These school holidays really brought it home to me: you don’t have to spend a lot of money to go somewhere nice with the kids. Zoo visits and theme parks and movies and tennis camps and play centres are wonderful things, but completely unnecessary for a good time. In fact, when it comes to things like theme parks, I honestly believe that it is definitely possible to have way too much fun in one day.
Here are 10 really cool trips out for kids that won’t cost you much at all. In the interests of bringing you a full list, I’ll include the usual suspects as well as a few more inventive options.
13 really nice days out with your kids
1. Go to the beach (of course!)
Summer or Winter or (my favourite times) Autumn or Spring, the beach is the best kind of day out for any kid. Make a day of it by packing a picnic and choosing a beach with plenty of shade. Add some rock pools to explore, a couple of thrilling waves, a walking track or two and you’ve got yourself a big day out. Don’t forget to bring a big picnic blanket, a ball and lots of toys to dig in the sand with.
Your standard ‘up the road’ park is great for everyday stuff, but making the trip to a particularly good park makes a day of it. Councils are getting much better at designing unique play spaces for kids of all ages. Seek one out if you can. If all else fails, you can head to Luna Park in either Sydney or Melbourne an soak up the atmosphere for absolutely nothing (well, the cost of one go on the clowns is our price, it seems…)
There are botanical gardens across Australia and children absolutely love them. Kids and plants are a no-fail good time. Many botanical gardens run children’s programmes, but even if they don’t there is still so much to explore. It’s beautiful there! If you find yoursef in either the Sydney or Melbourne Botanical Gardens, download the The Hidden Park app before you go – highly recommended.
Most areas have a botanical garden, check out these some time:
Most of us live near a stretch of bush and taking a walk is a great way for kids to explore and let off some steam. Take plenty of water, a snake and spider bite kit, a mobile phone and preferably at least two adults and hit the trail. You can add a scavenger hunt to keep things really interesting. If you’re not an experienced walker yourself, it might be a good idea to try out a few guided walks first – see below or check with your own local council.
Libraries are not just for borrowing books (and DVDs and audiobooks and magazines and…). Most have preschool story time and many have toy libraries, homework clubs, school holiday programmes and even movie nights. Visit your local and see what’s happening this week.
There’s something so nostalgic about children brandishing fishing nets that seeing a bunch of kids in gumboots trawling for tadpoles at the Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Garden was almost too much for me to take. One kid was even wearing a check shirt and dungarees (oh, okay, it was a girl and a playsuit, but still). You’ll have a local pond somewhere and in it will be tadpoles just waiting for kids to spend the day searching for them. They’ll get wet and muddy and delighted.
Froggy waterways that I know about (ask your Council where to find one near you):
Kids love plants and they love garden gnomes, so they go well at most plant nurseries. Some just sell a few plants, but so many nurseries go the extra mile with a cafe, playground and places for kids to roam. We are lucky to live near heaps of great nurseries and will happily spend a day there. There’s lots to explore amongst the flowers and garden ornaments and our favourite even has a petting zoo and wandering chickens.
I once spent an entire morning in a display room at Ikea, reading the catalog on the couch while Lottie played beside me with the kids’ kitchen set up. We then had a cheap lunch in the cafe and a quick play in Smalworld before heading home for the school pick up. It was such a good day out.
Geocaching is pretty darn awesome. It’s a “free real-world treasure hunt” where you use an app on your phone and your phone’s GPS to track down a little parcel left by somewhere else. Right now, where you’re standing, there’s probably eight little geocaches waiting to be found. Get the app right here and start searching.
Whether you set up in the backyard or venture out somewhere remote, kids absolutely adore camping. A tent and a camp fire is mandatory, but everything else is entirely up to you. Pitch a grand adventure style of camp complete with handmade benches you’ve fashioned from sticks and twine; or sit on a blanket and watch the clouds. Camping doesn’t have to be hard work and it can be completely free depending on where you set up.
Farmers’ markets, art and craft markets, car boot sales – they are always buzzing with activity, colour and fun (if you can stand the ‘can I buy a’ moments!). Many have live music and last weekend while visiting the Avoca Beachside Markets we even stumbled across an art project that was an arty-crafty superstar of an afternoon all for absolutely nothing. Result!
Or a dinner exchange, or even a breakfast exchange. All you do is get together with a couple of other families and agree that you’ll serve up afternoon tea at your place one week and they’ll do next week and so on. Agree that you won’t ‘go to to much trouble’ but that you will ‘make it a special thing’ with a little this and that. It’s somewhere fun to visit for a lovely little party and doesn’t take much effort to do the hosting yourself.
This is one of our favourite things to do. Take a point and shoot camera to share and supply each child with a little notebook and pencil. Set out on a walk and document what you see. Write, draw, click and discuss. Take leaf rubbings, explore textures, press flowers, use stones as chalk… it turns an everyday walk into something rather wonderful.