Little girl playing at the beachArm yourself against the ‘I’m bored’ pleas this holidays!

In these rather less than jolly economic times, despite media announcing that the recession has ‘ended’, I hear more and more parents talking about budgets and belt-tightening and this weekend it was our turn. Several life/job changes have meant that everything needs to be re-examined, re-juggled and slackened spending habits pulled into line. 

All this with the school holidays and an overseas visitor coming to stay for three weeks – how does one entertain children and visitors on a restricted budget in Sydney?

When I heard the dreaded whiney-voiced ‘I’m bored!’ I could point them to the list and pick something off it. 

Where to start? As the kids get older, experience tells me that (a) it pays to be prepared with lots of ideas (b) I need to get my kids on board and enthusiastic about said ideas and (c) I enjoy the holidays so much more and find them vastly more relaxing if I am flexible about not ticking everything on my list off or pinning my hopes on doing certain things.

My criteria
The Plan must be relaxing for everyone.  A holiday is after all supposed to be a holiday! I would like to do some touristy things for the sake of the visitor but it doesn’t have to be all go-go

It doesn’t have to be completely free. My theory is much like sensible dieting or buying clothes, if you do as many free or cheap things as possible, you can afford to splash out on one or two special activities. I don’t want to be remembered my kids as ‘Mum who wouldn’t spend any money on anything’.

The holidays do not need to be scheduled from dawn to dusk with every minute accounted for. A maximum of one activity a day will suffice and it doesn’t have to be an all day event either.

The Plan of Action
There are 14 days in the holidays, if I wrote down a list of different things we could do together, asked the kids for their input (I often find they come up with great creative fun that hadn’t even crossed my mind), we could print it out and stick it on the fridge. Then when I heard the dreaded whiney-voiced ‘I’m bored!’ I could point them to the list and pick something off it.

Once the inspiration started to flow, I found it hard to stop!  Here are the first 21 things I came up with, what would your list include?

Costs are based on a family of four. Some activities are based in or near Sydney, but similar activities can be found in most regions.

1. Plant some veggies or herbs together.  Even if you have no garden, you can have so much fun collecting recyclable pots, decorating them, filling them with potting mix and planting seeds.  My advice is to do this at the beginning of the holidays and choose something fast growing so that the kids can water them and watch them grow over the holidays.  Cost $10 approx.

2.  Visit Bundeena and the Aboriginal rock drawings. Cost $0

3. Day at the beach. Cost $0

4. Bushwalk in one of the many other National Parks. Cost $0-11 for park entry

5. Rollerblading/biking in Olympic Park. Cost $0

6. Visit Kangaroo Valley and Bendeela Campsite where wombats can be seen at dusk.Cost $0

7.Camp-out in garden or living room depending on weather. Cost $0

8.  Park and picnic visiting Darling Harbour followed by ferry to Manly Beach. Cost parking & ferry

9. Kids Bedroom Make-over. Every kids room needs a sort out once in a while and a new ‘look’. School holidays are the perfect opportunity. Search the op shops and internet for cheap ways to update their room. is a great starting point for gorgeous ideas and links to other sites but even just moving things around is great fun to do with kids. Cost from $0-you decide.

10. The No Particular Reason Party – invite as many people as you like to bring a plate of finger food & a bottle. Cost $0

11.  Invite a playdate around.  Cost $0

12. Lego Space Police at the Sydney Observatory or one of their many other free programmes.  The Observatory also have exciting sounding tours for kids and families, not least the 3D Space Theatre and night visits with a cost attached. Cost $0 -$45 per family.

13. Explore the Australian National Maritime Museum, making sure to check out the screening of a special episode of Round The Twist (1.30pm daily, 4-18 Oct).  Cost $0

14. Art Gallery. Inject a little culture into the holidays and discover  the Art Gallery of NSW.  Make sure you time your arrival with one of the free performances being put on.  If your child is of  the arty inclination, why not splash out and inspire them with one of the 2hr art courses (cost from $25-30)  Cost $0-$30   

15. Get to know your city: visit Elizabeth Farm, Rouse Hill Farm or Vaucluse House.  Cost $17 per family.

16. Write an adventure story together. Cost $0

17. Get the kids to put on a fashion show & join in.  Make sure  you film it or take photos for posterity, it’ll make great memories for the future. Cost $0

18. Make Christmas cards together – Grandparents and friends will love the creativity of your kids.  Cost $0

19. Breakfast at the beach. Cost $0-you decide.

20.  Picnic in your local Botanic Gardens, there are always some never very far away and what is more relaxing than taking an armload of stories and a picnic rug and spending a lazy morning doing absolutely nothing much.  If your kids are old enough, you may even have the luxury of being able to take your own novel and enjoy the beautiful silence.  Cost $0

21. Fairs & markets. Do a bit of research on the internet and find out where the spring fairs or farmers markets are happening near you and spend the morning exploring one. Cost $0
Do you have anything you can add to the list? Leave your school holiday idea here.