Surviving the school holidays: how to get through January with your bank account intact

It may be the start of a new year, but for some Aussies, the real year doesn’t begin until the kids go back to school. And until that first drop off of the year rolls around, you’ve got the job of making sure they’re occupied with exciting school holiday activities all while keeping your bank account intact. But don’t sweat, because we’ve got you covered with 9 budget-friendly school holiday ideas your child will love no matter their age.

The kiddies (5 - 12 years old)

Plant a vegetable garden

Not only will this teach your children about where food comes from, it will encourage responsibility from a young age and, more importantly, keep them occupied over the summer break. Vegetables like snap peas and broccoli are generally easy to grow and don’t require that much attention. And while your child may currently turn their nose up at broccoli or other green vegetables, this could help change their mind!

Put on a play

Let your kids tap into their theatrical side by helping them put on a play to perform in front of family and friends. It’s up to you how serious you go, but rather than piggybacking off an already existing play, get your creative juices flowing by writing your own script! You could even hold auditions (with you as the casting director), make costumes from cheap fabrics and paint backgrounds using old, white sheets.

Go camping, but still stay close to home

If you want to give your kids an up close and personal look at nature, but aren’t really the camping type, you could always go camping in your backyard. You can take ‘hikes’ (walk around your neighbourhood) or grill marshmallows over the BBQ. The great thing about camping in the backyard is that even if you’ve ‘forgotten’ something, you won’t need to walk very far to retrieve it. And if your kids suddenly hate the idea of camping at 3am, you won’t hear any whinging - just take them back inside and put them to bed.

Make your own Play-Doh

When I was a child, school holidays were synonymous with Play-Doh, whether store bought or homemade. While Play-Doh is usually reasonably priced, purchasing multiple collections, colours and plastic shape-makers for more than one child can start to get out of hand. So instead, grab a pot, some flour, salt and water and make your own. But if your kids are a little more trendy and are into the ‘slime phase’, this can also be made from scratch - all it takes is a quick search on Youtube.

Host Junior Masterchef

Kids always want to help and rather than just giving them the responsibility of licking the batter off the spoon, get them involved as much as possible by hosting a cooking competition in your kitchen. As you will be judging the competition, it is your job to remain impartial and fair when judging, even though you may need to assist them in certain areas, like when using a knife, stove or oven.

The wannabe adults (13 - 17 years old)

Take up bushwalking

At first, they may complain about not having reception to post a photo to Instagram, but eventually they may get used to the foreign feeling of not needing a phone to enjoy their day. There are many different trails you can take, but if you choose to go on one through a national park, you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular view and maybe even a beach or two.

Have a themed movie/TV series marathon

Because let’s face it, Netflix was made to be used for binging your favourite TV series and movies. But why not add a little structure to the madness by organising your binge fest by theme, for instance, dedicating one day to sci-fi films and then comedy the following day. Or, attempt to finish a series within a week by smashing out a season a day. Sure, you’ll soon be having dreams about the characters, but who could ever get sick of Lorelai and Rory Gilmore?

Do some stand-up

Any teenager thinks they’re funny, so put their comedy skills to the test by holding a stand-up comedy show in your living room. And if you’re brave enough and can take the heat, try having a ‘roast challenge’, where each contestant makes fun of someone else through clever, sarcastic humour. Just remember to cross your fingers and hope that you’re not the inspiration for each act!

Help them set up a blog

Regardless of your teen’s writing skills, setting up their own blog will give them the chance to write and talk about something they love. It also may give them a sense of pride to see something published with their name on it. However, as their work will be online, it’s important that you understand how operating a blog works so you can moderate everything, just in case something goes wrong or needs to be taken down.  

Need some more budget-friendly school holiday ideas? You can check out our previous story, which features free events you can take your child to, or have a browse of our Life & Money hub for a bunch of money saving tips.