Cheap and easy ways to keep childhood boredom at bay during the school holiday break.
If the cardboard box has taught us anything it’s that you don’t have to spend big on the kids to keep them entertained and amused.
Keep it simple and stick to your budget these school holidays with these free (or close to free) school holiday activities, experiences and crafts.
1. Spend a day at the park
4. Go camping
6. Visit an art gallery (image: MCA)
- Spend a day in the park. If a trip to the theme park is off the cards then a local park is just as good. Choose one with a colourful and extensive playground area and your afternoon is set. Pack a picnic lunch too for when they get tired and hungry.
- Take a coastal walk. On a nice day taking a coastal walk is a relaxing way to get out. Bondi to Coogee boasts some spectacular views and if you take it during spring you can catch the Sculptures By The Sea exhibit as well.
- Build an arts and crafts table. If you don't mind spending a bit, you can buy arts and crafts materials like pipe wire, cardboard, glue, colouring in pencils and buttons and ask them to go nuts. However, to keep this activity free, instead find scrap material and packaging around the house they can use to craft with.
- Go camping. If you can’t get out-and-about for a family camping adventure you can keep it local and make this an in-the-house or backyard affair. Pitch a tent or grab a table and lay a long cloth over it. They can camp during the day or stay inside at night - with a dinner delivery service, naturally.
- Netflix it. Watch the flicks from the comfort of your home. Although Netflix is not free, if you're already paying for it then it's no added expense. If your plan allows for multiple devices you don’t even need to watch the shows with them -- leave them with cartoons while you catch up with House of Cards. Alternatively, you can watch flicks on free-to-air if you don't have an account and want to keept hsi one free.
- Visit an art gallery. Many galleries offer free entry to their general exhibition spaces. Major galleries in Australia that have free entry include the Art Gallery of NSW, Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, QAGome in Brisbane and Mona (under 18s are free).
- Make an indoors obstacle course. Grab all the pillows and move the couches to build an obstacle course they can run around in.
- Throw the footy around. Get out of the house and throw the footy around, play basketball or hit a tennis ball.
- Visit family. The school holidays are perfect for taking the kids to visit relos. You can even drop them off for a day to play with them… (hint, hint, nudge, nudge).
- Learn origami. Download a free design online to get them crafting with paper.
- Catch public transport. The thrill of hopping on a train, bus or ferry to anywhere is one of the simple joys of being a child. Some cities offer a free city transport service: for example Sydney has its 555 tourist shuttle and Melbourne offers a free city circle tram ride.
- Go star gazing. Set up some blankets in your backyard and lay yourself down to stare at the stars.
13. Bake and decorate
15. Stroll through a theme park
16. Play dress ups
- Bake and decorate. Bake cupcakes (or biscuits) and get the kids to decorate them with icing and sprinkles. Their reward? A delicious treat. If you want to ramp up the game, you can cook up some Easter treats together with these recipes.
- Visit your local botanical gardens. Bursts of colour and wildlife will distract kids no end.
- Stroll through a theme park. It’s a bit of a tease but theme parks like Luna Park in Sydney and Melbourne are free to enter. The colours and sounds are candy to kids’ eyes - just be wary that it costs money to go on the rides.
- Play dress ups. They can do this with their clothes or your clothes. (If they wreck your clothes, well, that's an excuse to go shopping!)
- Get them gardening. Visit the shops with them and let them choose the flowers or plants of seeds they’d like to grow and have them plant them in the garden. They can watch them grow and look after them throughout the holiday period. To keep this one free you can have them help weed or replant botanicals you already have in your garden.
- Draw a picture. All you need is some card and colouring pencils and they’ll take care of the rest.
- Write a story. Got a chatterbox on your hand with a huge imagination. Ask them to write it down.
- Go fishing. Grab the tackle and fishing rods and go on a fishing trip.
- Perform simple science experiments. Google "simple science experiments". There are heaps and use household materials you already own.
- Complete a puzzle/activity book. Activity books are a fun way to keep them occupied throughout the day. You can even download activity pages online.
- Read a book. Harry Potter anyone? It really is best to start them off early.
- Walk the city. To little ones, anywhere outside of home is an adventure. Take them on a trip through the city to explore its iconic sights.
25. Make fingerprint animals (image: Pinterest)
27. Visit the beach
31. Make crazy fruit juices (image: Woolworths)
- Make fingerprint animals. All you need is an ink-pad, paper and a pen. Press your fingerprint onto the sheet and use it as a head or body to draw animals.
- Hold a family board games night. From Monopoly and UNO to Game of Life and Ticket To Ride, the possibilities are endless. Stock up at these top games shops.
- Visit the beach. Spend a sunny day at the beach.
- Go on a treasure hunt. Create a map for your kids to find a bounty that you’ve stashed somewhere.
- Create a paint station. Grab some butcher’s paper and a couple of pots of colourful paint and the rest is up to their imagination.
- Build a scrapbook or collage. All they need is some old magazines, a pair of scissors and some glue to create a collage or scrapbook.
- Make crazy fruit juices. This is a top way to get them eating fruit and having fun in the kitchen. Give them a station of fruits to choose from and mix them up in the juicer with some ice. PS: Shops like Woolworths and Harris Farm often offer free fruit for kids with your shop.
- Visit a museum or public library. Free museums and libraries for kids in Australia include the State Library of NSW, Australian Museum, Anzac Day Memorial, National Gallery of Australia and the National Gallery of Victoria.
- Visit a farm. Heaps of local farms offer fruit picking or allow you to visit the animals. For something closer to home, try a petting zoo. The Grounds at Alexandria has one over the weekend that goes down well with the kids.
- Go bush walking. Bush walks for every strength are available in national parks like the Blue Mountains in NSW and Mount Ainslie in Canberra.
- Be a photographer for a day. Give them the camera for a day and see what shots they come up with. You can choose to print or frame their best ones after.
- Make masks. Paper plates and spare card are perfect for these. They can then roleplay their characters with the masks after.
37. Check out the markets (Image: Queen Victoria Markets)
41. Make fairy glitter dough (image: Pinterest)
47. Make eggheads (Image: Pinterest)
- Go to the markets. From Glebe Markets and Eveleigh Farmers markets in Sydney to Salamanca Market in Hobart and Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, a visit to the market is a fun day out and who knows, they could even come home with a trinket afterwards.
- Play hide and seek. Two words: endless fun. You might also like to play tag, dodgeball or pretend the floor is lava.
- Perform a play. Have the kids write and perform a play for you.
- Do face painting. You can do this or you can let them have fun. Just don’t forget the baby wipes!
- Make macaroni necklaces. A fundamental component of any childhood! All you need is a piece of string and a packet of dried macaroni and the rest is up to their imagination.
- Make fairy dust dough. For a unique scientific play session they can create fairy dust dough by mixing hair conditioner and corn-flour and adding food colouring and glitter.
- Go for a bike ride. Cycle the streets wherever you are. Melbourne boasts a bike share scheme that gives you 30 minutes free hire while Canberra has some beautiful cycle loops including one around Lake Burley Griffin.
- Go to the pools. A low-cost day out in general, and some harbourside pools like Murray Rose Pool and Maccallum Pools in Sydney are free to enter.
- Host a sleepover. Invite your kids’ friends over for a night of movies, games and all-round fun.
- Host a fashion show. This could be with their own clothes or with yours. Your choice!
- Have a dance party. Pull up the volume on the radio and cover the lights with cellophane for a musical evening.
- Make eggheads. Give eggshells a new lease of life by filling them with alfalfa and asking the kids to draw faces on them.
- DIY Aquariums. This super fun activity is perfect after a day at the beach. Ask them to collect shells and pebbles which they can them place into jars of coloured blue water to marvel at and keep. Here’s an example.
- (And finally) Play with a cardboard box. From building a cart or a dollhouse to crafting a rocket ship or mini golf course, a cardboard box can offer so much play for a kid.