24 Fun Things To Do With Kids This School Holidays

20 Sep 2018
Screenshot

24 Fun Things To Do With Kids This School Holidays

What do you remember most about playing as a child? Well, if you're anything like us, you just recalled all the fun activities you participated in while in the great outdoors. And even though most of you wish your children had the chance to create the same happy memories in the years to come, the reality is very different.

Keep Kids Playing Outside

Experience and studies alike show that children these days are spending more time indoors than at any other time in history. To keep your child from turning video games into a one-stop shop for fun, we curated a list of all the free things to do in Sydney with your family – whether that's a day out in the sun or fun school holiday activities.

 

Why You Should Care About Your Child’s Play Environment

 

Australians are known around the world for their special bond with nature. Unfortunately, recent research commissioned by Planet Ark shows that what people think of us in this department doesn't necessarily align with our current lifestyle.The startling research shows that the laid-back outdoor culture we pride ourselves on is being eroded as Aussie backyards are shrinking, we're working longer hours, and our children are replacing outdoor activities with on-screen playing.There is a direct link between outdoor activities for children and a range of health and educational benefits. Research proves that it is through outdoor play that children can learn and develop to a greater extent. That occurs because nature provides children with different play opportunities than those available indoors. Moreover, the unique setting of the great outdoors teaches children many valuable lessons that they wouldn't have learned otherwise. It also allows them to practice new skills.

 

The Benefits of Outdoor Activities for Children

 

Here are seven crucial ways playing outside can help children:

1. Sunshine

Vitamin D is a vital nutrient that plays a vital role in many body processes, from bone development to immunity. The only way to acquire vitamin D is through sun exposure. Spending enough time out in the sun can also increase your sleep quality and improve your mood.

2. Exercise

Children should be active every day, and getting outside to play is the best way to make sure that happens. And yes, children can also exercise indoors, but sending them outdoors — especially with something like a ball or a bike — encourages active play, which is really the best exercise for children.

3. Executive Functions

These are the skills that help you plan, prioritize, troubleshoot, negotiate, and multitask, and they are crucial for a child’s future success. Nurturing their creativity is also very important as well as urging them to use their imagination to problem-solve and entertain themselves. Unlike sensory skills, executive functions are skills that must be learned and practiced — and to do this, children need unstructured time. Specifically, they need time alone and/or with other children and have the chance to make up their own games, figure things out, and amuse themselves. Spending time outside gives them the opportunity to practice these critical life skills in the easiest way possible.

4. Taking Risks

Children need to take some risks. As parents, letting our children do their thing makes us anxious as we want them to be safe at all times. But, if we keep them in bubbles and never let them step outside their comfort zone (in this case, the house), they won’t know what they can and can't do. They may also lack the confidence and bravery to face life’s inevitable risks down the line. And yes, they may break an arm while climbing a tall tree - or feel a tad embarrassed when they try to make a new friend and fail. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try. The lessons they will learn from failure are just as valuable as those they will learn from succeeding.

5. Socialising

One of the most important things children need to know about is how to work as part of a team/group. They need to learn how to make friends by sharing, cooperating, and treating other people with respect. If they only interact in very structured settings, such as school or sports teams, they won’t learn how to cope very well with others.

6. Appreciating Nature

So much of our world is changing, and unfortunately, it's not always for the better. If a child grows up never walking in the woods, digging in the soil, seeing animals in their habitat, climbing a mountain, playing in a stream, or staring at the endless horizon of an ocean, they may never really understand the value of protecting nature and keeping it as intact as possible. The future of our planet depends on our children, and they need to learn to appreciate it.

7. Time in Nature is Calming

Playing outside in a natural setting, like a park or a forest, can be a calming experience for your child. Contact with nature has been shown to reduce children’s feelings of stress. Time spent playing in nature can help your child to feel less anxious and more secure and calm.

So, all that's left to do is try it. Do what our parents did: Send your children outside. Even better, go with them. Take the time to head outside and encourage your children to do what your mother always said to you, “Go! Play!” You might be surprised at the changes you see in your children!

 

Fun Things to Do This School Holidays With Kids

 

1. Explore Multiple Outdoor Environments

Think beyond your backyard when it comes to children playing outdoors. Depending upon where you live, a visit to the beach, a river, a botanical garden or nature reserve, or even a farm, will provide your children with more versions of the great outdoors to explore.

2. Focus on the Social Aspect of Outdoor Playing

Inviting a friend over to play may be just the incentive your child needs to play outdoors. Set up a fun outdoor invitation to play (or two) and leave them to it.

3. Include Your Children in the Household's Outdoor Chores

Whether it be washing or walking the dog, pulling weeds, hanging washing or harvesting the vegetable patch, involving children in chores in and around the home is essential for the development of practical life skills.

4. Add Water to the Mix

Children love playing with water! From a sensory point of view, water games promote  brain development. They can also enhance your child’s cognitive abilities and lay the foundation for scientific and mathematical learning in later life. Of course, this is the last thing children will ever care about, but if you want to get the most out of your kiddie pool, it's time you let them splash, pour, stir and get wet as much as possible! And to spare you the thinking, here are ten kid-friendly activities to get the games started.

5. Embrace the Mess

If your inner neat freak goes crazy every time your child makes a mess while playing, it's time you shifted gears. Instead of picking up after your little ones every other minute, be prepared with a tub of water, soap, face cloth, and towels by the back door which you'll use only when they come into the house. That will help minimize the likelihood of sand, mud, and water being dragged throughout the house at the end of playtime.

6. Make it a Habit

Try instituting a daily "green hour." This new habit will increase your child’s engagement with natural places as playful spaces and make a habit of consistently spending time outdoors. The extra vitamin D certainly won't hurt.

7. Be Creative

Switch things up by turning an otherwise boring walk into a scavenger hunt throughout your neighbourhood. Draw up a list of things for children to find along the way, such as a fruit tree, a house with a red door or an out-of-state license plate parked in the driveway.

Another idea is to play a game, such as "Follow the Leader" or "Simon Says" in which the leader switches up the movements the walkers do at different points along the way, such as hopping, jumping, skipping and galloping.

8. Visit the Local Park or Playground

Taking your child to the nearest park or playground is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get them out of the house, especially if you don’t have a yard. Will provide your little one with enough room to run around and perhaps interact with other children.

9. Turn Fun Time Into Learning Time

Setting up a scavenger hunt is not the only way to switch things up during a walk with your child. You can also teach your little one about road safety by getting them acquainted with road signs and certain behaviours. Even younger children can get out of the stroller and walk for a little while. Walking together shows that you value and enjoy outdoor activities as much as they do.

10. Explore a National Park

Discover, learn and research the cultural heritage and landscape significance of your area with your child by your side. You can even get them acquainted with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

11. Make Them One With Nature

Try crushing fallen leaves in your hands, and then have your child smell the fresh "forest perfume.” Which one do they like best? You can even let them watch the birds. If you both sit quietly, you’ll notice that birds begin to fly and perch closer and closer to you. Let your child observe how they hunt for food, feed their babies, bathe and sing.

12. Discover Natural Treasures

Turn your daily walks into a “hunting” game by searching for a "rainbow" of colours. You can take the game a step further for first-graders by urging them to find letters of the alphabet or things of various shapes in their surroundings. Take a photo or store your treasures in a certain place only the two of you know and keep them safe until your next visit.

13. Enjoy the Natural Beauty in Silence

Ancient cultures, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, practiced a type of sitting that requires complete silence and the engagement of all the senses. Make a habit of this approach with your children by teaching them to sit still and breath in the natural beauty. Then, have them share what they saw, heard and experienced during this time. Expressing their feelings is an integral part of this outdoor activity.

14. Create Land Art

Celebrate your bush adventure by using only natural materials to build a sculpture or make a "picture.” Take a photo of the finished result and then let your temporary work of art be reclaimed by nature.

15. Make Music

Music, in the form of rhythms or songs, can tell the story of your day and/or keep everyone going as you reach the end of your walk. Keep the beat with bush instruments, sing a song you all know and change the words to be about your bush adventure, or compose a brand new song together.

16. Plan an Overnight Camping Trip

One of the best ways to make your child fall in love with nature is to have them spent some quality time in it. That said, you can plan a family camping trip and spend the night in the great outdoors. You can also go on a fishing adventure to a local creek or waterhole. Playground safaris are also a great idea. If you are not a fan of the wilderness, you can even work on a backyard or parkland hangout as in a treehouse, a cubby or a humpy.

17. Grow Your Own Produce

Plant some of your favorite veggies or fruits, water them and watch them grow throughout the year.

18. Spend a Day at the Beach

On hot summer days, drive to the nearest beach and take the time to look in the rock pools.

19. Go on a Picnic

Stuff a picnic basket with your favourite snacks and head to your local park to eat “al fresco.”

20. Institute “Craft Afternoons”

Gather a group of friends and/or family for an outdoor craft afternoon using only natural materials. Mud pies are fair game.

21. Use Simple Yet Fun Equipment

Fill a tub with balls, jump ropes, racquets, Frisbees and other items that encourage outdoor yard games. You can even DIY your own items by looking for ideas on Pinterest.

22. Visit the Ian Potter Children's WILD PLAY Garden at Centennial Parklands or The Ian Potter Centre

If you are looking for a free family event in Sydney or Melbourne to spice up your game day routine with Centennial Park’s new children's garden, the Ian Potter Children’s WILD PLAY Garden or the Ian Potter Centre . The exciting Sydney venue offers city kids the chance to immerse themselves in nature-play without forcing parents to drive for hours at a time. Melbourne showcases Modern and Aboriginal art. 

23.Cross Activities Off Of Your Play Day Bucket List

Having a bucket list full of fun kid-friendly activities is always a good idea. Make it a goal to cross off as many of them as possible. The options are endless - snorkelling at the beach, cooking damper over a campfire, playing in a creek, digging for worms. Out of ideas? Get inspired to venture into the outdoors with our "51 Things to do before you’re 12"!

24. Turn Υοur Βackyard Ιnto an Adventure Play Space  

Contrary to popular belief, creating a backyard play space doesn't have to be a tricky, costly or time-consuming process.  It doesn't even have to be permanent. All you need is your children's imagination, their innate curiosity and desire to explore and create something new and a limited set of open-ended materials such as buttons, crayons, fabric, etc. These simple and cheap ideas from Mum’s Grapevine and Let the Children Play are a great place to start.

It’s important your child grows up in a setting that nurtures their development through every means possible. Find your nearest childcare centre across Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane