Keeping the kids entertained

Pirates young and old will descend on North Berwick for Pirate Weekend. Picture: Sean Bell
Pirates young and old will descend on North Berwick for Pirate Weekend. Picture: Sean Bell
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IT may only feel like two minutes since the summer holidays but, believe it or not, your little darlings will once again be enjoying the freedom school holidays bring.

And while a lot of their energy can be burned off at the beach or playing in the back garden during the summer holidays, the October break can be a bit trickier with the plummeting temperatures and never-ending rainy days.

But don’t despair, as Edinburgh and the Lothians has an array of activities on offer to keep your little ones entertained.

Everything from a bear hunt and den-making lessons to movie-making and free swimming will ensure there’s something to suit all ages and all interests.


Midlothian Science Festival runs until October 19, offering dozens of fun activities for youngsters. Gaming fans can learn how to design their own computer games at a design course tomorrow at Penicuik Library from 1.30pm to 4pm. Other highlights include a den and campfire cooking workshop at Springfield Mill, Polton, on Monday from 1pm to 4pm, where children are invited to build a home and cook marshmallows on the campfire.

Meanwhile at the National Mining Museum, Newtongrange, kids can become an energy engineer for the day, every day until October 17, from 11.30am to 4pm. From talks by scientists through to arts and crafts and food events, there’s something for the whole family.

Visit for a full programme of events.


The Big Draw at the Palace of 
Holyroodhouse will give children the chance to find out what life was like at the palace for the kings and queens of Scotland. Delve deeper into the historic palace with the family audio guide and record your findings through an activity trail with The Big Draw, a national campaign to get people drawing. On Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, drop in to The Great Gallery and get drawing to help create a giant landscape with the help of a professional illustrator from noon to 4pm. Take inspiration from the palace to get your creative juices flowing. Get your ticket stamped on your first visit and go back as many times as you like in a year at no extra cost.

Hop on an Edinburgh Bus Tour to get a history lesson about the Capital – Horrible Histories style. A dedicated commentary for children on board the red City Sightseeing tours will provide a fun way for youngsters to learn all about Edinburgh’s gruesome past. Based on Terry Deary’s bestselling Horrible Histories children’s books, the commentary is voiced by Forth One DJ and Edinburgh’s favourite pantomime villain Grant Stott, who will give children a fascinating insight into their city.

In the Museum of Childhood on the Royal Mile, a drop-in craft event on Wednesday from 11am to 3pm will take place to tie in with the museum’s new exhibition all about movie making. Children can try their hand at making their own spinning card animations, while Scottish Screen Archive curator Emily Munro will be on hand to talk about the history of film.


Children who aren’t afraid of creepy-crawlies will be in their element at the Hermitage of Braid Visitor Centre as it prepares to home insects for the winter. On October 19, kids can help to build cosy castles for caterpillars and beastie B&Bs to help ensure they survive the cold harsh winter. Craft activities will also be on offer. Those interested can meet at the visitor centre at 1pm.

What child doesn’t love a good old-fashioned bear hunt? From 10am to 4pm at Saughton Park on Thursday, youngsters can pick up a bear checklist and bear ears at Winter Garden and search for 30 bears hidden all around the park.

This weekend is all about pirates at the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick. Inspired by the link between Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and the nearby island of Fidra, Pirate Weekend is a swashbuckling celebration of the high seas. This year’s buccaneers will be in for a real treat with face painting, pirate treasure trail – with pieces of eight for those who complete it – sword-fighting lessons, a stormy seas game and cannon fire. Today and tomorrow at 2pm there will be the chance to meet Cap’n Salty Sea Dog, the star of the new living history exhibition and live event.

The Cap’n will share tales of the trials and tribulations of life at sea, with stories and sea shanties galore. He will also judge the fancy dress competition at the end of the show and there will be prizes for the best dressed pirates and princesses. Thirty-minute cruises will also be available over the weekend.


Free swimming is returning for the school break. Edinburgh Leisure is offering the free sessions to primary school children at Dalry Swim Centre, Ainslie Park Leisure Centre, Leith 
Victoria Swim Centre and Gracemount Leisure Centre. It is also offered by the city council at Wester Hailes Education Centre. The free sessions start today and run up until October 20.

Forget the stereotype of the lazy teenager and use the holidays to encourage them to get out of bed and learn active habits for life. Edinburgh Leisure’s NRG Zone camps for youngsters from S1-S6 at the Royal Commonwealth Pool offer a daily dose of activity and fun from 10am to 11am, Monday to Friday.

There are still places left on some of Edinburgh Leisure’s coaching sessions during the holidays in activities ranging from tennis to trampolining, swimming to diving, and gymnastics to climbing.

For a full camp experience which doubles as a perfect childcare solution, make a late booking with Activator. The camps combine a range of sports with arts, crafts, drama and challenges, as well as learning about healthy eating. Day sessions run from 8am to 6pm.