Half term. Two words that strike fear into the hearts of parents across the land. We have just got back into the swing of term time. We had at last djusted to the morning chaos of rushed breakfasts, mislaid school ties, forgotten book bags and last minute dashes back to the school gate with the recorder no one reminded us to bring on Wednesday. It might not be fun, but the payback is six and a half hours of peace and quiet until the hoards descend in search of biscuits, the TV remote and our attention (and yes I do mean in that order).
Then along comes half term. That unnecessary week off that puts us all out of kilter once again. Suddenly the boys are hanging around looking lost and aimless without the structure of a school day. All suggestions that they use their time off to play with the myriad of toys stuffed in the cupboards, or practise the musical instruments they claim never to have time to play during the term or indeed tackle that mountain of holiday homework are met with excoriating scorn.
The only solution that is acceptable to my picky pre-teens is a day out that requires a second mortgage to fund it. On Friday we had an inset day (don't get me on to them and the question of why staff training can't take place in school holidays when there are enough of them), so I decided to have a day out with my big boys.
We opted for the Dr Who Experience. It was great fun as we are all huge fans. We got to fly the Tardis, operate a Dalek and speak like a Cyberman - what's not to like? But add on lunch at Pizza Express and a couple of cheap toys and I was £100 lighter by the end of the day. If I carry on like this we could have gone away on holiday for less than it will cost to keep them entertained at home.
However just as I was about to lose the will to live before the holiday had even started, salvation arrived in the form of a big, brown paper parcel. I love a big box appearing on my doorstep at any time, but when it contains the solution to all my half term problems in one (or two) shiny cardboard boxes I am in heaven. For inside said box was a copy of the game my boys have been crazing me to buy them ever since they first saw it advertised. My husband and I have been fuddy duddy confused by their breathless descriptions of something that was a computer game and toys, but now it all became clear.
Skylanders is an ingenious mix of toy figures and a fantasy game. You stick your figure of choice onto the portal, which comes with the game and lights up in lovely pretty colours, its image instantly appears onscreen and you can play as that character with all its attendant skills. Now being an over the hill parent this is as far as I will go in terms of explanation, lest I show off the bottomless pit of my ignorance. But suffice to say that ever since it was loaded up onto the shiny new Wii that came with it I haven't heard a peep from my previously bored stiff children.
Even the twins demand to watch Skylanders when the boys are playing as it has the bright, colourful and slightly psychedelic look of a children's TV show. Though I have had to battle to keep all the figures safe as they are a magnet to sticky two-year-old paws. Despite this slight drawback I think the addition of real life toys to the onscreen games gives it improved longevity. Usually my boys have a way of obsessively playing games to the bitter end and then simply losing interest. This way every time we buy a new character the games develops a new level, and they can go back and play it all again with new powers.
The only problem now is that the boys want to collect ALL of the figures. Luckily we have another birthday and Christmas coming up and I don't think Santa will have any trouble coming up with something to put in our boys stockings.