School holiday fun without the financial fright

Personal Finance · 26 Sep 2019

School holidays are a lot of fun - but entertaining your kids can be an expensive business, particularly if the weather goes south and you’re forced inside.

School holidays are a lot of fun - but entertaining your kids can be an expensive business, particularly if the weather goes south and you’re forced inside. Here are some suggested activities to try and keep everyone happy - without completely emptying your wallet.

Hit the swimming pool

Check out the school holiday programmes as your local swimming pool. Public swimming pools are usually good value for money and most kids can happily spend hours in the water, making a trip to the pool a great, day out.

Bake up a storm

Everyone loves to bake, and a good baking session can take the best part of a day, by the time you’ve researched the recipes, written the shopping list, visited the supermarket for ingredients and actually done the baking.

Things that need decorating are an excellent idea - not only does this keep the kids occupied for longer but it’s also a great outlet for their creative streaks. There are lots of websites and blogs out there too, dedicated to budget-friendly family baking recipes.

Scavenger hunt

It's a classic for a reason! Everybody loves a good old scavenger hunt and they can be cheap and easy to set up. If you don't want to shell out lots of cash on treats to find, wrap up your home baking and hide that. Or just have one prize at the end and hide a series of clues or riddles to find it. If you want to stage the hunt away from home, an area of your local botanic gardens, park or beach can also make a great hunting ground.

Stage a movie day at home

Instead of a trip to the cinema, which can get pricey, why not stage a movie day at home? Invite some friends and tell everyone to bring a DVD, or cue up some kid-friendly movies on your streaming service. Pop some popcorn and scoop some ice creams.

Plan an adventure by public transport

If you don’t often travel by public transport, it can feel like a real adventure to board a bus and just see where it takes you. Better still, if you can, board a bus that connects with a train and then a ferry. It a simple way to experience another side to the city you live in. Make sure to pick a fun destination and take plenty of snacks for the journey.

Hit the library

Not only are libraries a great source of books and DVDs to borrow, they also usually run special activities in the school holidays. Whether it’s arts and crafts or storytelling, the great thing about these activities is that they’re often completely free.

DIY mini golf

Set up your own min-golf course in the back yard, the beach, the local park or even the living room on a wet day. Just use empty tin cans for holes and weight them in place with small stones. No need for golf clubs or balls - a stick and stone would do, or the backyard cricket bat.

Playground picnic

It's an obvious one, but hitting the playground with a picnic is a fun day out. Gather other parents and kids of similar ages together so you can create a potluck park feast and there's more than one adult to do the kid-wrangling and cover the food costs.

Make and fly a kite

YouTube and other websites have plenty of plans and instructions for how to make simple, cheap kites from household items such as paper and wooden skewers. Large enough to be fun, small enough to keep the kids' feet on the ground!

Plant a vege patch

This is a great one for the spring school holidays, but can work throughout the year depending on what you plant. If you don't have a big garden space, small pots or seed trays are cheap to buy. Or try saved eggshells or egg cartons - they make great mini-pots for seedlings and can be planted straight into the ground.

Arts, crafts and creativity

A few supplies such as glue, glitter, colouring pencils and coloured paper or card can make for a fun arts and crafts day. Add in other fairly cheap items such as dried pasta or lentils for collages. Make cards to give to friends, make face masks, or even a picture book. For a less messy idea encourage the kids to write their own short play then act it out.

Turn screen time into shared time

Managing kids’ screen time can be a challenge these days especially when the dreaded “I’m bored” kicks in. Instead of plonking themselves in front of a game, use some of the other features of your phone or tablet for fun, group activities.

  • Put on the kids' favourite song and film a music video.

  • Create a short film from a scene from a favourite movie or book or even have them write their own.

  • Record some everyday sounds, or take photos of everyday things from odd angles and get the kids to identify what they’re seeing or hearing.

  • Create a scavenger hunt list of things to find during a walk in the park, and have them take photos of each item as they see it.

Other cheap and free activities to look out for your in neighbourhood include easy, short nature or bush walks, skate parks, farm visits, backyard camping, and easy bike tracks.

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