It’s that time of the school holidays when your credit card bill from Christmas has just arrived and you’re still staring down three more weeks as the Entertainment Director wondering how both you (and your bank balance) will survive.
To help you get through, we’ve rounded up a listing of cheap, mostly free options and ideas that will keep you and your kids having a stack of fun for the rest of the summer holidays.
Where: Sydney Olympic Park select days until January 18
What: Grab a picnic blanket and round up the kids for free movie screenings. Kids’ activities start from 5pm, before the lights are dimmed at 8.30pm. There’s something for everybody, with recent hits such as Maleficent and Captain America, as well as a guaranteed little people pleaser: a Frozen sing-a-long.
Where: Museum of Contemporary Art, Circular Quay
What: The MCA opens its doors to kids this summer with a variety of free activities for your budding Picasso, including story corners and interactive art-making sessions. The Gallery is also running a Chuck Close Corner to celebrate the renowned Australian portrait artist, where kids can experiment with a variety of mediums to create portraits. The Museum encourages a $5 donation per family.
Where: Hyde Park North, 20th - 25th January 10am - 3pm
What: Sydney Festival has the last week of the school holidays covered, and the Festival Village is perfect for kids to explore. There are giant art installations, a Lawn Library, a bandstand and plenty more free entertainment.
Where: Sydney Harbor Foreshore, January 26 at 11am
What: Perch at a spot along the Foreshore on Australia Day to watch the spectacular sight of Sydney ferries going head-to-head in a race.
Where: Royal Botanic Gardens, Daily until Feb 28
What: If your children are inseparable from your iPads, this is a great way to get them out and running about. Download the free app and your kids will be ready to find Tinkerbell and her friends in the gardens. Once they’ve finished, they’ll get a bag of seeds to plant in their very own garden.
Where: National Gallery of Victoria, until 12 April
What: Fashion duo Romance was Born have created a whimsical interactive display for kids, where they can create accessories and drawings, and explore themed rooms with spectacular multimedia displays.
Where: Point Cook
What: An up close and personal look at aircrafts and hangars at an active military base. Children can explore replica and original airplanes from the 1900s and can even catch flying exhibits of heritage airplanes, all for free.
What: A stress-free way to cool off the kids, this sea-side pool fills up with thigh-deep water when the tide comes in.
Where: Queensland State Library, Until Jan 26
What: Your little monsters can “build lairs, discover hidden monsters, dress up and play out favourite tales, and uncover the new and the unknown” at the State Library these holidays. There’s a creepy crawly crafting station, a story lab and free film screenings.
Where: multiple venues around Brisbane until 25 January
What: A variety of free and low-cost recreation activities for kids and teenagers between 10 and 17 years old including boxing, various sports, Laserforce, games and more. Bookings are essential.
Where: Haigh’s Visitor Centre, Adelaide
What: Whether your kids want to be master choclatiers or just have sweet tooths, this free chocolate factory tour will turn you into Willy Wonka. You’ll even be treated to special tastings and can sample fine factory-fresh chocolate. Bookings essential.
Where: Elder Park, Adelaide
What: Kick off the evening with the annual Australia Day Parade at 6 p.m, followed by a free concert and fireworks finale. The parade features vintage cars, horses, giant floats and an RAAF fly-past, while the concert has featured the likes of Ricki-Lee and Jimmy Barnes in the past.
Where: Northbridge Piazza, Perth every Saturday 5.30pm
What: This summer, you can catch the ultimate collection of kids’ films at Northbridge Piazza. Grab a picnic blanket or stake out one of the bean bags every Saturday afternoon.
Where: Inglewood Library, January 30, 9.30am - 11am.
What: An exciting new interactive performance of the favourite ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’, featuring puppets and pop-ups. Clare Stace will delight children of all ages.
Where: Perth cultural centre, James Street Amphitheatre until 1 Feb, movies wednesday and sunday nights at 7.30pm
Perth's pop-up beach installation returns the seaside to the city with deck chairs, beach umbrellas, shady trees, giant board games and the feeling of sand beneath your toes.