School holidays

Forget 'just surviving' the holidays. Here are some ideas to help you and your family and whānau have fun and 'thrive'!

Your child needs the holidays to recharge their batteries and refresh themselves, ready for the next term. Holidays are also an opportunity to spend time with your child and have fun together.

Keep it simple, affordable and fun. The key is enjoying time with your child – it doesn’t have to be a chore or cost a lot of money.

Tips to thrive

  • Take the pressure off yourself – decide that you’re just going to enjoy hanging out together without the hustle and bustle of the school term.
  • If you’re working in the holidays, use the evenings or time when you’re not working to have fun time with your child, free of the school time routines.
  • If you're signing your child up to school holiday programmes, let them be involved in choosing them - many programmes have a specific focus, like art and craft, or sports. Your child will have more fun if they're doing something they like.
  • Remember all the free, fun games and activities you enjoyed as a kid (before tablets, PlayStation and X-Box)? You’ll be surprised at just how much fun you’ll still have – and your kids will enjoy them too!
  • At the start of the holidays, get your child or children to write a couple of ideas for things to do in the holidays and put them in a jar. Each day, pull one out of the jar to do that day.
  • Especially with younger children, don’t forget the old favourites – Play-Doh, fingerpaints, water play and bubbles.
  • Cries of “I’m bored” are okay. Children often come up with their most creative play when they’re bored. Let them know it’s their choice to be bored, or they can choose not be bored.
  • Bring some balance into the holidays – organise some activities, but also have some quiet time each day, where everyone does something by themselves, including you! It could be reading, drawing or listening to an audio book.
  • Get your child involved in the day to day running of the household. They often like to help plan and make the meals. Helping with housework also teaches your child lots of important skills about being organised, being part of the family, cooperating and contributing.

Fun ideas

  • Organise play dates with friends.They’ll love the extra out-of-term time together, and it can be a way to share the childcare when you're working.
  • Let your child build a tent or hut using old sheets, blankets and odds and ends from around the house.
  • Get the whole family out into the fresh air. It could be a bike ride, a trip to the beach, or a visit to a park or reserve in your area that you’ve never been to before.
  • Plan an “expedition”. Take the bus or the train, and get them to map out a walking adventure. You could even take a snack and have a picnic. Young children will love dressing up in character for their adventure.
  • Get messy, check out the play ideas on the Ministry's website, use a tarpaulin, water and dishwashing liquid and make a “slip’n’slide” down a hill or start a vegetable garden. Play ideas – Ministry of Education(external link) 
  • Visit your marae or family you haven’t seen for a while. School holidays are a great time to talk to your kids about where they are from and who they are.
  • Take part in some of the free school holiday activities that libraries, local councils, and even shopping centres offer.
  • Think about the projects your child has been doing at school. You may find some activities, events or exhibitions in your area that will help your child to get a better understanding of what they’ve been learning at school. Or your child may have been on a school trip and want to go back and share it with you.
  • Have your kids find some music and make up a dance, or find a favourite story and make up a play. Maybe they can invite some family or friends over for the performance.

Holiday programmes

If you work during the school holidays and want to find a holiday programme to enrol your child in:

  • Check with your school as many programmes are based at schools.
  • Keep an eye on your school newsletter. Often school holiday programmes are advertised through schools.
  • Ask friends and family for recommendations.
  • Check out church and community notice boards.
  • Your workplace may even run a holiday programme.

You can check out the Out of School Care and Recreation (OSCAR) Subsidy on the Work and Income website and find out if you are eligible for help with the cost of your child's school holiday programme.

Out of School Care and Recreation (OSCAR) Subsidy – Work and Income website(external link)

Keep up their learning too

  • Encourage them to read throughout the holidays. They might like to read in the mornings before they get up, at night before they go to bed, or help you by reading to their younger siblings.
  • Keeping a holiday journal can be fun. Plans, drawings, photos, and stories of things they do all help their literacy skills over the holidays, and kids love to read and re-read them in the future.
  • Helping out with cooking and baking makes use of their maths skills and shows them how maths is all around them.
  • Tell them about your work, and how your work day was. You might even be able to show them your work and share more about your work life with them.

It’s important to remember that your child can’t be left on their own if they are under 14 years old. This also means they can’t be dropped off at the mall, the library or swimming pool on their own without reasonable supervision or care.

Section 10B of the Summary Offences Act 1981 – NZ Legislation website(external link)

Enjoy the holidays and make the most of the downtime. Have fun with your child and take the opportunity to catch up with whānau and friends!

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