How to make school holidays FUN and affordable!

Am I the only one who has always slightly dreaded school holidays? Activities and entertainment become more expensive and harder to book, supermarkets and shopping centres are more chaotic, many businesses close down, and any routine is out the window. This time around I’m feeling quite different as I’m a grandma to a beautiful 6-year-old who is heading into her very first summer holidays! To say I am excited is an understatement. I remember when I was little these holidays went on forever, feeling like half a year had passed between school finishing and starting up again. My summer holidays were spent down in Philip Island at our family holiday house with my grandparents. We would go on long walks on the beach and my dad would share stories and impart his knowledge and I would soak it up like a sponge. I can’t wait to start rituals and experience new things with my grandchild. She is the light of my life, every single day! She is the sweetest, kindest, and playful little lady and I cannot wait to be around her sharing in all the silliness and fun. We plan on getting out of the big smoke and heading down to Apollo Bay. Just like my childhood, we will learn, play, and relax. I’m really needing to relax and reset. This one-on-one time will force me to stop and focus on all the things that make me happy.

So, these summer holidays I’m looking at spending time with family and have gathered a few ideas to keep it simple whilst keeping costs down. In the lead up to Christmas, we will bake and cook. Following recipes, learning quantities, and being safe around kitchen equipment are great skills to learn and practice. We will also be Christmas shopping together learning the value of money as well as the etiquette of making purchases. Even gift wrapping can be an activity, draw your own Christmas wrapping. Involving the little ones in these tasks is a great way to give them real life experiences as well as get the jobs done!

Invest a little time in your school holiday planning to make the most out of the break. Make a list of all the activities that interest you (in order of most preferred if you’re really keen) and even put an estimated dollar amount next to it to factor in your spending. This way, if the budget is tight you can jump down the list and tick off the free entertainment first.

Also, consider sharing the load around. Don’t put the pressure on yourself to be the entertainer and organiser every single day. So offer to take your nieces and nephews, neighbours or school friends out exploring and in return, you might get a quiet day at home (or go to work) when your kids are spoilt with a day out with their cousins or friends.  

There’s a lot of pressure to achieve a lot over the break and keep the little ones busy and entertained. This often involves spending money but it really doesn’t have to. I’ve got some ideas below to help keep the costs down with plenty of free events and activities.

Disclaimer: My suggestions are based in Melbourne, sorry! I just jumped online and searched and searched. Also added a few favourites and consulted the team here in the office. So if you’re not from Melbourne, jump online and ask around to come up with a fun and well-considered list of events and activities.

 

FREE CHRISTMAS EVENTS

I’ve listed a few great free events, but don’t go willy-nilly, gung-ho at this. Do your research and consider taking public transport into the city, or taking your own picnic dinner and blanket, or even eating before you leave to save a few more bucks.

Great family events in Melbourne:

Christmas carnival 14-24th Dec on the banks of the Birrarung. Dodgem cars are my fav! Entry is free…tickets for each ride can be purchased on the day
Christmas River Show til 24th Dec again on the Yarra at Birrarung. Water fountains, lasers and lights galore. Remember to wander around the site to other cool light shows.
Hang around at Fed Square for an outdoor cinema to relive the best Christmas films
Get your skates on and head to Argyle Square in Carlton to a new pop-up roller skating rink! Skate and helmet hire available (safety first guys)
Myer Christmas Windows featuring Bluey, say no more
Keep wandering through Melbourne to Howey Place where you will find our favourite bearded red coat-wearing, gift-giving man.
Christmas Crafts – at the City Library or at The Dock. But worth seeing if your local council or library are putting any crafternoons in the calendar.
Saturday 9th Dec – Little Korea Street Food Christmas Festival at Healeys Lane in Melbourne
Sunday 10th Dec – German Christmas Market at the German Lutheran Trinity Church
Saturday 16th Dec – Jingle Lane, Chinatown Christmas Festival

A few FREE Christmas events for the adults too:

The great Greek Quarter Christmas FEAST – yes feast at Tsindos
Monday 25th December – Melbourne Social Club Christmas Day Lunch at Queen Vic Gardens for a relaxed BYO picnic lunch. A great one to meet people and if you are not participating in a traditional family lunch
Christmas on Collins at Howey Place (where Santa is hiding) you can get free gift wrapping to save you time, money, and energy.

 

CHRISTMAS OFFERS & DISCOUNTS

The next thing to look for around Christmas is discounts and offers. I know Lume Melbourne is offering an upgrade of your ticket for $1 to get unlimited entry to Connection and I’m definitely going to Strike Bowling to use the code SUMMERFUN to score $10 bowling. You might some money or get better access or upgrades by jumping online and doing some searching before you take off for an activity.

 

SCHOOL HOLIDAY ACTIVITIES

Here’s a few more fun activities for the School Holidays…that will cost a bit. These activities are often worth every cent in my eyes. But I always factor it into my budget and balance it with a free event the next day.

IMAX theatre, always fun!
While you’re close by, head to the Melbourne Museum for the ‘Relics: A New World Rises’ Lego masterpiece. This looks so cool!
Around the corner, Brickvention at the Royal Exhibition Building – I love LEGO!
The Lume Melbourne for an immersive First Nations art experience, ‘Connection’
O’Brien Icehouse at Docklands – two huge ice rinks. They offer lessons and games too, I’m keen to try curling.
Melbourne Aquarium, Scienceworks, and Melbourne Zoo…of course
Head out to Puffing Billy in the Dandenong Ranges, add in a picnic lunch, and explore trail walks too
Mini golf…but better! Try Glow Golf at Docklands. Or head to Funderdome for mini golf or other fun activities (karaoke, cornhole, shuffleboard, foosball, and more)
 

BEST PLAYGROUNDS MELBOURNE:

Markham Reserve
Ron Barassi Park
Golden Square Bicentennial Park
Royal Park Nature Play
Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden
Monument Park

 

FREE FUN AT HOME

So we are busy bees, out and about so far. But days at home are so precious as well. We need the time to unwind but also great to teach littlies to get creative and learn to entertain themselves. Ideas like making your own Bingo card or scavenger hunt, Christmas decoration making, fort and obstacle course building, and all free entertainment. Bring out the old board games, Lego and puzzles, fold paper planes, snail races and read books. Make up potions with water, food dye, milk, baking soda, and essential oils. Get some chalk and make a race track on the driveway. Get active and make up a dance routine or yoga flow (search partner yoga online for some fun tips). I always loved fairy gardens and making mud pies but I don’t know if that’s cool anymore. The list is endless…

 

It’s a long time to be the sole entertainer over the school holiday break. I always think a balance of activities is the best way to go and having a plan is key. Read books, play in the garden, and head into the city for some Christmas entertainment. So let’s lower the expectations and reduce the pressure that comes with school holidays to enjoy these times that are so precious and memorable forever.

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