How to entertain a group of children aged 5-18 in half-term. Holiday at Butlin's!

The age range of my 7 children is actually 5 to very nearly 20 but since DS#1 lives independently and is at work most of this week I have only to keep six of my brood entertained - no mean feat with such a huge age gap between oldest and youngest.

So what do we do? Playground? Well that's the younger three happy, and at a push the 13 and 14 year old for a short time. Zoo? Same. Cinema? Try finding a film they all want to and are legally able to watch!

So we resort to separate days out, or the good old standby of DVD and popcorn sessions with old style family favourites or on rainy days throw in the towel completely and watch the electricity meter spin as they play assorted handheld consoles.

Which is why this particular half term has been a treat. We are at Butlin's in Bognor - our first visit ever to any of the company's sites- and we hadn't realised quite how good this kind of holiday is for larger families and for those with a big age gap between children and indeed for single parents.

You see we hadn't realised they run such great kid's clubs. I say kid's clubs - my 13 year old daughter and 14 year old son are loving the teens VIP club which offers discounted organised sessions on the go-karts and in the spa, water wars in the pool, teen-style crafts like graffiti T-shirt decorating and silent discos to name but a few.

They can go along without mum and dad and we have hardly seen our two - we insist they text and always let us know where they are going next and we meet up regularly when they excitedly fill us in with where they have been and what wonderful things they have been doing.

My nine year old son was nervous to be going alone to the Club Red session - he's the only one of mine in the 9-12 range - but the Redcoat in charge soon made him and the other children feel like a gang and he came skipping back form their archery session with a huge smile!

We do have to stay with our younger two. The Get Busy crew is for 5-8 year olds but it has been fun to spend time with them - we have made picture frames and joined in their fencing class so far and made the most of the time without their older siblings to enjoy watching them on the fairground and had a quiet drink together while they played on a lovely wooden play frame.

This morning we persuaded our 18-year-old who has been busy holed up in his room revising for his imminent A-levels to join us for a couple of hours around the site. He raced his dad on the go-karts, and dodgems and obligingly acted as an extra adult so we could take all three little ones on rides which they needed to be accompanied on. This is probably our last family holiday with him so I have enjoyed every bit of time he has been able to spare us.

And this afternoon in between kid's club activities we managed a quick trip to the beach and nearby Bognor town followed by an early supper before yet more kid's club stuff!

A Butlin's holiday it turns out is perfect for all ages, even on the food front. It's been a pleasure to see my lot enjoying their favourite foods. Today's choices for my lot- pasta followed by more pasta for DD#1, roast dinner followed by a bizarre mix of battered cod, fish fingers and gravy for DS#2. Fishfingers and nuggets with noodles and beans and sweetcorn for DS#5, burger and noodles for DS#2, different pasta with bolognaise meatballs and nuggets for DD#2 with more fish fingers for DS#4.

DH had a tuna salad followed by cod and chips and I enjoyed leek and potato soup followed by a roast turkey dinner complete with cranberry sauce, sausages and stuffing balls! And yes - we well and truly sampled the puds again too! And I haven't even mentioned breakfast!!! full English, porridge, grapefruit, pineapple, kippers, toast, pancakes, croissant, boiled eggs... and that's just what we ate!!

Only one slight niggle-DS#2 noted a lot of people including him left most of the burger from the grill counter. He says he felt the burger was not great quality which was a shame as it is a popular choice leading to a lot of waste from what we saw. However the children ate the smaller thinner burgers from the children's counter yesterday so maybe it's a question of personal taste?

And although I loved my roast, DH said his meal was just "OK". But we have no real complaints - the meals are varied, filling and mostly freshly cooked. All the vegetables I have eaten have been cooked perfectly al dente and there is enough choice that if you don't like one thing you can go back and choose again. The only complaint from DS#3 was that the chocolate cake was "too chocolatey!"

Seriously though if you worry about organising holidays for extended families or families or friends with varying ages of children this is the holiday for you. And I can highly recommend adding the premium dining package. It might seem a lot extra at the time but works out very economical - with such a good breakfast in the morning you don't need lunch- and you can always have an early supper - the restaurant opens at 4pm if you are starving!

I've convinced myself that I am walking off all the calories wandering round the site - but you'll notice there's only one picture of me here. I forgot to pack the wide angled lens.....

Disclaimer: We are enjoying a four-night break at Butlin's Bognor free as I am a Butlin's Ambassador. Views and opinions remain honest, impartial and my own.

Read all my Butlin's news and reviews HERE
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