School holiday fun

School holidays are a great opportunity for frugal fun-time. Here are just some of the many no or low-cost activities to keep the kids entertained.

• Go camping – at home! Pitch a tent on the lawn. An oily ragger writes that the best camping holiday they had was at home. Toasted marshmallows around a campfire with a flush toilet and warm shower nearby – perfect!

• Instead of having a lunch at a local café, an oily ragger from Whangarei recently held a family picnic at their city gardens. Not only was it a lovely setting but the kids had a great time running around and finding painted rocks! That got them inspired to paint their own rocks to hide in parks and tourist spots. To join the rock craze, all you need is some small rocks and permanent paints or marker pens to make colourful designs, smiley faces, happy sayings, or favourite quotes – anything goes!

• Go take a hike! Take the family on bush walks. Encourage them to appreciate nature. Most cities have a number of bush walks. Make an adventure by climbing local landmarks (like the town clock tower – if you have one!). Why not add some fun by having a historical mystery tour of the city or town.

• Take a tour of local businesses. Some of the larger businesses and arty crafty places have free tours either as an information service or in the hope that you will buy stuff while you are there. Other places that may allow visitors include vineyards, a dairy farm, horse stables, a free-range chicken farm, a paint and panel shop, the wastewater treatment station(!), a local council meeting, the airport…

• Hiring a video is much cheaper than taking the kids to the movies. A recent release hire costs half the price of a single admission ticket to the movies, and what’s more, you can usually have it for a number of days. This gives you the chance to swap videos with your friends and invite a group around for a BYO movie session. Cook up some popcorn, or caramel corn, or make chocolate coated ice creams for something special, then dim the lights, and action! To make caramel corn, all you need is 125g popping corn, a couple of tablespoons of cooking oil, 125g butter, two tablespoons of honey, and three-quarters of a cup of sugar. Heat the oil in a large saucepan until hot, then add the corn, place the lid on the pan, and shake constantly until popping stops – or use a popcorn maker! Place the popped corn into a large bowl. Combine the honey, sugar and butter in a saucepan. Stir over low heat until sugar has dissolved, then boil for 5 minutes. Pour the syrup over the corn, mixing until the popcorn is well coated. Pour onto greased oven trays to cool – then dig in!

• Have a games session. Board games are great fun and they are cheap to buy at garage sales – or better still, cost nothing when borrowed from friends. There are lots of games that are educational and fun, so it’s a win-win.

• Have a cooking session. Make your favourite cookies or cupcakes. Or what about American-style pancakes? All you need is 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of milk, 1 egg (use a duck egg if you have one), a couple of tablespoons of sugar, a heaped teaspoon of baking powder, a tablespoon of melted butter, and a pinch of salt. Mix the dry ingredients. Lightly beat the egg and combine with the milk and butter, then add to the dry ingredients. Blend together and pour about a quarter of a cup of the batter into a hot, lightly greased frypan. Cook until bubbles break the surface, flip, and finish cooking. Pile the hot pancakes on a warm plate, with a dot of butter between each. Serve with heaps of maple or golden syrup and cream or yoghurt, with piles of chopped fruit on top.

• Visit your local library. Not only are there lots of books but many have interesting school holiday programmes that are great entertainment for kids, parents, and grandparents alike!

There are so many ideas for low-cost activities – why not add to the excitement by writing each of the ideas on a piece of paper then draw them from a jar!