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Things to do with kids of all ages this summer

Summer holidays starting to drag? Never fear as I’ve found festivals, gigs and loads of outdoor fun for teens and tots alike to help ease the pressure this August.

Bubble & Bop kids festival, Marsh Farm (runs until 2 Sept) 

There will be bubbles. And bops. There will also be *deep breath* bouncy castles, a train ride, sand pits, animal encounters, crazy golf, fairground rides, bouncy pillows, foam machines, paddling pool and circus fun. Essentially this is your one-stop ticket to relieve holiday boredom for young children.

Kids Fest, Lee Valley Farm (runs until 31 Aug) 

Dubbed Glastonbury for kids, what it lacks in ageing rock stars and amphetamines it makes up for with circus skills, glitter stations, bouncy castles, foam parties and a music stage. 

Enchanted Summer Adventure, Audley End (runs until 4 Sept)

Is it even the summer holidays if you haven’t been to Audley End with the kids? This year’s programme includes jam-packed days of rides on the Explorer Express (a miniature train), fairy- and elf-finding woodland walks, bug-hunting and story-telling before hitting the adventure playground. Also check out its A Very Victorian Weekend  (23-24 July) which promises more family-friendly fun. 

Inflatable Family Fun Day, Southend (various dates in Aug) 

Need a quick, easy way to tire out the fam? Look no further than this air-filled extravaganza, which caters for little ones (soft play and small bouncy castles) through to big hairy teenagers (assault courses, giant mega slides, football arena, coconut shy). 

Clacton Air Show (25-26 Aug)

An oldie but a goodie. This annual theatre in the sky is actually a brilliant day out for multiple ages, as there’s everything from The Red Arrows whizzing through the air to all the fun of the fair on the legendary pier. 

Hey Duggee, Epping Ongar Railway (28-29 Aug)

One for mini Muddies, though I actually find Duggee funny too, particularly the ‘sticky sticky stick stick’ rave tune (if you know, you know). Anyway, I digress, EOR is calling all squirrels to meet the big dog himself aboard a train, plus there’s a magician too. A-woof.  

Storytelling Adventure, Hyde Hall  (17 Aug)

Storyteller Mike Dodsworth leads children around the RHS gardens with a cool interactive adventure. Do not miss picking up some bits in the well-stocked garden centre or having a slice of cake at the Clover Cafe while you’re there. 

Raver Tots Outdoor Festival, Southend (29 Aug)

Water bottles and face glitter at the ready because it’s time to raise your hands in the air like you just don’t care…with the mini Muddies in tow. Artful Dodger, Brandon Block and DJ Archie (the world’s youngest DJ) are going to spin some tunes while you and your crew dance and hit the fun fair rides, inflatables and play area. There will be face painting, giant bubbles, food stalls and a bar too. This will take you back to your free and single festival days, just with less WKD blue drinks. 

Great Notley Country Park

Summer holidays are costly even if you’re not flying off to far-flung places, so the fact this awesome park’s on our doorstep and completely free is fabulous. Pack a picnic and the kids in the car and make a beeline for this 100-acre park, home to sky ropes, the longest in Essex at 1.2km of rope climbs, slides, forts, swings and seesaws. There’s also a fishing lake, wildflower meadows and lots of space to let off steam.

Curve Water Sports, St Osyth 

Kids can kayak, wakeboard, paddleboard or just throw themselves around on the inflatable aqua park at Curve in St Osyth, which has a sun-trap lakeside cafe too. 

Stretched-out Summer, Colchester Zoo (20 Aug) 

The zoo’s staying open until 7.30pm for one night only, and will be putting on some fun activities, including animal-handling and feeding, plus seasonal food outlets like a slush station. 

Essex Outdoors, various locations, throughout Aug

The name alone provides hope doesn’t it? Yes, your kids can be in the fresh air this summer holidays and not glued to a screen all thanks to action-packed activity days at locations including Bradwell-on-Sea, Danbury, Harlow and Mersea Island. What do they get up to? What don’t they get up to? Everything from archery and bushcraft to watersports and zipwires. Where do I sign? 

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