Five free, or mostly free, things you can do with your kids in the holidays

With the rising cost of living, it is reassuring for parents to remember simple, classic activities that can bring hours of entertainment without worrying about breaking the bank. With the summer holidays lasting six weeks, it’s easy to run out of ideas – so we did the thinking for you. Here are five fun and mostly free ways to keep the kids entertained.

A day at the beach can be filled with activities.Credit:Joe Armao

A beach hunt

Get away from the suburbs and relax in the sun, sand and sea. Fill a bag with everything your family needs to be comfortable and hydrated. Sunscreen is a must. For fun activities, kids can collect seashells and build and decorate a sandcastle with shells or other treasures they find. Digging out a channel from a hole to the sea so the hole fills up with each wave will keep them busy and entertain them for ages. If there are pebbles around, they can construct a stone tower with the flat rocks they find.

Steve Pearce, CEO of Surf Life Saving NSW, warns that parents should always be supervising kids around water and to swim between the red and yellow flags. “We want everyone to enjoy the beach and waterways safely this summer. We are expecting our beaches to see a big influx of holiday-makers and families. Our volunteer surf lifesavers and lifeguards will be doing their best to keep everyone safe.”

Search the library

Take this chance to give your child a break from screens and build a love of reading in their childhood. It is also a good opportunity for them to learn to be quiet for a short period, and libraries generally offer air conditioning.

A creative way for kids to find books at the library is to do a library scavenger hunt. If they are young, send them off to choose five books of a certain colour, then five books with a certain letter on them, then five books with a certain picture on the cover and so on. If they are older, work off a list of different genres, topics and authors and enlist the help of librarians or the research catalogue to find books in those categories.

Libraries often have book displays with curated collections of books, so kids can explore those to find new books to read.

Angela Morgan is a Young People’s Librarian from Toowoomba Region Libraries and she says while school curriculums are under increased pressure to provide structured content for the students, recreational reading empowers kids and parents.

“There could be books that have generational love, like Dad’s Tintin comics, or it could be something that kids are interested in that they haven’t had an opportunity to explore in the curriculum.”

Children can chase down a list of things to look for at a botanic garden.Credit:Louie Douvis

Explore some botanic gardens

There are botanic gardens in all the states and territories of Australia and they usually don’t require an admission fee. Pack a picnic and find a shady spot. It’s a great way to get out and enjoy the outdoors while teaching children about different plant species.

“Summer is one of the best times of year to visit botanic gardens,” says Denise Ora, chief executive of the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust. “Whether enjoying moments in nature with your loved ones or taking in the wonders of a scientifically curated horticulture collection under the cool of a tree canopy, botanic gardens are a place to connect people and green spaces whilst also having fun.”

One innovative way for kids to enjoy exploring a botanic garden is to go on a treasure hunt. Create a list of items for the kids to look for, such as different types of plants, animals, or insects. Give them a specific amount of time to find as many items on the list as they can. If you want to make it more competitive, you can have teams of kids competing against each other. You can also have a prize for the team who finds the most items on the list.

Get around town

For kids, riding the bus or train can be a thrilling experience. Plan a trip to the end of the bus or tram or train line. One fun way to enjoy public transport is to play ‘I Spy’. You can count the colours of cars, the number of buses, look for shapes in the window reflections, or make up stories about the people you observe outside the window.

Take a ride on a tram, bus, train or ferry and see where you end up.Credit:Bianca De Marchi

Nationwide, children typically ride free under age three or four, and fares are cheaper until age 15. Melbourne offers a free tram zone and a complimentary city circle tram. Those in Sydney can have fun on a ferry ride across the harbour (though fares do apply).

Rearrange some rooms on a rainy day

Spending a wet day at home doesn’t have to mean it’s dull. Instead, use the time to give your child’s bedroom a makeover. Change the furniture’s position and ask them for their input. You can even download and print free digital artwork that reflects new interests.

Stylist Fiona Turnbull, from These Four Walls, recommends involving children in the layout, design and decor of bedrooms.

“It allows them to create a unique and individual space, especially as they grow and develop,” she says.

“Take the kids on a nature walk and collect pieces as you go. Incorporating their art or stories in frames is a great way for them to be proud and show their work.“

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