21 things to do with kids at home over the school holidays
Confined at home and wondering what to do with the kids? We have some ideas.
After months of remote learning, spending the spring school holidays in (at least partial) lockdown will be a challenge for even the most organised families. Many of the school-holiday stand-bys are closed for business, and many children are spending most of their waking hours inside or in the backyard. So, if you have kids to keep entertained, how do you fill in the seemingly endless hours ahead? Here are some (mostly) device-free options and new experiences to discover.
21 things to do with the kids if you’re stuck at home
Pack a picnic
Spring weather and easing restrictions put picnic season front of mind. Even if restrictions prevent you heading out to your usual favourite picnic spot, a backyard picnic or even a blanket spread out on the loungeroom floor can help break the monotony. Spend the morning making some treats and packing a basket. If you are able to venture further than your own back yard, remember to wear a mask when not eating and keep 1.5 metres’ distance at all times.
Take inspiration from TV show Ninja Warrior and get the kids moving through an improvised obstacle course. Use your local playground (they’re open again) or set up in the backyard or indoors, using chairs as ‘floating steps’, swinging off tree branches or door frames, jumping over or limbo-ing under a tied rope, and adding skill tests like landing a ball in the wheelie bin. Time each run and crown your winner.
Spring is the perfect time to get kids into growing their own herbs, vegies and flowers. Many nurseries are open throughout the state, at least for delivery or click and collect, so you can order seeds, seedlings and any other garden supplies you need. Give the kids a garden plot to plant and look after, or pot up a planter box or even a big Milo tin (make nail holes in bottom for drainage) with hardy nasturtiums, poppy seeds, basil or lettuce seedlings. The Diggers Club’s tomato expert says late September and early October are ideal for planting tomatoes, so order some seedlings while you’re at it. If you can’t access a nursery, ask a neighbour for a geranium, rosemary or succulent cutting to repot, or grow vegetables from scraps you would usually throw out. Or celebrate Sunflower September and order a pack of sunflower seeds as a symbol of hope, connectedness and solidarity. Proceeds from sales help fund playground equipment for disadvantaged schools.
Hallway bowling alley
Parenting and family wellbeing expert Professor Julie Green suggests a DIY bowling alley as a way to pass a few fun family hours. “Line up some empty plastic bottles and use an old pair of socks wrapped into a ball to create a quick and easy game of indoor bowling,” says Julie, executive director at raisingchildren.net.au. “Make it harder by adding some weight, like sand and water, inside the bottles.”
Kids on film …
“Make a movie. Children can write a script, put together costumes and design sets and then film using an iPhone or iPad,” suggests Julie Green. Send the result to grandparents to brighten their time in isolation. And if stop-motion is your kids’ thing, you could sign them up for a Lego Discovery Centre Filmmakers Holiday Camp. With three-hour sessions every day in the second week of the holidays, participants will learn story-telling, directing, framing and set-making skills via Zoom, along with guest sessions from TV’s Lego Masters contestants. The camp costs $249 per child, and the camp kit $164.05.
… or revisit the classics
Hold a series of themed movie afternoons to revisit favourite films you might have missed from your kids’ repertoire. Go local with Victorian-made favourites – Where the Wild Things Are, Oddball or The Castle – or head overseas to dreamy Hayao Miyazaki classics like Ponyo, Kiki’s Delivery Service or Howl’s Moving Castle (all available on Netflix). Get younger kids to make movie tickets, set up cinema seats and rustle up a bowl of microwave popcorn before you settle in.
Get them cooking
“Get creative with what’s in the pantry,” says Julie Green. Use online apps for some recipe inspiration – some allow you to enter the ingredients you have to hand then suggest suitable recipes. Younger children can be your ‘kitchen assistant’ as you cook, grating cheese, peeling potatoes and setting the table.
For the birds
Spotted some unusual feathered friends in your neighbourhood lately? Last summer’s bushfires sadly destroyed up to 40 per cent of some native birds’ habitats, prompting silver-lining sightings including lyrebirds, gang-gang cockatoos and the endangered glossy black cockatoo closer to urban fringes. You can use Birdlife Australia’s bird-finder tool to identify any you see in your backyard or neighbourhood. And if your kids catch the birding bug they might like to take part in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count on 19 to 25 October. (More: How to cultivate a bird-friendly garden.)
Brick by brick
If you have a mountain of old Lego tucked away, try setting up a table in your living or play area and challenging the kids to design and build a cubby house, rocket ship, unicorn, playground, car, dinosaur, mini city, spinning top, fairy land... You might find yourself joining in. Melbourne’s Legoland Discovery Centre will have free Boredom Busters videos, worksheets and activities on its website and Facebook page, and parents can buy a Boredom Busters Builder’s Kit with projects to build each day of the holidays. Kits cost $89.95.
Write a letter to a grandparent, aunty or friends overseas. Include photos or drawings, buy a stamp and let your child deliver it to the post box.