While kids spend their time looking forward to February Vacation week, often parents have a hard time finding something local to do - and the weather doesn’t help! While sometimes we can luck out with sunny skies and sledding hills, parents still need some activities for kids to enrich their time out of school. We’ve compiled a list of things to do, both on Cape Ann and around the North Shore area during the upcoming school vacation week (February 19-23), meant for preschoolers and school aged kids. While some activities are free, others do have a price tag and may require pre-registration. Make sure to check the website or Facebook for the event for any last-minute updates that may not be mentioned here.
Local nonprofit Backyard Growers is running drop-off educational classes for school-age kids – no tiny green thumb necessary! The nonprofit, located at 271 Main Street in Gloucester, is running three-hour courses for kids in grades K-5 on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Families can choose to attend one, two, or all three days. The price for community members is $30 for one child for one day, $50 for 2 or more children for one day, or one child all three days for $80. The discounted price for those with a garden box provided by Backyard Growers is $15 for one child per day, or $25 for 2 or more children per day. Scholarships are also available.
On Tuesday, Feb 20 from 9AM to 12 PM, the theme is Gardening Past and Present. Kids will learn about which ancient gardening practices can still be used today – and what gardens looked like throughout history. Participants will get to make plant dies, preserve food by pickling, grind their own flower, and learn how to save seeds!
Wednesday’s workshop is Life in the Soil and Sky, which also takes place 9AM-12PM at their Main Street headquarters. This class will teach kids about the animal life that creates harmony with soil and plants – including live worms! Children will also get to learn about honeybees through play and art with crafts and games.
Thursday’s class will take place from 2PM-5PM, and the theme is Blossoming Botanist. Kids will get an overview of botany – the study of plants. Using science, art, and play, they will learn why plants are green and how they grow – as well as why individual plants needs are different. Participants will get the chance to do their own science experiments, as well as play some games – and dissect plants and seeds!
Cape Ann YMCA
This February Vacation, the Cape Ann YMCA is celebrating Winter Survival Week with themed activities for school-aged kids. Tuesday, February 20, the Cape Ann Vernal Pond team will be hosting a Survive the Snakes animal event at 11:00. Wednesday from 1PM to 3PM there will be an assortment of puzzles and games for kids to play, and later that evening, a community nerf gun battle from 7PM-8PM! Thursday, February 22 the YMCA will have Survival Bracelet making from 4PM-5PM.
Last but not least, on Friday, February 23rd, the community is invited to join the Y for a Family Luau Party running from 6:00-8:00 pm. Bring your bathing suits - they’ll be turning the pool deck into a tropical oasis. There will be food, drinks, and games along with family swimming. All children must be accompanied by an adult for this event, there are no drop-offs allowed. For more information or to RSVP, visit their Facebook Event!
Arts and Crafts for Little Ones
If your kids are budding little artists, be sure to check out Arts and Crafts for Little Ones, hosted by Colleen Apostolos-Marsh. While this is generally aimed at pre-school aged kids, children up to age 7 are welcome. The classes take place mornings on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Friday from 10:15-11:15 and are a drop-off class in East Gloucester. For more information, call or text Colleen at (978) 648-0601.
Cape Ann Museum
We’ve previously featured some of the programs and exhibits of downtown Gloucester’s Cape Ann Museum, and they have some fantastic, family-friendly activities set up for the week of vacation meant for ages 6-12 that mix art and history with exercise and movement - perfect to get your body in gear and out of the house!
This year, the museum is running events on the Wednesday and Thursday of vacation week from 1PM - 4 PM. On Wednesday, join MAGMA studio’s Sarah Slifer Swift for a movement and dance activity. On Thursday, shoot hoops at the Cape Ann YMCA and sculpt famous basketball players from photographs.
Each program is $30 for members, $45 for non-members, with a discounted rate for families. See below for more information on how to sign up for this fun event!
Cape Ann Lanes
If you want to stay local during vacation week, Cape Ann Lanes has special vacation week hours - opening at 10 AM. Bowl a few hours, play in the arcade, and the best part - parents can even grab a beer at their snack bar! Cape Ann Lanes’ family deal gives you two hours of bowling for up to six people, shoe rentals, a large cheese pizza, and a pitcher of soft drinks. For more information, visit their Facebook page or website, or call (978) 283-9753. Cape Ann Lanes is located at 53 Gloucester Ave in Gloucester.
Mass Audobon's Joppa Flats Education Center
If the trek up to Newburyport isn’t a challenge for you, the Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center has year-round activities for kids - with some special events for February Vacation. The center is running two programs during their February Vacation Week Flyby, Thursday February 22 and Friday February 23rd, from 10 AM to 3 PM.
The schedule is flexible - with the ability to stay for just an hour for smaller tots, to the whole five hour program for older kids with more interest. Joppa Flats School and Youth Education Coordinator Lisa Hutchings and Teacher and Naturalist Kirsten Lindquist will give two half-hour presentations at 11 AM and 1 PM on how to blend science and art. Thursday’s program is Animals of the Ice, and Friday’s is Creatures of the Deep.
Adults are free - you must stay with your child, drop-offs are not permitted - and children are $5 for members, $8 for non-members. A carload price is available for $20 for members, $32 for non-members. Pre-registration is not required, so you’re free to just drop in! Mass Audubon requests that you dress for the weather, as some parts of the program involve outdoor activities. For more information, contact:
Joppa Flats Education Center
1 Plum Island Turnpike
Newburyport, MA 0195
Peabody Essex Museum
Salem’s Peabody Essex Museum has plans for some wonderful, artistic family events during February vacation week as well. This year, their focus is Grid Out with Art, which combines art with math and technology by using grids - and pairs with their current exhibit XYZT: A Journey in 4 Dimensions.
Each day of vacation, starting on Monday, February 19, 2018 from 10:30 am–4 pm they’ll have collaborative art making with Grid Muraling in the atrium. Kids can learn about grids and graphs while they create their own artwork! During the same daily hours in the Art Nook, kids can drop in and make nature-themed Coordinate Drawings - using graphing skills to solve mysteries through drawing.
On Monday in the Morse Auditorium, a performance of Math is My Middle Name takes place at both 11–11:45 am and 1:30–2:15 pm - little ones can sing and clap along with puppeteer Rick Goldin. This event is best for kids age 5 and above. A Light Graffiti workshop also takes place from 11:30 am–noon and 2:30–3 pm in the Create Space, with tickets available day of program. Kids can use their own images and illusions with colorful light sources and a camera. Another workshop at the same time slot in the PEM Connect Building, Draw a Circuit, lets kids design their own light-up artwork using conductive paint!
Later at 3:30 in the Morse Auditorium, an award-winning short (17 minute) animation called Rabbit and Deer will play.
Tuesday at the PEM, at both 11:30-noon and 2:30-3 kids can attend Flashy Firelies in the Create Space - and create their own model firefly, which ties in with the museum’s interactive Shifting Clouds exhibit, inside the XYZT installation. A second hour long workshop, Think in 3-D, takes place in the same location on Tuesday at both 1:15 and 2:30. This workshop is recommended for ages 8 and up, and users can create three-dimensional, virtual shapes by using a CAD design tool. Rabbit and Deer will again play in the Morse Auditorium at 2:00 PM.
Wednesday, the Light Graffiti workshop will again take place from 11:30 am–noon and 2:30–3 pm in the Create Space, with tickets available day of program. Think in 3D will also take place from 1:15-3:30 in the same area. Rabbit and Deer will play at 3:30.
Thursday, Flashy Fireflies will be held at 11:30 am–noon and 2:30–3 pm in the Create Space, while Think in 3-D takes place at 1:15–3:30 pm. Rabbit and Deer will play again at 3:30 in the Morse Auditorium.
On Friday at the PEM, check out the workshop Kinect: You are the Controller in the Atrium from 11 am–2 pm. Visitors to the museum will get to learn about how Microsoft’s Kinect has changed how people interact with computers - and then experience how it works - within the XYZT exhibition. The Light Graffiti workshop will take place from 11:30 am–noon and 2:30–3 pm in the Create Space, and Rabbit and Deer takes place again at 3:30.
For more information on the PEM’s interactive exhibits and family-friendly programming, check out their website! The museum is located at East India Square, 161 Essex Street, Salem, MA 01970.