The summer holidays are an expensive time for families. With Christmas presents, holidays on the beach and entertainment costs, most parents would agree they spend more money during school holidays than at other times of the year. As we reach the end of the holiday period and gear up for a new school year, here are some ideas for cheap or free activities you could try to keep your kids entertained for the remaining weeks of the summer break.

School holiday activities at home

With careful planning, a sensible budget and a bit of creative thinking, there are plenty of activities you can do at home with the kids. First, make a list of all the possible things you could do and put it on the fridge. Then you can slowly work through it and tick them off as you go. Here are a few we came up with:

Plant a garden

Even if you only have a small backyard you can create a simple flower garden or vegetable patch. If you don’t have a yard, you could buy some cheap pots, get the kids to decorate them and then plant them with seeds or seedlings. It is a good idea to choose fast-growing plants that are fairly hardy, so the kids can see the results quickly. Strawberries, tomatoes, radishes, herbs and succulents are always fun and easy to grow.

Camp out

Who says you need to leave the house to go camping? Set up a tent in the backyard and enjoy a night out under the stars. If the weather is bad you could set up your tent or a “pretend” tent (using sheets and pillows) inside the house instead.

Cooking

Plan a day of cooking or baking with your kids – you could even have a cooking competition with the family. This is always 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.

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. Options are only limited by your creativity and imagination.

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 books when you can borrow them for free from your local library.
The Toowoomba City Library and some schools run a Reading Holiday Challenge, which is a great incentive for children to clock up some reading hours.

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 costume box and see what outifts they can come up with. It’s amazing what they can do with a few scarves, hats and coats. Encourage them to put on a theatrical play or set up a photo shoot with their new “outfits”.

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.

School holiday activities out and about

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

Libraries

The Toowoomba City Library and regional libraries host some great school holiday activities, including Story Time for little ones and Anime Workshops for older kids. You can find classes and book online.

Museums and galleries

The Cobb and Co Museum, Toowoomba Art Gallery and other galleries have free entry and offer creative and interesting school holiday programs, which are sometimes free or for a small fee. These programs are perfect for budding artists, archeologists and scientists. The Cobb and Co Museum is currently running the Insectarium School Holiday Program, which gives kids the opportunity to get up close and personal with a variety of beetles and bugs. Find out more here.

Swimming

On hot days there’s nothing more refreshing than a swim. Toowoomba Regional Council has great swimming facilities across the region, including Milne Bay Aquatic Centre, which offers fitness and swimming classes for a small cost. Our lakes and dams, such as Lake Cooby, Lake Cressbrook, Lake Perseverance and Yarramalong Weir, are free to visit and are wonderful places to enjoy a wide range of recreational activities, including swimming, fishing and boating. 

Go to the park

Toowoomba is the Garden City, so it makes perfect sense to take your kids to one of our many beautiful parks. You can pack a picnic, walk the dog or fly a kite on a windy day. A lot of 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. For what’s happening at Grand Central Shopping Centre (including the inflatable Ninja Kids course and Vapiano’s Pizza Kids classes) click here.

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