Back to school: activities to inspire a love of learning

Whether it’s dressing up as a Roman, navigating the great outdoors, or sitting beside the tree where gravity was discovered – we’ve a whole host of hands-on experiences to inspire curious kids. And there’s plenty for parents and grandparents to enjoy too.

Hands-on science activities at Woolsthorpe Manor

Science 

Inspire inquisitive minds with science to see, touch and solve. There’s a secret laboratory at Cragside where the air fizzes with electricity, whilst at Woolsthorpe in Lincolnshire, kids can get to grips with gravity – and stand next to the apple tree that started it all. Meanwhile, budding biologists can go bug hunting or pond dipping at Crom. There are no desks here, just acres of swishing grasses and tranquil water – ideal for fostering a love of nature.

Sword fighting kids

History 

Travel back to the days of blackboards and dunce hats in the Victorian classroom at Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire, or swap the smartphone for traditional Tudor games at Little Moreton Hall. At the White Cliffs of Dover, youngsters over 12 can go on a torch-lit tour of the Fan Bay tunnels, built during the Second World War. Roman history is a key topic in the curriculum, and for inquisitive kids, a trip to Chedworth is bound to stimulate interest in the subject. Here, little ones can learn through mosaic rubbing and fancy dress.

Step into the pages of The Tiger Who Came to Tea

English 

Enter an enchanting world of stories, where Cheshire cats appear by magic and Beatrix Potter’s animals spring from the pages. Places across the UK bring to life these classic children’s tales, from a Peter Rabbit trail in Cumbria to a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party at Grey’s Court. Inspired by its former owner, Lady Brunner, here avid readers can step into the world of Alice in Wonderland, and other much-loved tales. Or put the kettle on to celebrate Judith Kerr's The Tiger Who Came to Tea at a place near you.

Grandparents and grandchildren by a stream

Geography 

A travel-themed trail awaits at Buckland Abbey in Devon, where little explorers can follow Sir Francis Drake on a voyage around the world. There's plenty of talking points for the classroom – from mementos that Drake brought back from faraway lands, to his discovery of penguins. Or for a treasure hunt with a difference, try geocaching at Mount Stewart. With 1,000 acres of open space, it’s one big adventure playground. Kids can practice their route-finding skills with GPS – and impress the geography teacher.

" I believe young people are at their best when learning outdoors. They talk to each other, eye to eye, they play together and work together, learning those essential skills of selflessness and teamwork. "
- Bear Grylls, Global adventure TV host and bestselling author
Cycling at Nostell Priory and Parkland, West Yorkshire

Physical education 

We’ve endless activities for restless legs, from whooshing around Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire on two wheels, to a ‘kids versus adults’ game of Frisbee Golf at Plas Newydd, in Anglesey. Grandparents can teach their little ones how to fly a kite at Brancaster Beach, in Norfolk, whilst aspiring athletes can prepare for a term of cross-country running with a jog through the grassy meadows of Wimpole Estate. The free weekly Parkrun takes place every Saturday morning and consists of a timed 2km loop.

Girl taking apple from a tree

Home economics 

As aspiring chefs dust off their aprons for the baking season, we've activities to inspire the next generation of cooks. Get the kids interested in where the bread in their packed lunch comes from with a trip to Cotehele Mill in Cornwall. At Quebec House in Kent and Townend in Cumbria, children can marvel at old-fashioned treats like meaty mince pies and delicate macaroons emerging from the ovens in the old kitchens.

girl playing chimes

Drama and music 

Stimulate the little ones’ interest in drama with a day at Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire. The former monastery, with its medieval cloisters and looming towers, stood in for Hogwarts in two of the world-famous Harry Potter films. Elsewhere, families can follow in the footsteps of the Game of Thrones stars in Northern Ireland, or encourage a love of music at Belton in Lincolnshire. Set in atmospheric woodland, this award-winning adventure playground has chimes and music boxes just waiting to be played.

Dad and son colouring-in

Art 

Four striking sculptures have been dotted around the garden at Fountain’s Abbey in Yorkshire for inquisitive children to explore. It’s a real feast for the senses and an excellent way to introduce the kids to art – in all its surprising and playful forms. Over at Powis Castle in Wales, there’s a trail and audio guide to help little art enthusiasts uncover the secrets of the portraits that line the walls.