50+ ideas to keep kids busy during school holidays

children playing with toys

Whether your kids are keen adventurers or budding creatives, we’ve rounded up a range of activities bound to please every age.

Keeping kids busy during the school holidays can be challenging at the best of times. With COVID-19 restrictions currently in place and interstate travel not possible, it’s the perfect time to think outside the box when it comes to family fun.

Luckily you don’t have to venture further than your own backyard to enjoy a range of boredom busting activities, from scavenger hunts to virtual parties and even experiencing a tour of Australia from the couch.

Whether your kids are keen adventurers or budding creatives, we’ve rounded up a range of activities bound to please every age.

If you leave home please take precautions to protect yourself and your family. Wear a mask, maintain good hand hygiene, keep your distance from others, stay within your region and use the Check In CBR app.

Get creative

  • With 1 October being International Day for Older Persons, why not mark it by getting the kids to make a card for an elderly neighbour or their grandparents and drop it in their letterbox – it will make their day!
  • Find some free colouring-in online and have a family colouring in competition. Transport Canberra have some downloadable colouring in sheets where kids can help thank our light rail drivers.
  • Pick something from your backyard and paint it! Don’t forget to add different textures like leaves, sand and dirt to your masterpiece
    child painting outside
  • Create an ice age: freeze flowers, rocks and things you find in the backyard and discover the ice age unfold!
  • Make an ‘aquarium’ for waterproof toys: Grab a large container, fill it with water and blue food colouring, then put the toys in and help them swim around like they’re in an aquarium.
  • Outdoor water painting: You will need a bucket of water and a large adult paintbrush. This activity is best done outdoors on a sunny day. Dip the paintbrush in the bucket of water and paint on the cement footpath, fence, or driveway.
  • Blow some bubbles: Playing with bubbles can provide hours of fun for children of all age groups. Bubbles are relatively cheap to buy, or easy to make yourself using detergent and water.
  • Outdoor shadow drawings: You will need some objects (blocks, plastic animals), paper, drawing implements. Make sure the subjects are in the sun and casting a shadow onto the paper for your kids to trace — and there you have it! Instant fun!

Get cosy indoors

  • Have fun indoors while recycling! Make a parachute with an old bed sheet or blanket, see how many balls you can throw into an old ice cream bucket or build a tunnel with used cardboard boxes. Check out more recycled materials for active play online.
  • Grab some pillows and build a fort!
  • Pick your favourite book, record yourselves reading it and send it to your friends.
  • Make playdough from scratch: try this recipe from ACT Playgroups.child reading book at home
  • Make lemon volcanoes: grab half a lemon, add some food colouring and bi carb soda to the cut lemon and then mash it up with a fork. Watch it explode!
  • Turn white flowers into a rainbow. For this experiment you will need: white flowers, glass jars or plastic cups, scissors, food colouring and water. You can use any white flowers however make sure that you cut the stems diagonally across the bottom so they can drink up the coloured water easily. Pour water about halfway in each of the glass jars and then add a few drops of food colouring to each jar. The more colouring you add the deeper the colour on the flower petals will be. Place one flower into each jar of coloured water (or more if you want!) and then watch as the flowers change colour.
  • Have a dance party! Take song requests, dim the lights and have a dance party after dinner.
  • Turn on the music and play musical cushions (like musical chairs but with cushions.)
  • Dust off the family boardgames and get competitive!
  • Pull out the dress ups and call your friends on Facetime or Zoom while you’re Spiderman or Elsa…or whoever!

Take a virtual tour around Australia

While we can’t physically travel these school holidays, many of our well-known Aussie landmarks are coming up with creative ways to get people ‘travelling’ to their destination. Take a tour across Australia and get amongst the action!

ACT:

  • Discover online exhibitions of the National Mineral and Fossil Collection including topics like Gems from the Safe, Australian meteorites, Australian opals and fluorescent minerals.
  • Explore the Australian War Memorial ‘Museum At Home’ hub to discover stories about our nation’s servicemen and servicewomen and the Australian experience of war.
  • Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary is Australia’s largest single Box-gum Grassy-woodland area managed for conservation. It is the only woodland of this type free from the impacts of foxes, rabbits, goats, deer and hares, which helps the native wildlife to flourish. You can visit virtually online and it is right here on our doorstep on Ngunnawal Land.
  • Visit Questacon online from home. Wherever you are, be inspired by science and learn about the way our world works through a variety of fun experiments and activities you can do at home. Share your home experiments on social media using the #Questaconathome hashtag.
  • Take a look through Parliament House Australia in this virtual tour

Queensland:

New South Wales:

  • Have a look through the Australian Museum in Sydney through the online platform, Google Arts & Culture: Natural History.
  • The super-fun online Sydney Science Trail is packed with on-demand activities, kids games and opportunities to learn at home. Take the trail and be rewarded for what you discover. Complete the science quiz at the end of each level and receive your badge – see how many you can collect!
  • Do a virtual walkthrough of the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. There are a number of online exhibits you can access.
  • Spend some time with the animals at Taronga Zoo on Taronga TV. They have set up 24/7 live-streaming cameras so you can enjoy your favourite animals at any time of day. The zoo has set up a Tiger Cam, Seal Cam, and Elephant Cam at Taronga Zoo Sydney. There are also shows and animal feedings you can watch.
    Zoo keeper feeds giraffes
  • The Sydney Opera House might be closed however you can still have a look inside with Google Street view.
  • Click on the online stories to learn more about this building as well as its architect. You can also watch a 360 degree YouTube video of the Sydney Opera House and scroll around to see different viewpoints. The video also includes a performance from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Victoria:

  • Take an online tour of history, culture, science and nature through the Melbourne Museum at Home program.
  • Explore the exhibitions in Scienceworks in Melbourne. You can choose to start from the Think Ahead exhibition, Sportsworks exhibition and The Spotswood Pumping Station.
  • You can watch animals all day long. Zoos Victoria has live streams at their Melbourne Zoo and Werribee Open Range Zoo enclosures. See snow leopards, penguins, lions, zebras and giraffes. Tune in at different times to see the animals being fed.
  • Enjoy a virtual aquarium visit at SEA LIFE Melbourne. Get up close to underwater creatures by watching their live streams. Get up close to King Penguins and learn about what their keepers and aquarists do every day.

South Australia:

  • Discover online exhibitions at the Art Gallery of South Australia including topics of Australian Art, Modern Art, Japanese Art. You can also walk through the art gallery using Google Street View.

Western Australia:

Northern Territory:

  • Discover the sacred space of Uluru-Kata National Park guided by the Anahgu traditional owners. Click, tap and hover to hear songs and stories in a virtual tour of this remarkable place.

Get outdoors 

Where's wally poster

  • Make a treasure map for your household in your neighbourhood. Hide a small treat and see if they can navigate to where X marks the spot!
  • Organise a picnic in the park. Don’t forget to bring separate picnic blankets! (Remember you should only meet with the one household or up to five people outside.)
  • Go camping in the backyard with a BBQ dinner (if you don’t have a tent, you could make one with sheets and blankets!). Canberra Nature Play have a list of things help plan your campout.
  • Fly a kite at the National Arboretum on a windy day and soak up the scenery.
  • Find Wally in Woden! One of the parents at Garran Primary School has printed 20 posters of Wally and has asked kids to walk around Garran on a “Where’s Wally” adventure to find all 20 posters!
  • Take a walk through your local nature reserve and play a scavenger hunt game. Tick off the different plants, trees, insects and animal life you find. The National Arboretum Canberra would love to see images of what you have found! Share an image of your favourite neighbourhood tree (with or without insect and bird life) and tag their Facebook account.a painted rock hidden in a log
  • Leave a painted rock in your neighbourhood during your daily walk to add some colour to someone’s day!
  • Interact with nature right in your backyard with Ranger Mel from Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary. She shows kids some ways to do this via her videos on the Taylor Mingle Facebook page.

Get online

  • While we can’t gather in each other’s homes, we can have virtual parties! Line up a few households to get online together at the same time. Adults in one virtual room, kids in the other. Or organise an online trivia night with other children and young people and their families.
  • Draw a portrait of a loved one over Facetime (or based off a photo.)
  • The Questacon: Adventures in Science video series aims to inspire kids to engage in science through exciting practical adventures, giving them the chance to discover science concepts in daily life and more.
  • The Australian War Memorial’s Tiny Tours features four short films that include a story, a look inside some of the Memorial’s galleries and a craft activity for early learners.
  • Go Green! The ACT Recycling Discovery Hub is inviting all recycling warriors aged between the ages of 3 and 10 for a fun and interactive online session these school holidays! Join recycling mascot Binion and learn how to be a future leader of sustainability by discovering the do’s and don’ts of recycling in the ACT. There will be plenty of movement activities and at the end of the session, participants will be able to make a simple bird feeder from common recycled materials – the perfect springtime accessory! Two 30-minute sessions are scheduled for 10am on Tuesday 22 and Wednesday 30 September. Make a booking through Eventbrite.
  • If you have a Libraries ACT membership, you can download, stream and use the library at home with digital resources, including plenty for children. View eBooks and eAudio books, stories for kids from preschool to upper primary, movies and documentaries, music, digital magazines, literacy games with activities for kids from pre-reading to advanced grammar and language learning with more than 70 languages available.Girl using laptop with headphones
  • Libraries ACT will be bringing two of its most popular kids’ programs online. Join library staff for Giggle & Wiggle Online (ages 0-2) and Online Story Time (ages 3-5), with staff sharing some of their favourite songs, rhymes and Australian picture books.
  • For families who speak more than one language and for families who speak only English and would like to learn a little bit about other languages and cultures, watch bilingual story times from Libraries ACT.
  • The ACT Human Rights Commission (HRC) are encouraging children and young people to get in touch by emailing them at [email protected] or participating in their Young Thinker Forum to share their thoughts about lockdown. They have also created a ‘COVID info for kids’ section on the HRC website and they will keep adding more content so that children and young people can access information tailored to them.

Get active

  • If it’s a rainy day but you’re keen to get the kids active, try an indoor obstacle course. Some examples include crawling under a row of chairs, jumping in and out of hula hoops or walking along a “balance beam” with masking tape.
  • After a higher pace of exercise? Find one of the many fitness stations in your region and try the range of sit up benches, chin-up bars or balance beams to get hearts racing. Remember to wear your masks, use Check In CBR and take hand sanitiser. Find a list of fitness stations and sample workouts online.
  • Hit the pavement! Spring is one of the best times of the year to get outside for a stroll, bike ride or scoot. While out walking keep an eye out for all the new blooms. Need some inspiration on what journey to take? We have plenty of walk and ride maps to help you plan your journey. If you get to an area that is a bit busy already, choose a different one.child wearing hat
  • If the weather’s not on your side, try one of the Canberra Sports and Fitness online events.
  • Go orienteering at one of the permanent courses around your region. There are various levels and all-ability accessible courses. Best of all, it’s contactless! Find locations around Canberra:
  • Are your kids budding BMX enthusiasts? Drop into the Pump Track in Braddon’s Haig Park for some exercise and adrenaline. If it’s a bit busy when you get there, come back later.

Get hands on

  • Declutter and donate: ask your teen to go through their cupboard and weed out the clothes they may no longer need. Have them ready to donate for when charity bins reopen.
  • Cook a nature-inspired dish. Think and talk about the ingredients’ supply chain, where did they come from?
  • Plant some seeds in the garden and enjoy watching your plants grow, or grow your own vegetable patch!hands holding seedlings
  • If you have a camera lying around the house, get the teens or tweens to start snapping the way we did before phones! Encourage them to get outside and experiment with different lighting and focus, or research online for photography tips and tricks. Not sure where to start? Go on a learning adventure using the National Portrait Gallery’s resource collection, designed to provide photography inspiration to year 11 and 12 students.
  • Learn an instrument! Now is the perfect time to try something new, whether it’s a guitar, harmonica or simply using your voice to reach those high notes!
  • Start a pandemic “time capsule” journal and write down your daily experiences. After you’ve finished put it somewhere safe and look back on it down the track to see how much has changed.