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Grand Treats for Grandchildren

You can build on your grandchildren's school holiday treats by becoming role models for the new term. Norman Wright has some ideas for memorable days out.

With school holidays under way and August stretching ahead, there are some great opportunities to spend time with grandchildren and to take them out and get them away from their computers and mobile phones.

however, a new school year is not far away either, and in today's high-pressure environment grandparents can build on the holiday treats and extend their influence as role models into the new term.

Grandparents want to ensure their grandchildren have to best possible start in life and have every chance to embrace as many opportunities as possible.

After all, school-based education, both primary and secondary accounts for 13 years in a child's life.

As figures of experience and providers of advice, it often falls to grandparents to ensure that the younger members of the family are well-equipped to get the most out of their education, and the time spent in school.

So, what can you do to offer as much as you can to those that matter most? The Schoolwear Association, a trade organisation that promotes school-specific uniforms, gives these suggestions:

Be available where possible- With mounting lifestyle pressures, more and more parents are having to work hours that don't fit in with the school calendar. As someone who may be retired and with a lot of free time, you could be the one to make sure your grandchildren can attend extra-curricular activities and take part in them as much as they can.

Provide them with a change of scenery- Children are now subject to more rigorous and challenging assessments than ever before, and often it can be difficult to concentrate at home. Simply providing a quiet space where they can go and concentrate without interruption can be all that is needed to increase attention and in turn improve grades.

Give them one less thing to worry about- We now live in an age when children are more open to more scrutiny than before, especially with the rise of social media. So you can make sure they have one less thing to worry about when at school; providing school-specific uniform means children don't have to worry about the way they look at school.

Studies by the Schoolwear Association show that wearing a school-specific uniform can have a positive impact on a child's mental health, giving them and their parents one less thing to worry about.

Lend an ear- Make sure you're the person that your grandchildren can turn to, be an ear for them to confide in; more often than not they might to want to talk with their parents about problems they could be having. By giving them an environment where they can feel comfortable, without being judged or facing any consequences for something that might have happened, you may be able to ease their burden, helping them feel more relaxed and perform better in school.Share your own experiences- It can sometimes escape children that older people have all been to school at some point in their lives.. Though this may have been a long time ago, you will have a lot of shared experiences, and while things might seem to be a struggle for children at the moment, you have managed to overcome them in the past and can share your advice.

Help with their homework- Often, parents may bot have the time to sit and go through a week's worth of homework with their children. it may relieve some pressure on the parents if grandparents five a helping hand with the odd piece of homework... and you probably will learn something new.

A quartet of school holiday highlights

First of all there are the holidays to enjoy. Here are a few suggestions for places to go and things to do with your grandchildren

Robin Hood Festival: Medieval Magic

The legend of Robin Hood endures through the generations, and Sherwood Forest will come alive with the spirit of the world's most famous outlaw this summer as thousands of local, national and international visitors arrive in Nottinghamshire to celebrate this iconic her..

The festival, now in it's 24 year is a celebration of all things medieval and associated with Robin. the annual event takes place from August 27th to September 2nd, and will see Sherwood Forest transformed into a medieval feast of entertainment, displays, character appearances and food and drink.

It's organised this year by the RSPB, Nottinghamshire County Council and a consortium of partners. Visitors can try their hand at archery, enjoy storytelling, street theatre and medieval combat and music displays, wander around the stalls, sample local food and drink, take part in traditional crafts and maybe even meet the merry men. 

Gemma Howart, RSPB senior site manager for Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve, said: "We're really excited about hosting out first Robin Hood Festival. We know hoe well-loved the event is, and want to ensure we maintain all the things people enjoy so much about the festival while adding a few new attractions. Robin himself will be battling whit the Sheriff of Nottingham, so be sire to watch out for them skirmishing near the Major Oak.

"there will be lots of activities for children and families, including performances at different times throughout the day, and daily programme sheets will be available to help families plan their day. it's a great stage on which to show off our new visitor centre to the public for the first time, and a fantastic celebration of Sherwood's most famous son."

Visitors will have the chance to see the new visitor centre before its official opening in September. The RSPB is leading a consortium which, working together with Nottinghamshire County Council, will be responsible for the new centre and will take over guardianship of the forest later this summer. 

To find out more about the festival and a timetable fo activities, see the website:

Zippos Circus: 250 years of the Big Top

Zippos circus is back on the road in 2018 with a nationwide Big Top tour- Legacy- celebrating the 250th anniversary of circus entertainment.

Extraordinary equestrians, astonishing acrobats, comic clowns and dashing daredevils join together in a ring to pay homage to Englishman and charismatic impresario Philip Astleuy, who invented the circus in 1768.

The showman and entrepreneur first drew out a circular arena on a patch of land in London's Waterloo and filled it with amazing equestrian acrobatics. Zippos Cicus is proud to be part of #Circus250, a UK wide celebration of 250 years of the circus championed bu artist Sir Peter Blake, who had designed he organisation's logo.

The tour kicked off in Blackheath, not far from the site of Astley;s first-ever circus.

Audiences can expect to see some of the exciting horse acts which thrilled people back in Georgian times, now performed by master equestrians The Khadikiv Riders. Their repertoire will include the re-creation of a rarely seen and daring equestrian act called "The Courier of Saint Petersburg' which audiences have marvelled at for generations.

The cast will also introduce timeless comics- modern clown Tottie with his wife Charlotte, herself a traditional White Face Clown from Belgum; and Brazilian Capoeira comic acrobat Paulo Dos Santos- a brilliant 3ft 11in tall showman who starred most recently at Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey.

Another sure-fire hit of the show is daredevil Pablo who will perform high in the Big Top atop a dazzling space rocket; meanwhile, Cuban acrobats the Hermanisto Troupe are showing off her Springboard and Russian Bar skills. Perhaps most daring of all will be Alex Michael, the fearless Brazilian aerialist who swings and walks upside down 30ft above the audience with no safety nets or wires. The future of circus is not forgotten at zippos, the the form of The Garcia Brothers, the young sons of Pablo, who will finish the show with their extraordinary hand balancing skills.

Legacy is presented by the world's most famous ringmaster Norman Barrett MBE, who will also welcome back his colourful fun-loving buddies, a perennial hit with children and adults alike.

Zippos Circus will be on tour across the UK until the end of October. Tickets for the 2 hour show start from £9 for adults (15 and over) and £7.50 for children. Under-2s go free if they don't occupy a seat. the circus is north of the Border in July and returns to Sheffield from August 9th to 13th.

Advance booking is recommended. Book online and check tour dates on the website:

The Big Feastival: Three days of child-friendly fun

The Big Feastival at Kingham in the Cotswolds will be making its seventh appearance at Blur bassist Alex James's farm, with lots of entertainment for youngsters as well as music for the grown-ups on August 24th, 25th and 26th.

Duo Dick and Dom will be hosting the main Stage on Friday, bringing their own unique twist to proceedings throughout the opening day. children's TV Megastar Justin Fletcher will be returning to the Main Stage on Saturday, offering a fun-filled experience for all ages with a special live performance of his biggest hits. Completing the bill on Sunday, Andy Day CBeebies presenter, has added a new string to his bow and will proudly present his brand new rock and roll band for kids... Andy & The Odd Socks.

Elsewhere, Paddington Bear, The Gruffalo and Peppa Pig & George will all be making personal appearances over the weekend.

The Little dude's den will be open all weekend for creative crafts, dance-offs, story-telling  and more. The Hasbro village will see children join in the fun and meet their favourite characters including MY Little Pony, Play-doh, Nerf and Transformers. The Jitterbug Circus is in town, teaching an array of skills such as tight wire, stilt walking, juggling and limbo. For those with a head for heights. Zu Aerial will be running daily trapeze masterclasses, along with performances throughout the day.

Located in the Main Arena, Volvo will have a host of family fun activities available for all to get involved with in their Scandinavian-designed tipi tent. Power your own disco... the more you move the more energy you'll produce for the ultimate dance party. Once you're all danced out, try your hand at personalising your own festival t-shirts.

After its success last year, NEFF Little Kitchen is back with its interactive cookery class. Children will pick their own produce alongside Home Farm Highgrove, part of the Duchy of Cornwall estate, before cooking their own delicious dishes with help from Hobbs House Bakery. 

For full information on the music, food and family programmes and to buy tickets, log on to:

Chester Zoo: Wild Worlds Festival

Chester zoo is England's most popular visitor attraction outside London. It is also a conservation and education charity fighting to prevent extinction of threatened animal and plant species.

Running until September 30th, nine interactive installations, on public display for the first time, will be complemented by a major programme of events to form the zoo's new Wild Worlds festival.

World class science and education programmes are at the heart of the fight to prevent extinction. It is hoped that the festival will inspire more than 800,000 visitors over the summer- through exhibits that are fun, interactive and unique.

The zoo's 125 acres will be transformed by a journey of discovery through previously unseen new worlds, extraordinary spaces, specially commissioned creations and new artistic collaborations.

The festival has been inspired  by the beautiful world of plants and animals at the zoo, as well as its people- experts in wildfire, science and conservation.

Simon Dowell, the zoo's science director, said: "This is a festival that's uniquely Chester Zoo. We're collaborating with artists, performers, landscape designers, gardeners and scientists.

"They have immersed themselves in the conservation knowledge, culture and passion of Chester Zoo and conjured up innovative and inspiring ways to interpret that for our visitors and connect people with nature."

The installations will transform areas of the zoo into spaces that are fun and playful, curious and quirky or enriching and contemplative. Visitors will find something new at every turn- art, music, science, entertainment or just quiet contemplation.

The nine specially commissioned installations, created through new artistic collaborations, to connect people with gardens, wildlife and science, are:

ArthroPODS, by Jacqui Symons and Richard Dawson. Inspired by the fascinating wildlife that can be found on our doorsteps, ArthroPODS turn the humble garden shed into inspirational insect homes.

The Natural Honey Bee Garden, by Kerry Morrison and Helmut Lemke. The wondrous world of bees will be on show in this special space for our social honey bees. An array of wildflowers- including some of the bees' favourites- will adorn the apiary garden with its variety of natural hives. Special observation windows open up the world inside the hive, through which visitors can get a close-up view of these fascinating creatures hard at work.

Celebrities, by Richard Dawson, is a series of three interactive installations, which invite people to explore some of the magnificent trees in the grounds of the zoo through their senses.

The Botanist LAB, by Ula Maria of Studio Unwired. Science and nature unite in the Botanist LAB, with its weird and wonderful horticultural and botanical spectacles. With a nod to a traditional science lab, which is the source of inspiration for this space,  there is a 'student workshop' and 'research room' which provide endless event opportunities.

The Dormouse Garden- A collaboration between urban Wilderness, One Five West and Landstruction. A delightful hazel grove is surrounded by lawned areas, from where picnickers will glimpse an animated dynamic and interactive installation. Inspired by the zoo's research into the ecology of dormice, the Hazel Dormouse Garden reveals the secretive lives of these rare and sleepy rodents.

Awe-Kids is a new collaboration between sound recordists Jason Singh and Steve Symons and artist and animator Fabric Lenny. It's a fun, walk-through, mini sensory safari, which brings plants to the fore- specially created to overcome the concept of 'plant blindness', where beautiful, important plants go unnoticed.

What the Botanist Saw, by David Appleyard and Illuminos. Just as an orchid or lily uses scent to attract insects, three curious, unassuming vending boxes placed around the zoo will entice visitors to look through the eye-holes for a close-up encounter with the private goings-n of the plant world.

Inspired by the Victorian peep shows, these intimate, plant-based animations will sped up or slow down as viewers turn the crank handle.

Talking Chair and Flamingo Garden; Talking Chair and Enrichment Garden; and Talking Chair Rhino Garden. Take a seat on one of Jane Revitt's beautifully sculpted, over-sized, wing-back chairs and relax in one of three mini-gardens.

Transitions, created by Badgers of Bohemia is a collaboration between artists Emily Jayne Kaan and Sefton Freeman-Bahn. Drawing on their passion for nature and the beauty of the natural world, Badgers of Bohemia are creating original designs to dress the Chester Zoo entrance and give it a visually dramatic festival feel, inspired by the science and conservation work at the zoo.

The Wild Worlds festival is free with normal zoo admissions. zoo tickets can be purchased in advance via the website:

Are you looking after your grandchildren this summer? What plans have you got? 

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