CHEAP School Holiday Fun

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Yeah. Are you scoffing? If I saw that headline I would be too. But I’m here to tell you it can be done. Hell, if we can take four kids to Sydney’s The Royal Easter Show for all of $207 then anything is possible.

Some of us are staring down the barrel of s.i.x. weeks with the kids at home in the height of summer and that can strike fear deep into my cold dead heart.

Here’s the thing.

If you are going to survive, correction, if your kids are going to survive this break, you have to completely rethink your definition of fun. What we, as adults, think of as fun is not necessarily so for a small or small-ish child.

For example, my idea of hell? Riding on public transport for the hell of it. My children’s idea of AWESOME? Riding on public transport for the hell of it. Seriously, the other day I met some friends at a cafe near a train station and then – spontaneously – took Grover for a train ride between t.w.o stations and back again. The verdict? Best.Parent.EVAH.

NSW Public Transport offer a Family Funday Sunday travel pass and while I find the name irritating, patronising and condescending it does allow to you go as far as Wollongong or Newcastle on the smell of an oily rag.

Even if you’re not travelling on a Sunday a family fare is pretty reasonable – I’d give you actual numbers but the 131500website won’t let me onto the relevant page. Nice.

Check your local council What’s On. Guaranteed there will be free activities for kids throughout the school break.

Water. If you live near the coast then it’s pretty bloody obvious – get thee to the beach. Take an eski/cooler contraption stocked with frozen drinks, some lunch and treats, slather on the sunscreen and not only do you have an awesome activity you have kids at the end of that activity so completely knackered you wonder why you don’t do it every single sunny day.

If you’re inland the local swimming pool offers the out. Even if you have a pool, something about being at someone else’s pool makes it so much more fun. And look, so long as your local isn’t some bloody circus of slides and fountains and wave pools entry is normally very reasonable.

For tight-arse Tuesday types, just gaffer tape some garbage bags together, drizzle with dishwashing liquid and run the hose on it – instant trip to the hospital water slide.

Culture. I know I know. When I took my boys to the NSW Art Gallery I thought the boys might fall to the floor and spontaneously combust much like the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz when she gets water thrown on her but lo, they loved it. They were completely in awe of the artworks, the scale of some of them, the colours in others and so on. Sure, their attention span is not huge but it’s an outing. YOU ARE OUT OF THE HOUSE. And many of these establishments are free.

Playdates. Does anyone else hate that phrase as much as me? Hideous. Anyway, they work a treat – sure you have to reciprocate but often having a stranger in the midst changes the sibling dynamic sufficiently to eradicate much of the normal holiday assassination-by-torment attempts.

The Park. I think I’ve shared with you guys before my hatred of the park but here’s the thing, it lessens with age and as I realise how much my kids enjoy it. Often I end up striking up a conversation with another mum which makes it all the more bearable as you can get away with ignoring not hearing the plaintive cries for pushes on the swing for much longer. And guys? IT’S FREE.

Home. There will be days that staying at home is actually everyone’s preference. We’re also anticipating a wet summer so pay attention. I’m going to say something here which even I consider a dirty word. I know, I KNOW. But remember – rethink your definition of fun. If it isn’t raining set them up on the grass. If it is, newspaper. Put down lots of newspaper. Painting or homemade playdough are huge winners in this house. I just up my meds and hope for the best.

And if that doesn’t help, just remember my favourite phrase of all: this too shall pass.


What’s your hot tip for cheap holiday fun?

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  • Wearing my work hat – go visit and read about their summer program – activities for kids for $3 and $10 for adults. Honestly, my kids would love them. The kids and I often work to the local lake and park. The love making boats to float and running around. Anything to wear them out 🙂

    • Aha, I love the idea of doing this sort of thing – part. if it’s only $3 per child. $12 is manageable as an activity, $40 is not. Our local coastal mgt organisation does that sort of thing too but I hadn’t heard of conservation volunteers. Noice.

  • my life savers are craft,DVDs(either ours or ones from the library or the video we have cheap tues and thurs $1 for a weekly DVD)large-ish paddling pool in our back yard,local park/lake.
    mine love op shopping and its cheap.(they use their own pocket money)
    they also love going for a cuppa at a cafe.

    I usually makeup a list at the beginning of the holidays with ideas for boredom busters
    I ask them for suggestions.
    I put it up on the pantry door for all to see and use.
    Pixie recently posted..Trumpet-kitty and bunny love

    • Excellent suggestions – and I like the idea of making a list at the beginning of the holidays – before your spirit is crushed.

  • my mum used to pack my sister and I off to grandma betty’s for a week or two during school holidays. she’d take us to the movies, the city, baking at her house, doing the groceries etc. we did it right through primary and high school – unfortunately I can’t do the same with my kids as grandma betty is now in her 80’s and my mum isn’t well but if you can palm them off to grandma it does pass a few days!

    corrie recently posted..and another great mathildas

  • Mrs Woog

    I hate the word play date. HATE. What happened to having a play? Why turn it into a date? Loved your hospital water slide. hahaha

    I like to take me kids to Toys backwards R Us and play, if you could have anything in the store. And then rate the tantrums. Free.

    • Love your style. We’ve been known to take them to Chatswood Chase and just let them run. Then play rate the looks of derision. Fun.

  • Linda

    My friend took Pixie’s List on the Door one step further. When the dreaded I’M BORED started she would (1) give them 2 mintues to make a choice from their list. If they couldn’t agree she would then (2) narrow it down to 2 options from the list and give them another 2 mintues to make a choice. If they still couldn’t agree she would make the choice for them.

    (a) no cost involved
    (b) fosters teamwork (a necessary skill for Uni group assignments later in life!)
    (c) her children soon learnt that they were better off resolving the issue of boredom themselves because their Mother ALWAYS made the most boring choice if given the chance.

    The parents united will never be defeated!

  • pk

    hey palmer, its pk. happy birthday mate, wanna catch up some time? send me an email 🙂

    • Ok, that’s just plain weird. It was only this arvo I was thinking about you and kicking myself for not looking for you on Facebook and here you are in my comment box.

  • Kill

    Hey – we write a list of the things they want to do during the hols – includes going to a park we are always too busy to, various monolithic craft activities, painting at home (aaahhh!), science experiments from books they have, library activity sessions, one trip to the movies, a sleepover or having a friend for a play (or going to a friends) – the word PlayDate should be banned – it is completely unAustralian.
    This summer we will not be including a picnic and/or a swim at the beach on our river 🙂

  • Von

    Thanks for the inspiration…I now have a list! One of our favourites is the back yard obstacle course using chairs, brooms, camping mattresses, etc. OH, and clipboards. Mustn’t forget the clipboards. It usually ends in tears because Child A won’t adhere 100% to the course set by Child B, but there’s a good half hour of exercise in there.

    • Now THAT is a good idea, and something my boys would totally get into -with similar results to yours!

  • Fiona

    Our favourite for a rainy day is a treasure hunt. For the littles draw a picture of the next object eg fruit bowl, tea pot, teddy etc and keep them moving from one end of the house to the other to find the treasure….something amazing like a ballon or a yummy treat. My girls will play this over and over.