Sanity-Saving School Holiday Ideas

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School holidays are just around the corner again, and if you’re a parent, the creeping thought of “how am I going to fill in two weeks with them at home” is probably starting about now.

If you’re not a parent, remember that one of the great gifts you can give to a friend or relative with school age children is the offer to take the kids off their hands for a few hours. Time alone without the kids is worth more than rubies to a frazzled parent. 

So, with that in  mind, let’s see what you can do with kids these holidays in the Yarra River Precinct.

For most children – especially over-active boys – sport is usually a winner. The National Sports Museum, accessed via Gate 3 at the MCG, is not your dusty museum of old cricket caps and footy jumpers. In fact, this is one museum that goes out of its way to present its wares in a very interactive way. They present a very good school holiday program and the hands-on activities ensure that the decibel level during those two weeks can be near deafening. 

Arts Centre Melbourne does school holiday programs very well, with a mixture of traditional sessions and more tech-orientated  workshops through The Channel. For instance, in early October, the little ones can learn to be magicians. Once they’ve sworn the magician’s oath, they’ll be let into a world of secrets and mind-boggling twists and turns. Melbourne magician Lee Cohen will lead sessions showcasing a range of magical skills. You’ll even get a goodie bag of tricks to take home to amaze family and friends. 

Fed Square never fails to deliver on holiday activity for school-age children, and most of it is usually free. They have a new mega screen and it’s sure to be well used during the period, together with a range of activities held in the Atrium area. These holidays is the last two weeks to fall down the rabbit hole into Wonderland, a world premiere exhibition in ACMI, celebrating Lewis Carroll's timeless tale and Alice’s adventures on film. Take the trip through the looking glass into an immersive, enchanted world that draws together a remarkable selection of original behind-the-scenes material. Entry for Wonderland is timed, so book in advance to secure your spot. Wonderland is suitable for all ages, but children aged 6+ will probably get the most from a visit.

SEALIFE Melbourne’s Little Rangers program during the school holidays is the perfect way to keep primary school kids busy during the holidays. It includes a full educational tour, an exclusive look behind-the-scenes, art and craft activities and the chance to meet aquarium aquarists and keepers. The program includes admission, animal encounters and certificate of participation.  If you have teenagers, then SEALIFE’s school holiday program for 12-18 year olds called ‘Aquarist for a Day’ provides a unique opportunity to experience a day in the life of an aquarist, includes preparing food and feeding the animals. 

To finish off your school holiday period, on the final Sunday - 7 October - Polly Woodside hosts another of its very popular Pirate Days (held on the first Sunday of every month).  Bring along your scallywags and buccaneers and join them for a day of adventures. The first treasure hunt is at 11am, which kicks off a variety of activities throughout the day. The children get to scrub the decks, ring the bell, participate in pirate games and arts and crafts. Discover what life was like on a tall ship sailing the seven seas. Regular entry prices apply.  

By the way, if you literally want to ‘walk the plank’, you’ll not find it at Polly Woodside, but Eureka Skydeck is now offering a virtual reality ‘walk the plank’ experience. Put on the goggles, step up to the plank and you’ll find yourself walking mid air 300 metres above Southbank. Watch out for the birds because one missed step and you could find yourself in the ‘virtual’ Yarra River!