Indoor adventures for rainy days

It’s one of the many challenges of parenthood: how do you keep a flock of hyperactive children amused on a rainy day? Because, let’s face it, even the best laid plans can be ruined by a sudden downpour. Soggy days out aren’t everyone's idea of fun and suddenly the adventure playground doesn’t seem quite so appealing.

Never fear, we’ve got a few ideas up our sleeve. We’re not talking about ‘no running’ stuffy old houses or ‘don’t touch’ museums. We’re talking about storytelling, tractor-driving, tunnel-scrambling adventures; with a generous dollop of bear-hunting, spaghetti-throwing, time-travelling wonderfulness. Now what family doesn’t need a bit of that?

    Discover hidden treasures at Calke Abbey

    Squirt’s Stable is divided into themed bays that tell the story of Calke Abbey through the ages. One bay recreates a Victorian natural history collector’s camp, where children can pour over the specimen cabinets and equipment for gathering butterflies and fossils. There is also a dressing up bay and a reading bay. Organised activities range from dissecting owl pellets to making Victorian fans.

    Inside the house are fascinating and often strange possessions, from crocodile skulls and stuffed birds to carriages. Ask in the Entrance Hall of the house for an I spy sheet or try one of our Calke alive events, where volunteers transform into a character from Calke’s past.

    Explore the caverns of the Rock Houses

    The Rock Houses are not built in natural caves, but were first carved out by people in the 18th-century; you can still see the chip-marks on the walls. With real fires and tunnels connecting rooms this is a snug place to escape to on wet and windy days and and a real departure from traditional stately homes.

    Children can try on 1930’s costumes and enjoy running about in the empty caverns. Room guides will pass you objects to handle and share facts about what life was like for children in these unusual homes. We also run a variety of family friendly events.

    Farmyard fun at Castle Ward, County Down

    Children can drive a tractor at Castle Ward. Yes, you heard us right – children in charge of tractors. Not the full-sized, diesel-chugging type; but junior pedal tractors, trailers and frontloads are all available at our barn. There’s room to pedal around both indoors and outdoors so they can be enjoyed whatever the weather.

    Also at the barn kids can dress up as farmyard animals and play farm board-games. There is a toy farm and lots of animal pictures to colour in.

    * The barn is open Saturday and Sunday from 11am-4pm, and daily during school holidays from 10am-5pm

    Get creative at Nymans, West Sussex

    Come rain or shine children can get creative with our free family ARTventures, on the first weekend of every month. The Messel family, who lived at Nymans, were a very clever and creative bunch, and so we continue their tradition with the help of all sorts of materials and messy colourful stuff.

    I spy at Nostell Priory, Yorkshire

    Formerly the site of a monastery, Nostell Priory is an 18th-century treasure house, making it the perfect location for a game of I spy. Play your own game or try one of our house trails. These include a Chippendale themed trail, a find the furniture trail and a spot the portraits trail. Slightly older children can try our cryptic animal spotter trail and see if they can uncover the toads in the bathroom and the mice in the doll’s house. Check out our latest events for more family fun.

    Machines at work, Quarry Bank Mill, Cheshire

    Children love the clattering, hissing and clanging of the Mill machinery, which runs every day that the Mill is open. Expert demonstrators are on hand to help you imagine the working conditions in the late 18th century. The water wheel, the largest working in Europe, is a particular favourite with our young visitors.

    Once you’ve taken in the sights and sounds of the Mill you can see what it was like to be an apprentice, by touring the Apprentice House, built to house the pauper children who worked here. We run interactive family tours with a costumed interpreter every weekend and school holiday.

    * Call Quarry Bank Mill on 01625 527468 to find out when the next family tour is running

    Play servants at Ickworth, Suffolk

    'We really enjoyed the trail in the basement. With young boys it is often difficult to get them inside a stately home, let alone to linger. We had a fantastic time looking around the house whilst our boys looked for clues.'
    - Visitor at Ickworth

    Visit the basement of the Rotunda to see how servants lived at Ickworth. Children can touch everything and play 1930's games in the servants’ hall. On our living history days volunteer performers dress up and act out scenes from the past.

    Join a family tour to find out about our magical stumpery, use the secret back stairs and learn why the Earl Bishop threw spaghetti out of his window. You can also entertain children with a story seeker trail pack or an I spy sheet, both available at Porter's Lodge.

    Run wild at Belton House, Lincolnshire

    ‘Lovely day out, from the adventure playground to the house, us adults and kids thoroughly enjoyed it.’
    - Visitor at Belton House

    ‘Belton House’s indoor adventure play area is all about bringing the outside in. The play equipment ranges from a mini Belmont tower to tunnels to scramble through. Kids can run off some energy whilst parents enjoy cupcakes and coffee at the café, which is open from 10.30am every day.

    ‘Most weekends we have activities and crafts in the Discovery Centre, where families can make handmade butterflies and caterpillars. This is open from 12.30 – 4pm. We also hold our popular toddler group, Belton Button Bucks, on the first and third Thursday of the month.’
    - Leonora Harbord, play manager

    * Please call 01476 566116 to find out what is on at the Discovery Centre

    Time travel is possible at Erddig, Clwyd

    Erddig is widely acclaimed as one of Britain’s finest historic houses. It’s a great place to take cover from the rain and learn about upstairs-downstairs life. Have-a-go history days take place throughout the year.

    Children who play the piano can take centre stage in the drawing room; they only have to ask the room guide and they are welcome to fill the house with music.

    Victorian adventure at Lanhydrock, Cornwall

    Lanhydrock is a sprawling Victorian family home. Young visitors can get hands on at our touch and discover tables: where they can learn to fold napkins, brush hats, identify bugs and dial the old telephones. Kids also enjoy playing with the Victorian toys in the family school room and practicing their handwriting on slates.