The economy doesn’t seem to be looking any better, but the kids still want to have fun on their school holidays.
While you may be tempted to just say “Sorry kids, maybe next time,” why not plan something inexpensive to give the kids something fun to do while they’re away from school?
Here are 50 cheap and fun school holiday activities that the kids will love while they’re free from the tedium of books and lessons.
1. Go camping in the garden or backyard, or even just in the living room.
If you already have a tent, this doesn’t cost a thing. Serve up some hotdogs and tell stories until you fall asleep. Keep the tent near the back or side door so that kids who get scared in the night can scoot back to their beds, or use the loo! If you have a grown-up staying in a tent with them, consider a little barbecue or campfire. If you own a trampoline – excellent! Cover it with blankets and it can be a tent!
2. Have a Movie Day
This is perfect for a rainy day or for when days are hotter than the sun. Rent a few kids movies and stock up on popcorn. Set up doonas and pillows and lounge your day away! Or plan a binge-watch session on Netflix, we have some suggestions here!
3. Plant a Veggie Patch with the kids.
You don’t even need a garden for this. Most of the fun comes from finding containers to recycle as pots, painting them, and planting the seeds. Choose something that grows fast and start on the first day of holidays, so the kids can see them grow each day. Look at plastic soft drink containers to make a small indoor nursery.
More Reading: The 7 Vegetables That Are Easiest to Grow
4. Go on a Nearby Adventure
Grab a map of your area and find a place you haven’t been before. Pack the kids in the car and go explore! You might visit a new park, a waterfall, a hiking trail, a walking track – go exploring!
5. Have a day at the beach
The only expense is the fuel and snacks while you’re out in the sun.
6. Go to a local museum or art gallery.
Your kids will have fun while learning about local culture. Most capital cities have many museums and always have a feature collection suitable for school-age kids!
7. Visit a farm.
Many farmers will be happy to give a short tour to a group of kids, and they might be able to pet some of the animals.
8. Head out to a local park and have a BBQ picnic.
Let the little guys help pack the food to get them excited about the trip.
9. Let them dig for fossils bury a bunch of cheap dinosaur toys in the yard or garden.
Give everyone a plastic spade for digging. You can even buy some inexpensive “replica” dinosaur bones online or at a museum.
10. Make Salt Dough Ornaments
You can bring out the creativity of your kids by making salt dough ornaments — figurines, letters, animals — just about anything they want to make.
Making things out of salt dough will help foster fine motor skills through sculpting, painting and threading.
11. Write a story with your kids.
Get them interested in writing and literature.
12. Write a play with your kids that they can act out.
You can let them make all the costumes and sets for the play.
13. Have a Masquerade Party at your house.
Let the kids make their own masks out of paper plates, elastic bands, and paint, feathers, and glitter.
14. Make cards with the kids (for Christmas or any other occasion).
During the Christmas holiday, you can make cards with the kids to send out to relatives. Grab together all the art supplies – or pop down to your local craft shop to get some cardboard, glitter and glue.
15. Try Geocaching
Geocaching is super fun – go find the hidden treasure!
16. Make a collage
You can pick up items at the beach or a local park, stuff like shells, leaves, or driftwood, and then bring it home and glue it all to a piece of cardboard.
17. Get a small face painting kit and spend the day painting the kids’ faces.
Then, let them try it out on each other.
18. Head out to a national park and do a bushwalk.
Depending on the park you go to, the entry fee could go up to $11.
19. Make fresh juice.
Get out the juicer and let your kids choose what kinds of crazy mocktails they want to drink. You’ll be surprised at what they come up with!
20. Build a Sandcastle.
If you live near the beach, there are plenty of activities to do during a day trip.
21. Use macaroni or costume store beads to make necklaces, bracelets, and more.
This is great with girls, but boys actually can have a good time too.
22. Grab a pair of binoculars and go birdwatching.
Then, make a list of all the birds and look up information about them on the internet later.
23. Plan a treasure hunt.
Hide clues around the house or garden and give your kids a treasure map to start out with.
24. Go for a bike ride!
Simple, yet surprisingly fun.
25. Find a variety of leaves and do leaf rubbings.
Place the leaf under a sheet of paper, and rub a pencil across the paper to make an imprint of the leaf’s shape. If the kids are older, you could look at doing some old cemetery rubbings too!
26. Go see the Aboriginal rock drawings at Bundeena.
27. Invite some playmates over.
Sometimes, all you need to do is bring a friend over and set them loose.
28. Take a trip to the Australian National Maritime Museum.
In fact, check online for all the local museums around your area.
29. Have a fashion show.
Let the kids wear some of your blouses and dresses and have them parade down the runway. Take pictures to send to relatives.
30. Head over to the Art Gallery of NSW.
They have periodic free performances, along with 2-hour art courses that the kids will love for $25.
31. Play a detective game.
Either set up a mystery or just give the kids magnifying glasses and “police notebooks” (regular notebooks) to hunt for clues.
32. Have a tea party.
Set up an afternoon tea party in the garden.
33. Have food coloring experiments.
Set up jars of water with different colors and dip in vegetables, flowers, or anything else you can think of.
34. Take a trip to see the grandparents.
This is a treat for the kids as well as the grandparents.
35. A simple game of hide and seek is always fun.
Play at night in the dark to make it extra thrilling.
36. Take a tour around your city.
Even after years of living there, you’ll be surprised at all the new and culturally significant places you didn’t know about. Many major cities have a free bus that will just travel around ‘the loop’ of the city. This is great for free sightseeing!
37. Head over to a nearby botanical garden with a picnic lunch and a few books.
Let the kids run around and play while you relax.
38. Go fishing.
You can do this for the afternoon and catch dinner. If you don’t have a fishing line, grab an inexpensive hand line (they are about $2).
39. Make your own kites.
Then, head outside to play with them.
40. Get up early in the morning and go to a local farmer’s market or fair.
The kids might grumble at first, but they’ll end up having a great time.
41. If you’re feeling creative, try a paper mache project.
It makes a mess, but it’s a whole lot of fun.
42. Look up a few simple science experiments online and then do them with your kids.
Who says holidays can’t be educational?
43. Do a theme day.
Choose a colour, and everything that day has to go along with that colour. For example, if you choose red, then you wear red clothes, eat food coloured red, make paintings or crafts with red paint, etc.
44. Make a scrapbook.
Keep your memories alive by putting it in a scrapbook.
45. Go out to a park.
Enjoy an afternoon of rollerblading or biking.
46. Go to the bowling alley for a couple of hours of fun.
Bowling is inexpensive, and most of the time, there will be an air hockey table if the kids get bored.
47. Spend an afternoon at the zoo.
All you pay is the admission!
48. Have a cooking day, where you bake a bunch of different desserts.
This is always a hit because you get to eat them later!
49. Put on a dance party.
Find or make some costumes to make it even more fun.
50. Find a local theater that puts on live shows and bring the kids.
Many theaters will put on free shows, but make sure it’s family-friendly!