The kids are about to rip each others’ throats out, you’ve already broken up three arguments and Moana has been playing on repeat since six am. And it’s only the first day of school holidays. To save your sanity, we’ve rounded up some activities to keep the kids entertained (and you from killing them) that you can organise on a shoestring. Some are even free!
For rainy days, there’s nothing better than Grandma’s house. It’s not free babysitting, it’s quality time with Nan or Pop. If your parents or parents-in-law are especially supportive, they might even let you have a nap in the guest bedroom while your spawn of Satan run wild. For those who don’t have family close by, outsource this job to someone else (for free). IKEA’s Småland allows you to drop your kids off for up to an hour while you get your interior decorating sorted or scoff down a few meatballs and cinnamon scrolls.
Public libraries are another source of diversion. Many libraries have regular rhyme times for younger kids or story time and craft activities for the older ones, and will often have a dedicated kids play area as well. Check ahead to see which ones in your area are the most child-friendly. Similar to libraries, bookshops will also have story time or author visits and are a great way to instil a love of reading in kids.
A good option is to reach out to parents in the same predicament as you and arrange play dates, preferably at their home. Sure, you’ll probably have to return the favour at some stage but at least your kids will be entertained while you get some adult conversation in.
If all else fails, take them on a road trip to the nearest Maccas with play equipment and bribe them with a milkshake in exchange for an hour of peace and quiet.
When the sun’s shining but the kiddies are sick of the local park, tell them to take a hike, literally. Australia is blessed with thousands of kilometres of coastline as well as national parks and hiking trails. Make a day of it, pack a picnic lunch and explore the great outdoors. For those averse to travelling too far afield, simply getting out of the daily routine is enough novelty for the kids to stop them fighting for five minutes. If they’re not used to catching public transport, getting on a tram, ferry or bus can be a highlight. (True story: I once spent 40 minutes with my son at a light rail stop counting the trams that went by. And he didn’t stop talking about it for two weeks.) Bonus points if there’s a cafe with good coffee and babyccinos at the end of the trip.
Arts and culture ideas
Instil a love of the arts in your kids early and take them to to a gallery or museum. Many will have free entry for children under 16 (Tasmania’s MONA and Heide Museum of Modern Art in Melbourne are some examples) or will have collections that are free to browse (such as the MCA in Sydney or Museum of Brisbane).
Some councils run community workshops and activities for kids during school holidays for free or at heavily discounted rates; check your local council to see if this is something you can take advantage of. A Star Wars Jedi academy and cycling confidence workshop are just two events we found when doing a quick Google search. Other options include art or drama classes and even gardening for the green thumbed little ones.
For entertainment ideas on a budget, check out Lasttix for discounted tickets to magic shows, circus acts and theatre for kids. Top tip: Use the ‘browse’ function to filter shows for children.