Category Archives: School Holiday Activities

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Children’s Games

Why do children play games?

Is it just to pass the time or do they have another significance? The philosopher Bertrand Russell thought that “it is biologically normal that they should, in imagination, live through the life of remote savage ancestors”. A rather bleak assessment! Piaget, the specialist in child development, thought that they allowed children to “assimilate reality” in a safe environment.

Children playing a traditional wooden game

You can play some traditional games in Thame Vicarage at COAM

Two thousand years ago the Greek writer Julius Pollux refers to two games which are still played today – Hide and Seek and Ducks and Drakes (skimming flat pebbles over water). Moreover, in AD 60 a Roman writes about two shepherds playing best of three at Rock, Paper, Scissors. What are now seen as games for young children were once played by older ones too. In the 18th Century and early 19th Century in Britain, boys of secondary school age were playing Hopscotch, Puss in the Corner, Marbles, and Leap-frog.

The names of the games vary wildly through time and place. For example, there are dozens of names for the player who chases the others in Tag, e.g. Het, On it, King, Mannies, Tiggy, Touch, Under, and many, many more. Rock, Paper, Scissors also has other names such as Hick, Hack, Hock and Ding, Dang, Dong.

At COAM, we have two permanently marked out Hopscotch games, one in the garden behind the entrance to the museum and the other next to Thame Vicarage. The “scotch” part of the name here means a scratched line used to mark out the sections. It is a very ancient game, in some opinions Roman or pre-Roman. It certainly exists in at least twenty-five countries all over the world and on every continent. It is not only a children’s game, although in the UK it has become so. In Poor Robin’s Almanack of 1707 we find: “Lawyers and Physicians have little to do this month, and therefore, they may (if they will), play at Scotch Hoppers.” Until the middle of the twentieth century the paving stones of our streets were often decorated with chalk lines by children making a hopscotch game, the chalk lines taking the place of the scratches or scotches that can be used to indicate the squares. The rules of the game vary widely across the country, the essential point being to move a small stone over the grid and hopping to avoid the lines “scotched” on the ground.

Girl on hobby horse

Children can play on the hobby horses at COAM

In Thame Vicarage there care modern examples of one of the oldest playthings of which we know. It is recorded that Aegeilias, King of Sparta, who died in 361 BC and Socrates, the great philosopher, were both found entertaining their children by riding a hobby-horse. The hobby-horse or cock-horse is simply a stick with reins at one end, with or without a horse’s head attached. Our hobby-horses have heads! You could even use your sister’s hair as reins as seen in this German lithograph.

Skipping is a universal children’s game and often accompanied by rhymes to maintain the rhythm. There are many hundreds of such rhymes. Some are very simple: “Salt, pepper, mustard, vinegar”. Others are more complex, such as:

“Ice-cream, a penny a lump
The more you eat, the more you jump!
Eeper Weeper. Chimney sweeper,
Married a wife and could not keep her.
Married another
Did not love her,
Up the chimney he did shove her!”

“Mrs Brown lived by the shore,
She had children three and four,
The eldest one is twenty-four
And she got married to the man next door.”

Written by Roger Coode, Museum Volunteer

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The Colne Valley Regional Park

Chiltern Open Air Museum is part of the Colne Valley Regional Park. The area boasts beautiful walks and other beauty spots and places to visit. Alex Gaffney, PR and Communications Manager, at the Colne Valley Park Business Centre tells us about what the Regional Park has to offer.

Colne Valley Regional Park

The Colne Valley Regional Park

Forty-three square miles of water, woodland, farmland and villages from Rickmansworth in the North of the Valley, down to Staines in the South. The region is the first large taste of countryside to the West of London. The Colne Valley Park offers a huge variety of sights and scenery from the Grand Union Canal to our many nature reserves and from our stunning Country Parks to over 60 lakes and water ways.

Colne Valley Regional Park Winter Walks

There is so much to do and explore in this beautiful region, our top attractions include; Chiltern Open Air Museum, Rickmansworth Aquadrome, , The Colne Valley Park Visitor Centre, Hillingdon Outdoor Activity Centre, Denham Aerodrome, The Ankerwycke Estate (National Trust), Little Britain Lake, Batchworth Lock Canal Centre, as well as our many Country Parks, water sport venues and Nature Reserves. We also have 18 wonderful circular walks which allow you to explore the Regional Park and enjoy all the hidden gems.

Colne Valley Regional Park - Grand Union Canal

Please visit our website for more information on things to do, places to go and our circular walk

Follow us to hear all about our latest events, activities and news.
Facebook @colnevalleypark
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Colne Valley Regional Park Heron

We offer a world of opportunities for people and families to connect with their countryside and get close to nature. Please do come and explore this vibrant Regional Park soon.

Alex Gaffney
PR and Communications Manager
Colne Valley Park Business Centre

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Things to do in the summer holidays

The 2019 summer holidays are almost upon us and we’ve got lots planned to keep the family entertained over the summer months.

Outdoor Games Trail

The team have been busy creating a variety of self-led trails for our 2019 season. The trails are designed to engage children in the history and nature found around the Museum. Every day during the summer holidays the whole family can take part in our interactive outdoor games trail. Play some traditional and giant games such as skittles, chess, hopscotch, giant dominoes and more!

Things to do in the summer holidays - meet our costumed inhabitants

Costumed Inhabitants

From 18 July until 2 August there will be a costumed inhabitant portraying 18th century life in our Leagrave cottage. Find out what food they ate, how they cooked, what activities they used to do to keep themselves occupied and see her amazing drop spinning skills!

Things to do in the summer holidays - living history ragged Victorians

Re-enactments and Living history

Every weekend throughout the summer holidays we’ll have a special re-enactment or living history event. Including Ragged Victorians, Medieval Warbow, Tudor Courtroom and Wellington’s Army.
Find out more

Terrific Tuesdays

Every Tuesday from 30th July until 27th August is a Terrific Tuesday. During the summer months our Terrific Tuesdays will each be themed with a different element earth, air, fire, water and the final Terrific Tuesday of the summer will be about all the elements. Our Terrific Tuesdays our planned by our Learning Team, who arrange a variety of themed activities including crafts, games and hands-on activities such as cooking as clay modelling. All activities on our Terrific Tuesdays are included in the standard admission price or free to our Annual pass holders.

Candle Making

Our candle making hut is open every day through out the summer holidays. Visitors can make and decorate their own beeswax candle to take home. There is an additional charge for candle making.


The Museum has three different orienteering courses all of varying difficulty. You can download our orienteering maps for free from here or purchase a map pack in the ticket office. You can take part in orienteering at the Museum on any day.

Sensory Trail

We have a sensory trail around the site to encourage our visitors to explore our site with all their senses. You can pick up a free map from our ticket office or just look out for the prompts around the site.


We’re excited to be introducing have-a-go-archery to the Museum’s collection of activities. It’s still in its early days but we hope to have some sessions up and running for the summer holidays. Keep an eye on our website and social media pages for details of when you can take part.

Other Family Activities

There are 37 reconstructed historic buildings at the Museum, a working historic farm with livestock, woodland and adventure playground. You can find out more about what’s available for families daily at the museum here.


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Things to do in Buckinghamshire

Things to do in Buckinghamshire

If you’re looking for things to do in Buckinghamshire this summer, then head on over to Chiltern Open Air Museum in Chalfont St Giles. The Museum is no ordinary museum – there are no objects in glass cases here. Instead, it is a museum of buildings set in the beautiful outdoors…

Our 45 acre site has over 30 rescued historic buildings and a working Victorian farm with livestock. None of the buildings were originally built here, they were moved from their original locations and reconstructed on the Museum site when they were in danger of being demolished. The buildings are all either the homes or workplaces of ordinary people who lived in the Buckinghamshire or Chilterns area. All of the buildings are filled with artefacts or old objects, so you can find out about how people lived and worked in the past.

The site is set within the rolling hills of the Chilterns and is a mixture of parkland, woodland and arable fields great for a days out exploring.

Over the summer months there are lots of special events and things to do at the Museum. Every weekend there is a special event including historical re-enactments, costumed characters or demonstrations of traditional crafts. The summer events programme includes; Ragged Victorians (costumed characters), Rural Life (traditional skill and craft demonstrations), English Civil War (historical re-enactment), Iron Age Life (historical re-enactment) and on August bank holiday Sunday and Monday – Medieval Warbow (historical re-enactment).
See our full event program.

From 22nd – 25th August 2018, Neighbourhood Cinema are taking over the Museum’s event field with their outdoor cinema. You can book tickets to see La La Land, Gladiator, Back to the Future or Grease. Bring your picnic blanket or camping chair and enjoy the outdoor cinema in the beautiful setting of the Museum. There will be a BBQ and bar for food and refreshments.

Especially for families, we will be running our famous Terrific Tuesdays throughout the summer. These are themed family activity days and this years themes range from cherry harvest, wartime and poo (yes, you read correctly!). Terrific Tuesday run every Tuesday from 31st July – 28th August 2018. All Terrific Tuesday activities are included in the standard admission price.

For art and traditional craft lovers we are introducing Creative Thursdays. These will run every Thursday from 26th July – 30th August. On these days we will have traditional craftspeople and artists demonstrating along with a number of creative activities that you can join in with. On each of these days there is the option to take part in Arts Award Discover and earn a special Arts Award certificate.

For adults, we run a variety of workshops and experience days. You can try your hand at blacksmithing, willow sculpture, watercolour painting and sketching, historic cooking, jewellery making or straw plaiting. Workshops can all be booked via the Museum’s online shop.

The Museum has a tea room serving hot drinks, sandwiches, paninis, soups, jacket potatoes, ice creams, cold drinks and cakes.

Chiltern Open Air Museum is an independent museum and registered charity. There are many ways that you can help to support us, such as buying an Annual Pass, joining the Museum’s volunteers, or giving a donation or legacy.

Download our pdf of Summer events

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School holiday activities

school holiday activities

Dig for Victory allotment

Summer school holiday activities at COAM

The school summer holidays are now just a few weeks a way and there is a whole 6 weeks to fill with entertainment for the children. Don’t worry at Chiltern Open Air Museum we’ve got school holiday activities covered. Over the summer holidays we have 5 Terrific Tuesdays, 6 Creative Thursdays, An archaeological dig for children, a Go Wild in the Woods summer holiday club, outdoor cinema, and 9 special weekend events throughout July and August. There are also lots to see and explore everyday at the Museum including our orienteering course.

Terrific Tuesdays

These are family activity days, organised by our award winning Education Team, with lots of themed activities and crafts all included in the standard admission price. Each Terrific Tuesday throughout the summer has a different theme so none of the activities are the same.

This summer’s themes:

31st July: The Cherry Harvest
7th August: Communication
14th August: The Great Outdoors
21st August: War Time Tuesday
28th August: Terrible Tuesday

Find out more about our Terrific Tuesdays

school holiday activities dress up

Dress up and take a selfie

Creative Thursdays

Our Creative Thursdays are a new school holiday activity. On these Thursdays we will have traditional artists and crafts people demonstrating and providing activities for visitors. There is also the option to purchase a Arts Award Discover logbook which children can use to discover the art found around the Museum and use it to inspire their own. Logbooks can then be handed into the Museum where they will be marked and children will be sent a certificate for their participation. Find out more about Creative Thursdays 

Archaeological Dig for Children

Archaeologist Kim Biddulph will be leading a number of archaeological dig sessions next to our Iron Age roundhouse specially for children aged 7 years and over. There are two sessions running each day from 23rd July until Friday 27th July these cost £10.50 per child or £5 for Annual Pass holders. Sessions must be pre-booked.

Find out more and book


Ragged Victorians school summer holiday activities

Ragged Victorians event at COAM

Special Events

Every weekend throughout July and August the Museum is holding a special family event. These events include puppetry, rifle displays, classic vehicles, rural life, English civil war, Ragged Victorians and the Medieval warbow. Lots of the events include costumed re-enactors, demonstrations and living history.

Find out more about our events program

Everyday summer holiday activities

Every day during the summer holidays visitors can build models of our buildings in Northolt Barn (it’s a lot trickier than you might think), there are historic games and toys to play with and/or reminisce over, clothes and hats to try on, sensory trail, woodland trail, orienteering course, adventure playground, tea room, working farm with livestock, candle making (additional charge), and over 30 historic buildings to explore and discover and find about the people who might have lived or worked in them.

school holiday activities Bucks

Play in the adventure playground

Getting best value for money

An Annual Pass for a child is just £18 (under 4s free), concession £27, adult £30 and a family Annual Pass starts from £65 and various depending on the size of your family.

What an Annual Pass gets you is admission to the Museum on a standard priced day time event for 12 months, this includes all Terrific Tuesdays and their activities. It allows you free admission to our Enchanted Museum and Halloween Spectacular events if you’re an adult and a reduced £2.50 rate for children. Membership also gives you a discounted rate to our home education workshops and our archaeological dig. But, please note that some of these activities must be pre-booked.

It doesn’t include entry to other evening and private events such as outdoor cinema, school holidays clubs, workshops, uniformed group evenings and experience days.

The Museum is a charity and by buying an Annual Pass you are helping us to safe guard our future.

You can purchase an Annual Pass in our online shop or at our ticket office. If you pay standard admission price on your visit and then decide that you would like an Annual Pass just visit the ticket office on the day of your visit and they will take the value of your admission off the price of your pass.

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