20 free ways to entertain the kids these school holidays


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Rather than giving out all the time to your kids, encourage them to join you in the things you want or need to do.

You like exercising ... take your kids. You love going out for a coffee ... find a kid-friendly cafe. You need to water the garden ... hand them the hose. You enjoy cooking ... get the youngsters to help in the kitchen.

Use your creative powers to get them on board. Or you may want to pay them extra pocket money to help out with special chores.

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1. Cool down

Relax at the beach or local swimming pool. Meet up with friends or family and their kids so you can catch up with people you care about.

2. Get on your bikes

Ride out together. Choose a quiet cycling trail to a scenic spot for a picnic.

3. Museums and art galleries

Check out the free permanent exhibitions and kids' activities. Special exhibitions usually charge an entrance fee.

4. Music festivals

Summer is festival time and there are plenty of free music performances.

5. Movie nights at home

Google the best family movies and you will discover a long list of great films. Draw the curtains, make popcorn and watch them with your kids.

6. Old-fashioned games

Bring out the board games and cards. If you've forgotten how to play, download the rules from the internet.

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7. Write stories

Every day write part of a story - one from your family or your childhood - and read it to your kids. That way they get to know more about you.

8. Playgrounds

Google the best playgrounds and go there, preferably early in the morning or in the afternoon when it isn't so hot.

9. Child-friendly cafes

Some cafes encourage kids with dedicated rooms, colouring-in pencils on the tables and innovative, well-priced kids' menus. Google the best.

10. Digital detox days

It is not just the kids who need to have a screen break. Parents need to stop checking their messages and relax. Do it all together during the holidays.

11. Cooking

The better your kids learn to cook, the easier your life will be. Plan a meal with them. Take them shopping for ingredients - check out colourful local markets with fresh produce. Prepare it together then get them to help clean up.

12. Volunteer

Encourage your kids to be kind and grateful by joining a volunteer organisation. These are great life skills to engender in your kids. Not all charities want young ones to help out but there are some that welcome them. They do require parents to attend too.

13. Art play

Take out the paints and ask your kids to paint a picture of the family, their home, their pets or favourite singers.

14. Books

Visit the local library. There are books, DVDs and holiday activities such as readings. You can also pick up some summer reading for yourself.

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15. Party time

Hold a themed party and invite a few of your kids' friends and their parents. The theme will depend on the ages of your kids. You can spend a few days together making food, decorating, selecting music and organising party clothes.

16. Garden

Enlist your kids to sweep the leaves or water the garden on hot, dry days. Pay them if you have to.

17. Play ball

Get out the cricket set, soccer ball, bocce, basketball and other outdoor games.

18. Pay the bills

Explain to kids how you work to pay the bills. Discuss how much things like power and water cost. It could save you money.

19. Clear the mind

Bring out the organisational skills in your kids so that they follow Marie Kondo's decluttering mantra KonMari and only keep items that spark joy. Tell your kids that holidays are when you all tidy your cupboards and rooms. Cull old clothes that you no longer wear or that no longer fit.

20. Go out for a drink

Find the best child-friendly pubs and catch up with the people you love.

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Susan has been a finance journalist for more than 30 years, beginning at the Australian Financial Review before moving to the Sydney Morning Herald. She edited a superannuation magazine, Superfunds, for the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, and writes regularly on superannuation and managed funds. She's also author of the best-selling book Women and Money.