Cheap school holiday activities

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School holidays can be an expensive time for your family. Here are some MoneySmart ideas for cheap or free activities you could try with your kids during the school holidays.

School holiday activities at home

With some planning, a modest budget and a bit of creative thinking, there are plenty of free or cheap activities you can do at home with your kids. Here are some ideas to get you started.


Make a list of all the holiday activities you could do with your kids and put it on the fridge. Then you can slowly work through it and tick off the activities as you go.

  • Plant a vegetable garden – You only need a small outdoor area to create a simple vegetable patch with your kids. If you don’t have a yard, you could plant seeds in pots and even decorate the pots. It is a good idea to choose fast-growing plants so the kids can see the results quickly.
  • Camp out – Who says you need to leave the house to go camping? Set up a tent in the backyard and sleep outside one night. If the weather is bad, set up your tent inside the house instead.
  • Cooking – Plan a day of cooking or baking with your kids – you could even have a cooking competition. This is usually a popular activity because you get to eat the results!
  • Movie night – Borrow some movies from your local library, pop some popcorn and you’ll have an authentic cinema experience in your home. You could even move your TV outside for the night and create an outdoor cinema under the stars.
  • Arts and crafts – Try face painting, papier mache, building a collage, painting or making masks or beaded jewellery. Use craft materials from around your home rather than going out to buy special items. It’s amazing what you can create from buttons and odds and sods from your kitchen drawers. 
  • Build a cubby – Who doesn’t love a pillow fort? Try building a cubby out of boxes, sheets or other things around the house. Putting sheets or blankets over a washing line or kitchen table can be a quick, fun way to make a hideout for your kids.
  • Read a book – Get your children to pick a few books you can read together as a family over the school holidays. Don’t buy new books when you can borrow them for free from your local library.
  • Treasure hunt – Hide some things around the house or yard and write some clues or create a treasure map to lead your kids on an exhilarating adventure with a prize at the end.
  • Dress ups – Let your kids loose in your wardrobe and see what costumes they can come up with. It’s amazing what they can do with a few scarves, hats and coats. 
  • Playdate – Invite one or two of your child’s friends over to play for a low-cost day at home. Provide paint and paper, bats and balls or dress-up gear, and the kids should be able to keep themselves entertained.

Get out and about during school holidays

Depending on your budget and transport options, there are plenty of low-cost school holiday activities away from home.

  • Libraries – Visit your local library and attend their free story time. Libraries also run other school holiday activities and courses for older kids. Keep in mind you might need to reserve a space for some courses.
  • Museums and galleries – Many local museums and galleries have free entry and offer creative and interesting low-cost school holiday programs. These are perfect for budding artists, archeologists and scientists.
  • The beach – Going to the beach, national park or river during the warmer months is a fun and free activity the whole family can enjoy. Build sandcastles, go for a swim or a bush walk – but remember the sunscreen.
  • Go fishing – If you have fishing gear, take your kids fishing. This can be fun even if you don’t catch anything; but, if you’re lucky you might snag a free fish dinner. Remember to make sure you get a fishing licence if it’s required in your state.
  • Go to the park – Take your kids to the local park. You can pack a picnic, walk the dog or fly a kite on a windy day. Many parks have playgrounds and climbing equipment as well as bike trails, cricket nets or basketball hoops you can use for free.
  • Shopping centres – Shopping centres often host free school holiday activities your children might enjoy, including live entertainment, plays, music or art and craft activities.

Get your kids to budget for the school holidays

Before you start planning your school holiday activities, it can be a good idea to work out a budget. This could be a good time to discuss budgeting with your children and get them involved in working out how much activities will cost. You could set a daily or weekly spending limit and then ask your kids to work out a budget for activities that are priced within that limit.

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