May half term roundup: Tons of fun for creative kids

Suzy Prince
Oliver Wallace in a hat

We round up the best May half term activities in Manchester for children aged up to 11.

The six week summer holidays are just around the corner, and to many parents these 42 days or more (count them: it’s true) can seem like a daunting prospect. In contrast, the May half term is a delight. Unlike February half term, this one comes with at least a fighting chance of some decent weather. Going away on holiday can cost a third less than it does in the main school break, meaning that a lot of parents with squeezed incomes and common sense seize this chance to head to the beach. This can have the knock-on effect that if you stay put in the city, some events don’t feel as crowded as they might do otherwise. One thing’s for sure: with so much to see and do, your offspring will be hard pushed to announce that they’re bored.

Manchester Museum’s Big Saturday

The first Saturday of half term sees Manchester Museum putting on a day of hands-on craft and art activities, concerning the rainforest, for all the family. Children will have the opportunity to meet experts and discover more about the Vivarium’s conservation work, and to explore the idea that we can’t change the past but we can be a part of shaping the future. 28 May, Manchester Museum, Oxford Rd, M13 9PL

The Great Big Noise Festival at The Royal Exchange

The Royal Exchange is throwing its doors open to children aged 12 and under for five days this half term, with a festival packed full of games, crafts, performances and workshops. There’s a theatrical mission to ground control, Fireside Tales with Grandad (this one’s for humans aged 4-104 apparently!) and a Flicker and the Flying Books Caper for children aged 3-8 and their adults. 1-5 Jun, Royal Exchange, St Ann’s Square, M2 7DH

The Last Post at Z-Arts

Children aged seven and over are invited to step on board a mobile sorting office – a bright red Luton van – and be transported to a world where snail mail still reigns supreme, via a show which stars Verity, the heiress of a pen-pal agency and Red, a redundant post-master. After the show, participants are invited to stick around and perhaps write a letter which they can then pop into a real, functioning post box for delivery. 3 Jun, Z-Arts, 335 Stretford Road, M15 5ZA

Lookout it’s Saturday Playhouse at the Lowry

This is now a free, weekly art activity for children in the dedicated family Lookout space. Each week kids are invited to Lookout for what they can see both inside and outside, taking inspiration from the surrounding theatres, galleries and landscapes. Saturdays, 11-12.30, free, no need to book, Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, M50 3AZ

The Very Magic Flute at the Lowry

Also at The Lowry, the last day of half term sees a lost Prince being chased by a dragon, a mysterious queen and a lonely bird man in a new take on Mozart’s classic. With beautiful puppets, magical transformations and fully integrated sign language this ingenious theatre show will delight children aged 3-7. Sun 5 Jun, duration 50 minutes, Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, M50 3AZ

1830 Express at the Museum of Science and Industry

Buy you and your children a ticket for the world’s first ever passenger railway, and you’ll all have fun experiencing some real history. An explainer team will take you on a whistlestop tour of the railways, as you all speed up and down the original track that carried passengers from Manchester to Liverpool in 1830.

Also, daily during half term the power hall is playing host to the interactive science show Engineer Eric’s Difficult Day, suitable for ages 5-11, which sees forgetful fireman Fred learning how to get Pender the steam locomotive up and running. Museum of Science and Industry, Liverpool Road, M3 4FP

Second World War Rationing at The Imperial War Museum North

The IWM’s new In Focus drop in sessions reveal specially selected archive films, personal stories and artefacts from the museum’s national collection. This all-ages workshop will see participants being told the stories of real people in the second world war, such as wartime bride Nora Stewart, and then will be given the chance to handle related artefacts such as Nora’s actual wedding dress. 11.30, 30 May-5 Jun, IWM North, Trafford Wharf Road, M17 1TZ

The Whitworth Gallery

For the children of Manchester, certain rituals must be observed at holiday times, and a visit to the Whitworth is one of them. Housed within a great park – on sunny days this is a wonderful place for a picnic – with an all-important fantastic play area, you’re already halfway there when it comes to finding that holy grail: days out with the children that you’ll enjoy as well. The gallery itself is perfect for kids: it’s spacious enough that you don’t feel a sense of stress that your children are impacting on anyone else’s viewing experience. Art hampers are free to borrow and available any time during gallery opening hours. These are filled with materials for children to get inspired, make, draw and build. The Whitworth, Oxford Road, M15 6ER

Meet Mr Radclyffe at Salford Museum and Art Gallery

Children are invited along to meet the owner of Lark Hill Place’s toyshop – the Victorian toyshop which is situated on the museum’s recreated Victorian street, and to have a go at playing with and taking about traditional toys. 31 May, free, no booking required,  Salford Museum and Art Gallery, Peel Park, Salford, M5 4WU

Allotment Open Day at Ordsall Hall

Ordsall Hall is hosting its second World War one allotment open day. The allotment has been built with techniques that would have been used during the great war as well as varieties of vegetables from the time. Activities at the allotment will include storytelling, art workshops, characters in costume and a chance to stock up on plants to take home. 1pm-4pm, 29 May, free, no booking required, Ordsall Hall, 322 Ordsall Lane, Salford, M5 3AN

Daytrip: Tatton Park

Knutsford’s Tatton Park estate has Roald Dahl events on all the way through the year, with the opportunity to look for Fantastic Mr Fox on the farm, or follow the trail of Matilda in the mansion. In a double whammy of fabulous fun, half term also sees the mansion joining in with Cheshire’s Amazed by Science festival, with Tatton Park’s built and natural features being used to explore how science is relevant to life today. Tatton Park, Mereheath Drive, Knutsford, Cheshire, WA16 6QN

Day trip: Jodrell Bank

Jodrell Bank is a great place for a family daytrip. The children’s imagination will be fired by the enormous telescope, and the knowledge that as they wander around, real scientists are there, doing really important stuff to do with outer space. The visitor centre is fab, with all manner of science-related activities, and films about the telescope’s inception and history, and the gardens are beautiful.

Just like Tatton Park, half term will see Jodrell Bank also taking part in the Amazed by Science Festival, with live ‘alien science’ demonstrations, beekeping demonstrations and bee backpacks, where children can explore the life of a bee via bee-themed activities as they make their way around the gardens. Free but normal admission applies, £20 returnable deposit required for backpacks, Jodrell Bank, Macclesfield, Cheshire, SK11 9DL

The Clockwork Garden at Quarry Bank

Renowned children’s educational arts charity The House of Fairy Tales has created an attraction telling the story of a mechanical seed that has crash landed at Quarry Bank from outer space. Visitors to The Clockwork Garden enter the gallery to see that the seed has unfurled its tentacles around the room, leading to activities that are intended to stimulate and entertain such as a puppet theatre, craft activities and mechanical artworks. Quarry Bank, Styal, Cheshire, SK9 4LA

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