12 school holiday activities that don’t cost anything


One of the biggest complaints I hear about school holidays is that everything is so expensive. Personally, I gave up long ago on camps, clinics and expensive concerts to entertain my kids during the holidays. There are so many things you can do for free that your kids will love just as much. Here are 12 fun school holiday activities that don’t cost a thing.


1. Go for a bushwalk

A bit of research goes a long way for this activity. Google ‘bushwalks’ in your area and choose one that isn’t too long but ends in something spectacular … like a waterfall, deserted beach or lookout. Take snacks and plenty of water and make sure everyone is wearing their most comfortable shoes.

2. Build a beach snowman


Just because it’s cold, doesn’t mean you can’t go to the beach. Take a bucket for shell collection and while you’re there build a snowman. Don’t forget to take a hat and a scarf to finish him off.

3. Make an indoor obstacle course

You can also do this outdoors. It’s a bit of a ‘use whatever you have’ idea. Coffee tables as tunnels, cushions as stepping stones, rolled up towels as ‘beams’. Clear a space and challenge your kids to create their own obstacle course.

Here’s one we created a few years ago:

4. Visit the local library

Local libraries are pretty awesome these days. There’s a kids’ room with comfy bean bags, the picture books are all displayed in easy-to-reach shelves and during school holidays they usually have a whole lot of free stuff on for kids. So check out the local library, at worst, you’ll come home with a whole heap of new books for an afternoon of quiet reading time.

5. Put on a puppet show


And by that I mean, get your kids to put on a puppet show. (I’m not suggesting you ‘puppet up’ and commit to being the entertainment for the day.)

Putting on a puppet show can be as simple as using the ironing board as the puppet theatre and cuddly toys as the puppets. You can also get really elaborate and make a shadow puppet theatre out of a cardboard box and some baking paper. Here are some links that might be handy if you want to run with this whole puppet show thing.

6. Put on a fashion show spring clean

OK, so I stole this idea from Suze English (you might know her from our Facebook page – she’s the one who politely deals with all your questions.) This is from her Rainy Day Activities To Keep You Sane, article:

“Place lamps in your hallway and pop some fun music on the stereo, then get your kids to strut their stuff down your makeshift catwalk. Cheer them on from your audience chair at the end of the hall, as you decide whether each item is ready for the rag-bag or op-shop, delegated to the hand-me-down or sewing baskets, or still fine to wear for another season. De-cluttering has never been so fun!”

7. Have a game of backyard cricket

I know! Who said that? Was it me? Who am I? Recently when we went on holiday I decided to get off my arse and join the backyard cricket game. And what I noticed was: the kids were so much more interested in playing, when I was playing. I started to enjoy it and just between you and me, I got quite competitive in the bowling stakes. The best thing about backyard cricket is, there’s a lot of standing around ‘fielding’ so it’s not a high octane sport. It’s just a really fun way to get everyone outside, together, doing something. Use the bin as a wicket and off you go. If there’s no room in your backyard, go down to the park.

8. Make your own YouTube movie or cooking show

As evidenced by the quality of YouTube videos, you don’t need much to make one. Just Mum’s iPhone will do. This activity can be as simple as a fake cooking show (how to make play dough?) or a short film. To inspire you, here’s a short zombie movie my kids made. (Unfortunately their productions always involve, blood and someone dying. Apologies for that, but whatever keeps them occupied right?).

9. Try out a new park

Are you and your kids in a ‘park rut’? Well, a change is as good as a holiday. There are some terrific parks around the country – you just have to know where to find them. Do some research, go a bit further a-field and try out a new park with your kids. Pack a picnic lunch, a thermos, a good book (for you), and you’re good for a day of free fun. You’ll find a list of great parks around the country here:

 10. Make a shoebox dollhouse


I don’t know about you, but shoeboxes seem to accumulate in this house. I fill them with LEGO, I use them to put old crayons in … so, how about this? Spend the morning building a shoebox dollhouse together and then your kids will probably spend the afternoon playing with it. Win/win.

11. Do all the free stuff that’s on in galleries and museums in your city

Sure, there’s always some expensive ‘exhibition’ on at galleries and museums during the school holidays, but they also put on free stuff, to lure you in. The trick is to know what’s on, when: for instance you don’t want to turn up just as the 10am, ‘Make your own boomerang,’ session is finishing up. That way lies disappointment, crying (yours) and compensation to upset children via ice blocks (which costs money).

So, get on Google, keep that supplement from the weekend paper, look in the local rag and make like Kalinda on The Good Wife: investigate, investigate, investigate. You’ll be amazed at the amount of freebies you can turn up.

12. Fly a kite

I know! It sounds really hokey, but flying a kite on a windswept day can be really exhilarating. Just choose a nice open space with a brisk breeze (and stay away from trees and power lines, Charlie Brown.)  Making your own kite can be as simple as a garbage bag, sticks and string, but if you want to make it a bit more robust here are some homemade kite instructions.