Low cost school holiday ideas – How to keep the kids entertained on a budget

Low cost school holiday ideas – How to keep the kids entertained on a budgetAhh school holidays – fun for kids, but not always so much for adults! First there’s the work versus looking-after-your-kids juggle. Then there’s the challenge of keeping the kids entertained for several weeks without going broke. And what’s more, you have to face multiple times each year.

I’ve come up with a list of fun school holiday ideas that are low-cost, and that will get the kids actively involved in entertaining themselves. There’s a mix of indoor and outdoor pursuits for all kinds of weather, and I’ve included art, science, technology and movement to suit all tastes. Enjoy!

Science Experiments

Kid’s science has absolutely exploded in popularity in recent years…and I think that’s a great thing! While the results can be messy (get prepared with plastic table cloths and aprons), kids learn so much from hands-on experiments, and there’s a whole heap of things you can do using common household supplies.

A quick search of Google or YouTube will bring up a whole host of slime recipes and other experiments. Here are two super-easy recipes to get you started:

The Ultimate Fail-Safe Slime Recipe

There are now so many variations of slime out there, but some give varying results. This recipe is pretty much fool-proof, and a great one to start off with.

  • In a medium sized bowl, mix 1 cup of PVA glue, ¾ cup cold water, and a few drops of food colouring.
  • In another small bowl, dissolve 1 tsp borax powder in ½ cup of warm water.
  • Pour the borax mix into the glue mix, while stirring. Voila, instant slime!

Vinegar Volcanoes

  • Fill a glass jar ½ full with white vinegar. Add a few cups of food colouring for effect (and glitter if you like).
  • Stir in a heaped spoon-full of bicarbonate of soda and watch the liquid bubble out.
  • Try again, this time fist stirring a squirt of dishwashing liquid into the vinegar. Notice how the volcano froths for longer.

Magic Tricks

Get your kids to teach themselves magic tricks, and then perform a show for you. Keep an eye out in local holiday programs for magic trick workshops, or head to YouTube to find ‘how to’ tutorials. A great place to start is the EvenEraTV channel. Here’s a trick that’s an easy starting point for your budding magician.

The Rubber Pencil

This trick is purely an optical illusion, and only requires the use of a pencil.

  • Hold your pencil close to the end (where the eraser is). Maintain a loose grip between your thumb and index finger.
  • Move your hand up and down, letting the pencil shake up and down also, until the pencil appears ‘bendy’. This takes a bit of practice to get just the right hand movement, but it’s impressive once you do.

Art & Craft

If you have a crafty streak yourself, you might like to work on a project with your kids. But if not, there are a wide range of kits available that the kids can work on themselves. Beaded jewellery, dram catchers, card-making, simple tapestry and model aeroplanes are just some of the things they can try, and don’t require overly expensive supplies.

Make A Movie

It seems everyone wants to be a YouTube star! Even if your kids don’t, they will probably love making their own movie just for fun. This can be as filming and editing it on your phone, or as sophisticated as creating and acting out a script using a tripod or cameraman, then editing it on your computer and uploading it to YouTube. Chances are, your kid will know how to do all this better than you. But if they don’t, head to YouTube to search out how. At the end of it all, you can even make popcorn and enjoy watching the final result together on your TV.

Just be sure to check footage and supervise any uploading onto social media.

Scavenger Hunt

Set your kids a challenge to collect a list of items, then send them off outside on a scavenger hunt. You can keep this within your garden or local park, collecting items such as ‘the biggest leaf’ and ‘a smooth pebble’, or send them off further afield to take photos of particular locations.

Give each child a check-list of items (or things to photograph), a bag to collect them and a pen to tick the list off. You can set a time limit, and even award prizes for the most items collected.

Rock Finding

This is an activity that has recently exploded in popularity, and is a great way to encourage your kids to take a stroll outside. In a nutshell, people paint rocks and then leave them for others to find. When you find a rock, you take a picture, share it on Facebook and re-hide. And of course, your kids can start off by painting and hiding their own rocks.

Rocks are often hidden around children’s playgrounds, and you can check for locations in your local suburb on Facebook. Just search your state and the word ‘rocks’ on Facebook (eg: VIC ROCKS, NSW ROCKS), and then search for your suburb within the group.

Ninja Warrior Course

With the success of Ninja Warrior TV shows, kids are loving testing out their innate ninja skills. Get them burning off some energy with their own course in the backyard or local park. Get them to select equipment and set up their own course with your supervision, then run time trials and competitions amongst their friends – or just leave them to it (once you’re happy that everyone can get through the course safely).

See what you can find around the house to use as obstacles, and incorporate any existing play equipment. For example, hula hoops are great for jumping through or hopping across on the ground; a plank of wood makes a balance beam; a pile of cushions creates a safe hurdle. You can also create a ‘laser-maze’ by criss-crossing thin rope between tent-pegs banged into the ground. Search ‘kids obstacle course ideas ‘ for more inspiration.


Written by Julian Bull

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