet small visitors at one of the country’s biggest attractions. There are some adorably cute baby goats and piglets and a new bongo calf to

welcome.On Good Friday and Easter Sunday, the Easter Bunny will be the guest of honour at a bunny disco on the great lawn in front of Haughton House. Watch the animals receive their Easter treats and visit the arts and crafts station in the farmhouse where Easter masterpieces can be created. There’ll also be additional keeper talks over the bank holiday weekend. See dublinzoo.iefor details.

There are plenty of picnic tables available, so there’s no excuse not to dust down the picnic basket and give it its first airing of 2012. And you’ll save on buying lunch.


See what it was like to have been aboard the ill-fated ship 100 years ago at the newly opened Titanic Belfast exhibition. The huge attraction spans nine galleries, combining special effects, dark rides, full-scale reconstructions and innovative interactive features to explore the story of the Titanic. Admission is free for children under five; £6.75 for children aged five to 16; and £13.50 for adults. There’s a 5 per cent discount if you book online. See titanicbelfast.com.


It’s an old reliable – and with good reason. The magic of the big screen rarely fails to work its charm and a number of family-friendly movies in cinemas happily coincide with the holidays. Pirates, Mirror Mirror and We Bought a Zoo will entertain the younger ones, while Wrath of the Titans, The Hunger Games and John Carter – if you can bear to watch what’s reputed to be Disney’s biggest flop – will appeal to older ones. Some multiplexes offer a 10 per cent discount if tickets are booked online. Bring your own snacks if you want to escape with your wallet relatively intact.


Our museums and galleries are free, and Easter activities for children are another good reason to visit them. The Before my Eyes – an Easter Surprise art workshop takes place at the National Gallery in Dublin this Saturday, April 7th, from 3pm to 4pm. It’s suitable for children aged four to 10. Arrive early as places are allocated on a first come, first served basis.

The following week supervised drawing will take place in the Atrium every day from 3pm to 4pm. See nationalgallery.iefor details. Treasure trails, art workshops and art packs are on offer at the Hunt Museum in Limerick ( huntmuseum.com) and you can take an Easter family tour of the Museum of Natural History on Saturday, April 7th at 3pm. Find

a golden egg at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Dublin on Easter Sunday at 3pm. There are edible prizes and no booking is required.


Treat your children to an outer space experience at the Armagh Planetarium, with its range of mesmerising digital shows suitable for different age groups. Running until Friday April 13th, it includes special shows, arts and crafts workshops, and an Easter egg hunt. Oh, and they’ll also show youngsters how to build, fuel and launch their own rocket. Open from 10am to 5pm. Some shows are free. See armaghplanet.comfor details.


Call in to see our new President. Áras an Uachtaráin runs hourly guided tours every Saturday starting at 10.15am. The last tour is at 3.30pm. Admission is free and tickets are available from the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre at Ashtown Castle in the park. Combine this one with a trip to the zoo or a picnic.


For the younger ones it’s an obvious but popular choice. Going to a different playground to your usual haunt is a simple strategy for getting more from the outing. It’s remarkable how a different set of swings/slide/sandpit can excite.

Playcentres are hot and noisy, but children like them and they’re a godsend if the weather is awful. They provide a solution to the tricky business of keeping children of different ages happy, and there’s the added bonus of a coffee bar. See mykidstime.ieand fundays.iefor details of one near you.


With the demands being placed on everyone’s time these days, don’t underestimate the simple pleasures of baking, painting, reading, completing jigsaws and any number of other everyday pastimes with children that we may not be able to fit in during the school term. It’s holiday time, so go with the flow.