The Ultimate School Holiday Survival Guide

Two weeks can be an awfully long time when you’re home with all the kids wanting to do all the things. It’s especially tough when you haven’t got the budget to go out and do things. So easy to book in for an organised ‘school holiday activity’, isn’t it? But so expensive too.

Save your pennies and your sanity. We’ve got the full two weeks of the school holidays covered for home-based families. Things to do and a basic plan for when to do them. Because life with kids is always so much easier with a plan.

Print out the program, map out your daily program, hang it on the fridge and you’re good to go. It will completely free you from the “I’m boreds”. Speaking of which, if you want to really shake things up, try using the Lucky Dip method for activity choices. It’s a lot of fun, especially for the older kids.

TRY THIS: Create a Lucky Dip for School Holiday Fun

You are very welcome.

Step 1: Have a plan

Print out the daily schedule. Click the image below to download and print the schedule School Holiday Survival Guide – What’s on Today

What's on today - school holiday survival guide

Step 2: Divide the Day into Blocks of Time

Put the schedule somewhere prominent – on the fridge or in the living room works well. Gather the kids around and show them how their holiday days will be planned out. Talk about the kinds of things they can do in each of the blocks. The blocks are:

  • Morning after breakfast
  • Mid-morning
  • After lunch
  • Afternoon
  • Evening after dinner

The first page of the printable has suggestions for the kind of activities that might suit that time of day:

  • Inside play
  • Outside play
  • Excursion
  • Chores
  • Screen time
  • Quiet time

The second page is blank in case you want to plan out the day using different blocks of activities.

Step 3: Pick and Choose

Read through our suggestions for time of day activities and pick and choose that ones that suit you and your kids, then write them into the daily schedule. We’ve provided 14 suggestions in each category – a full two weeks worth of ideas to mix and match. If your school holidays are longer than two weeks, simply double up or have some fun searching Mumtastic for new ideas. Here we go:

Inside Play

Inside Play Ideas for School Holiday Fun

Fun indoor activities that aren’t too messy to clean up and have a good chance of lasting at least an hour, hopefully two. These activities are great any time of day when it’s too wet to go outside.

1. Ice Tower Excavation: Freeze some toys overnight in a tub of water, release the ice break and let the kids go mad with the lukewarm water to melt the toys back out. Older kids might be trusted with tools to chip away at the ice (making the activity last much longer). Involve the kids in selecting the toys and making the ice brick too. Full instructions at Fun at Home with Kids.

2. Pillow Fort: There a lots of ways to make a really cool pillow fort, but little kids might just like to make a massive pile of pillows and cushions and couch-dive into them.

3. Straw Bead Bracelets: You can make some super-cheap ‘beads’ out of plastic straws. Perfect for threading onto woolen stranded to make necklaces, bracelets or garlands (garlands are nice and long and require a lot of threading!). Work on pattern formation in younger kids (red straw, blue straw, red straw, yellow straw, etc). Older kids might like to tackle something more intricate like this pretty bracelet.

4. Edible Finger Paint: This is paint you make yourself and it doesn’t matter if your toddler eats it. For school kids, the beauty is twofold: 1. The paint is super-easy for them to make themselves. 2. There are no harmful chemicals in the paint, so they’ll have a blast painting themselves (keep them in the bathroom so our ‘not too messy’ rule applies!). Check out the recipe here.

Pinch pots

5. Pinch Pots: Again, this one might fall into the “messy” category, but if you lay an old sheet down on top of the table and put an apron on the kids, things should stay pretty tidy. Making pinch pots isn’t tricky at all and even the smallest kid can manage something resembling a vessel. Older kids will enjoy making plant pots – forgiving succulents can be cut from existing plants and popped straight in. See the tutorial here.

6. Baking: Cooking with kids breaks most mums out in a cold sweat, but it doesn’t have to be daunting. Pick a simple recipe, put some soothing music on your playlist and off you go. Start with these breakfast muffins that Lauren’s four-year-old enjoys making.

7. Pizza Making: Another cooking one, sorry, but think about it. The kids can be put to work, happily getting their pizzas ready to pop into the oven at lunch time. If you make the dough from scratch they will love doing all the kneading for you – just keep them going. Here’s what happens when I make pizza with my kids (and there’s Jamie’s foolproof pizza dough recipe for you too).

8. Shopkeepers: Playing shopkeepers keeps my girls occupied for hours and has for years. I think they were about two years old and four years old when they first started playing and it doesn’t seem to be getting old. Set them up with some goods from your pantry, a calculator, some play money (we use Monopoly money) some Post-It notes and a pen and let them go crazy. They could also open a toy shop selling off all their favourite bears or a home wares shop (just shop the lounge room!).

9. Cardboard Box Time: Because everyone knows that kids play with the box for longer than the toys anyway. We have rounded up 31 epic things for kids to do with a cardboard box here.

Monster Trucks Movie

10. Movie ‘night’: Add an extra element of fun to a movie afternoon by covering the windows with blankets and pretending it’s nighttime. Kids love doing weird stuff like that – it suits their general kookiness. Recommended viewing these school hols is Monster Trucks (new to Blu-ray, DVD and Digtal on 12 April) – a really fun road movie about friendship that both boys and girls will love.

11. Puppet Show: If you don’t have any puppets, just get the kids to use their soft toys. You can make a puppet theatre for them (instructions here – older kids can make their own), or just pull the couch out from the wall and use that. For bigger kids, expect a script to be written and costumes made (cutting arm holes in scraps of fabric is all they need to do).

12. Minute to Win It: These games are rowdy, but loads of fun. There are variations to suit older kids and younger kids. Whether you award prizes is up to you. Find out how to play here.

13. Write a Book: Exercise books cost less than a dollar, so buy a bunch and set the kids to work creating their own book. Encourage them to decorate the cover and create a title page inside. Then they can make their story a picture book with carefully considered illustrations, or a chapter book with a complex story line. Encourage them to write a few pages each morning after breakfast and by the end of the holidays the book will be done.

14. Photography: There is no denying that due to the rise of social media in communicating with our community, photography is fast becoming a must-have skill for everyone, rather than a hobby for some. Let the kids explore your camera, iPhone or old Instamatic. Ask the kids to photograph the alphabet (something starting with A, B, C, etc) or use the daily word prompts on the Fat Mum Slim Photo a Day challenge as a list of things for the kids to photograph. There are years worth of of lists to print out for inspiration.

15. LEGO Quest: Most kids love LEGO and there are 100s of ideas at LEGO Quest for them to build. Each challenge has a click through so the kids can see what other kids around the world have made for the challenge. It’s a fun way to spark interest in LEGO again or challenge LEGO buffs to try something new.

Outside Play

Outside Play Ideas for School Holidays

There is plenty for kids to do outside, they just might need to be reminded of everything on offer. There are bikes, scooters and skateboards to ride, swings and trampolines to play on and maybe even trees to climb and roller skates to glide on. You can also add these fun activities to the mix:

1. Treasure Hunt: There is no end to the number of treasure hunts you can set up for the kids. There are printables galore all over the interwebs. The kids can try a photography nature hunt, an alphabet hunt or a treasure hunt. Here’s a list of 25 ways kids can hunt and gather.

2. Chalk City: Give the kids some of that chunky sidewalk chalk (you can buy it at toystores, or try making your own) and set them free on the driveway, footpath or any cement surface. They can draw roads, people, buildings, animals… a whole city. Hours of fun to draw and then hours of fun to broom toy cars around or even have a teddy bears’ picnic in the city park.

3. Footpath Games: While the chalk is out, don’t forget old favourites like Hopscotch, Snails or Handball. We’ve got a list of other footpath activities here.

4. Ball Games: Some kids can’t stop playing sports, but others need some encouragement. Kicking or throwing a ball to each other is a good way to start. Count the number of times before someone misses then try to better it each time. Check out this list of simple ball games to try at your place.

5. Finska: This wooden game that originates from Finland is a great investment.  It’s wildly addictive so you get plenty of playing years for your bucks. Our whole family loves a game of Finska, but the kids are more than happy to get a game going by themselves. You can buy it here.

6. Target Practise: Whether the kids use wet sponges or mud is entirely up to you, but it’s super-simple to draw a target using chalk and then they can go for it. Keep score and the game will likely go on all afternoon. Find out how to set it up here.

7. Obstacle Course: Think about how your backyard is structured then come up with things for the kids to do as an obstacle course challenge. You can write the challenges down (or print them out) on card stock so you can use them again and again. Set the timer and off they go. For little kids, try this Bear Hunt Obstacle Course challenge and for older kids you can mix things up by thinking about these three things:

  1. Where they need to move to next in the backyard
  2. How they are going to get there
  3. What are they going to do once they get there

So, Jack needs to hop from the patio to the back fence and when he arrives he must do 10 push ups and 3 star jumps, then he will tip toe to the clothesline where he will jump 5 times and say the alphabet… you get the idea. Let your imagination come up with all sorts of fun scenarios!

Little Eco Footprints Nature Sort

8. Nature Sort: How many different plants are there in the backyard? Collect a small sample of each plant, then arrange them on a table or in an egg carton (the one above is from Little Eco Footprints). Group them according to colour or type (or whatever takes your fancy). Create labels for the plants, naming them and writing down key things you notice about them. Invite Mum and Dad out to see your collection.

9. Backyard Camping: It doesn’t have to be nighttime for camping to be fun. Pitch a small tent close enough to the house to keep an eye on the kids but far enough away so that they feel a sense of privacy. Fill the tent with pillows and hang some fairy lights. This is a quick way for kids to create a ‘club house’ where they can keep books, toys and activities and while the day away. With a bit of luck, you might not see them for days…

10. Shadow Drawing: Trace around each others’ shadow with chalk then get creative filling the chalk outline with drawings of things that the person likes.

11. Fly Game: Did you play Fly as a kid? We did! It’s a riot and all you need are a bunch of sticks and you’re good to go. You could say that it’s the ultimate portable game. Click here to find out how to play and here for even more games to play with sticks.

12. Sheet Art: You can pick up cheap acrylic paint at most $2 shops and you’ll need lots for this activity. We are super-sizing artwork. Take an old white sheet and peg it to the back fence and let the kids go crazy. Make sure they are wearing their oldest clothes (or even an old pair of swimmers if the weather is on your side). You can leave their artwork up on the back fence to show it off.

13. Car Wash: Yep, put them to work with the hose and sponges. Washing the car is actually pretty fun when you’re a kid. Just don’t expect it to be especially clean when they are done!

14. Wander Off: So, this one depends on the age of your child, but most school age kids can be trusted to go for a short – long stroll around the neighbourhood. If you make it around the block, they don’t even need to cross any roads. Give them your mobile phone if you’re worried, but try not to be. A mini-excursion by themselves is a fantastic way for kids to be responsible and grow their independence.

Excursion

What's on today - Excursion

After a lovely lunch, it might be time to get out and about for a while. While organised activities like classes, plays and shows are great fun, you don’t actually need to do anything expensive or complicated. Try one of these places to visit:

1. Library: check out Megan’s top tips for making the most of your library)

2. Nursery: a green space that is fascinating for kids. Some of the best nurseries have free kids’ activities too

3. Bushwalk: a favourite or somewhere you’ve never been before. If you’re not close to bushland, perhaps you are near a reserve or riverside?

4. Park: up the road or somewhere you rarely visit

5. Grandma’s or a Friend’s House: surprise her with a visit (and maybe bring her a batch of muffins the kids have made)

6. Shopping Centre: share a milkshake or check to see if they have any free events worth staying for

7. Showground: it’s nice to walk around somewhere ‘horsey’, even if there are no horses there at the time

8. Skate Park: bring the scooters and the boards and have some fun

9. Beach, Lake or River: Even if it’s too cold to swim, by the water is an invigorating place to be

10. Walk: Sometimes we can only slip out for a walk around the neighbourhood and that’s okay

11. Gallery: Art, museum, craft or history, a stop by a gallery is inspirational

12. Dog Park: Do you have a dog? No matter if you don’t, the kids will love running around with the dogs anyway (check with the owner first)

13. Pet Shop: You might not be in the market for a pet, but window shopping is very rewarding

14. Book Shop: Check to see if your local bookshop has any author events planned for the kids in the holidays

Chores

What's on today - chores

Some chores are boring and some chores are fun, but in the end they all need to be done… I think I learnt that from my grandmother. Gosh, the things that stay with you! We’ve been quite slack getting our kids to do chores, but they do make their bed each day and have to keep their room tidy. Little things like that. In the holidays, I do like them to do a chore each day to help me keep on top of the housework. Here are some of the things I set them to do:

1. Sweep the Floors: Lots of floors for big kids, just the one for littles.

2. Fold Laundry: I figure it just gets messy again the minute it goes in their drawers, so who really cares if the laundry isn’t folded perfectly?

3. Prep Dinner: Cutting up the soft vegetables and stirring the sauce are both jobs my kids don’t mind at all.

4. Washing Dishes or Loading the DIshwasher: Nobody really likes this job, but I save the plastics for the kids to wash so it helps divvy up the load.

5. Set the Table: This is a job that the kids are responsible for every night of the year. Create a roster to banish the fights.

6. Clean the Bath: A good scrub of the bath is good for the soul. We use bicarb soda squirted with vinegar for the job and the kids love the way the mix bubbles and fizzes.

7. Weed the Garden: Especially good for kids old enough to tell their weeds from their tomato plants.

8. Water the Plants: We have lots of indoor plants that I sent the kids around to water with a drink bottle once a week.

9. Vacuum: It’s a bit trickier for my youngest, but by age 10 a kid can certainly vacuum as well as an adult (provided they are conscientious about it, of course!)

10. Clean Out the Animals: We have chickens, fish, guinea pigs and stick insects, all of which need cage cleaning performed at least once a week. What a good job for the kids! They can manage all but the chicken coop by themselves. Start little kids off with pet feeding duties and go from there.

11. Wipe Benches: What kid doesn’t love a spray bottle and a cloth? I dilute the cleaning spray because my kids are that enthusiastic about spraying (and sadly much less enthusiastic about wiping).

12. Empty Bins: My husband does the main bin take out on bin night (we live on a very steep hill), but it’s the kids’ responsibility to empty small bins from around the house into the larger bin.

13. Water the Garden: I find it a relaxing ‘chore’ myself, but I don’t always have time for it. Giving the kids each a day of the week to thoroughly water the vege patch and the flowering plants means they get a little of that garden-meditation into their day as well.

14. Clean Bedrooms: It goes without saying that the beds are made daily and the rooms cleaned weekly. I try to get my kids to do 5 minutes of bedroom cleaning before dinner every day to help stay on top of the rubble. It really does make a difference.

TRY THIS: 15 Cleaning Games that Make the Most Boring Chores Fun

Quiet Time

What's on today - Quiet Time

Aah, quiet time, my favourite time of the day. Baths are done, dinner is done and we’re on the home stretch until dinnertime. Here are some suggestions for quiet, but fulfilling, activities for this time:

1. Yoga Class: There’s screen time, and then there is Cosmic Kids Yoga, an online yoga school for kids of all ages (I’m quite partial to a class myself…) It’s fun, it’s good for them, it helps them wind down, it’s free.

2. Board Games: They have never really gone out of style and despite all the screen-based games that compete for attention, you can’t really beat a social board game. We like Yahtzee, Trouble, Cluedo and Junior Scrabble best.

3. Reading: The schedule is entirely open for books at any time of day, but they are particularly nice in the evening. Reading books together is especially nice, no matter how old the kids are. Try starting a chapter book together. Big kids can read a chapter and little kids just enjoy listening along.

4. Storytelling Baskets: A storytelling basket is a way to bring treasured stories to life and encourage literacy. You’ll need a small basket. Select a favourite book for the basket and then add small toys and objects that represent the story. Children really get lost in the retelling and embellishing of their favourite stories. Find inspiration for different story baskets here.

5. Origami: Some square paper and instructions are all a kid needs to make the most amazing little creatures and toys. Try making:

There is also a round up of 20 cute origami projects for kids here.

Geoboard

6. Geoboard: A geoboard is a maths tool, but it can also be a string-art tool too. You basically put nails half-way into a board in either a geometric or random pattern and twist string between. You can add straws and other bendy things too. Check out how to do it at Picklebums (pictured above).

7. Wool Craft: The evening is not the time to break out the paints and glitter, but wool wrapping we can certainly encourage. Pom poms are so easy to do; knitting or crochet are absorbing to learn; and even wrapping sticks will keep them occupied.

8. Small Worlds: I love these little boxes filled with everything a kid needs to be transported to another world. A little bit like the story baskets above, only broader and more open-ended. We featured one for Dinosaurs here on Mumtastic and here are five more inspirational ideas:

9. Jigsaw Puzzles: Puzzles are so good for firing up kids’ brains but somehow relaxing them as well. You can make your own simple block puzzles for younger kids (click here for a how-to) and buy anything from 20 – 10000 piece puzzles for bigger kids. See if you can dedicate a spot in your home for keeping a puzzle going. It’s almost impossible to finish a puzzle in one sitting but luckily it’s quite nice to put a piece in here and there and let the puzzle go on for days or weeks. If you don’t have the space, a puzzle mat for laying it out and folding it up again with all the pieces in tact.

10. Drawing: We include loads of drawing prompts in our Calendar for Mums each month. These are really handy for getting the kids started on a drawing each evening. “What should I draw?” can often stump them, but if you throw out a few suggestions, off they go! Mix things up a bit by having a variety of coloured papers and cardboard on hand. You can also offer different pens, pencils, textas and watercolour pencils. Asking kids to draw something from a magazine or book can also be a good prompt.

11. Smiling Mind: This app is a wonderful introduction to meditation and mindfulness for the kids. It’s also a great way to wind down for the night. The app was developed in Australia and has reached more than 1 million people worldwide. Chances are you child has experienced the app in their classroom.

12. Audio Books: While it’s magic to have Mum or Dad read a story before bedtime, it’s not always feasible. Enter the audio book! Imagine getting Stephen Fry to read your kids Harry Potter, or Kate Winslet reading Roald Dahl. Best! You can try audio books for free at Audible.

13. Worry Book: If your child tends to be unsettled at night, a Worry Book is an excellent thing indeed. Encourage your child to write down all her worries from the day just gone plus a word or two about what she is looking forward to tomorrow and what she was grateful for today. The Worry Book captures all the worries and keeps them safe until morning. Aside from potentially helping a child stay calm at bedtime, the Worry Book is a lovely way for your child to record the day.

14. Preparing Breakfast: A nice end to the day is setting the scene ready for tomorrow. Besides setting the table for breakfast, your child can set out their clothes ready for the day ahead. This little ritual helps a kid look forward to the new day and might even help them settle into bed without too much fuss. After the full day they’ve just had, sleep shouldn’t be too far away!

We hope we’ve armed you with all you need to make the school holidays as simple and fun as possible. The kids will look forward to waking up to see the day’s schedule on the fridge and all the activities they’ll get stuck into that day. Most of the activities are things they can do themselves – big or little – but they’ll enjoy spending time with Mum or Dad regardless. Happy school hols!

What are you up to these holidays?

More routines for kids and families: