Cheap school holiday activities – School holidays on a budget

School holidays can be an expensive time for your family. Most people acknowledge they spend more money during school holidays than at other times of the year.

Here are some MoneySmart ideas for cheap or free activities you could try with your kids during the school holidays.

School holiday activities at home

With some planning, a modest budget and a bit of creative thinking, there are plenty of free or cheap activities you can do at home with your kids. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Plant a vegetable garden

Even if you only have a small outdoor area you can create a simple vegetable patch with your kids. If you don’t have a yard, you could plant seeds in pots and even decorate the pots. It is a good idea to choose fast growing plants so the kids can see the results quickly.

Camp out

Who says you need to leave the house to go camping? Why not set up a tent in the backyard and have a night out camping. If the weather is bad you could set up your tent inside the house instead.


Plan a day of cooking or baking with your kids – you could even have a cooking competition with members of the family. This is usually a popular activity because you get to eat the results.

Movie night

Borrow some movies from your local library, pop some popcorn and you’ll have an authentic cinema experience in your home. You could even move your TV outside for the night and create an outdoor cinema under the stars.

Arts and crafts

Try face painting, papier mache, building a collage, painting or making masks or beaded jewellery. Use craft materials from around your home rather than going out to buy special items. It’s amazing what you can create from buttons and odds and sods from your kitchen drawers. Options are only limited by your creativity and imagination.

Build a cubby

Who doesn’t love a pillow fort? Try building a cubby out of boxes, sheets or other things around the house. Putting sheets or blankets over a washing line or kitchen table can be a quick, fun way to make a hideout for your kids.

Read a book

Get your children to pick a few books you can read together as a family over the course of the school holidays. Don’t buy special books when you can borrow books for free from your local library.

Treasure hunt

Hide some things around the house or yard and write some clues or create a treasure map to lead your kids on an exhilarating adventure with a prize at the end.

Dress ups

Let your kids lose in your cupboard and see what costumes they can come up with. It’s amazing what they can do with a few scarves, hats and coats.


Invite one or two of your child’s friends over to play for a low cost day at home. Provide paint and paper, bats and balls or dress up gear and the kids should be able to keep each other entertained.

School holiday activities out and about

Depending on your budget and transport options, there are plenty of low cost school holiday activities away from home.


Visit your local library and attend their free story time. Libraries also run other school holiday activities like arts and craft and computer and simple electronics courses for older kids. Keep in mind you might need to reserve a space for some courses.

Museums and galleries

Many local museums and galleries have free entry and offer creative and interesting school holiday programs, sometimes free or for a small fee. These programs are perfect for budding artists, archeologists and scientists.

The beach

Going to the beach, national park or river during the warmer months is a fun and free activity the whole family can enjoy. Build sandcastles, go for a swim or a bush walk – but remember the sunscreen.

Go fishing

If you have fishing gear, take your kids fishing. This can be an enjoyable day out even if you don’t catch anything, but if you are lucky you might snag a free fish dinner. Remember to make sure you get a fishing licence if it is required in your state.

Go to the park

Take your kids to the local park. You can pack a picnic, walk the dog or fly a kite on a windy day. A lot of parks have playgrounds and climbing equipment as well as bike trails, cricket nets or basketball hoops you can use for free.

Shopping centres

Shopping centres often host free school holiday activities that your children might enjoy, including live entertainment, plays, music or art and craft activities.

Get your kids to budget for the school holidays

Before you start planning for your school holiday activities, it can be a good idea to work out your budget. This is also a good time to discuss budgeting with your children and get them involved in working out how much activities will cost. You could set a daily or weekly spending limit and then ask your children to work out a budget for activities that are priced within that limit.

It can be challenging to know whether you are keeping to your budget when you are out and about as tracking your spending can be easily forgotten.


This article provides general information which is current as at the time of production. The information contained in this communication does not constitute advice and should not be relied upon as such as it does not take into account your personal circumstances or needs. Professional advice should be sought prior to any action being taken in reliance on any of the information.