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A lockdown-friendly school holiday guide

Parenting Place School Holiday 2021 10 11

Even if you're fortunate enough to have made it to level 2 where you live, it’s been a taxing few months for whānau across Aotearoa. And no one really knows how much longer Covid will be clipping our wings. I don’t know what it’s like in your whare, but at my place (in Auckland), my kids are now officially over it. They’re bored, restless and needing new things to do. I’m having to dig deep to think of fresh ways to keep them engaged so they don’t terrorise each other (or me!) for fun, and so I can get through some of my work requirements. So, I did some research and pulled together a bunch of ideas – activities to help you and your kids have some fun together, and hopefully some fun apart (with kids being so busy and happy that you might get an hour or so to actually finish some work!)

For the little ones

Water play

Most kids love playing with water and relish the freedom to get wet and make a mess. Set them up outside with buckets and bowls, funnels and cups. Level up with some bubbles and food colouring. If the weather is grim, pull a sturdy chair up to a sink full of warm soapy water and give your little one a collection of plasticware to ‘wash’. Note: stay close, anything involving water requires adult supervision.

Playing shops

Raid the recycling and set up a shop with cardboard boxes, empty packages and containers. Add some coins and notes and kids will play for hours. Level up and add a little café (cardboard boxes make good tables and upside-down toy boxes can be stools), then serve them morning tea there.

Obstacle courses

Create a series of challenges in the backyard, or inside if the weather isn’t great. You can use boxes, yoga rollers, cushions and shoes to create a course; show them how it’s done and challenge them to do five laps with a timer on. Level up with string or wool, wrapping it around large (and secure!) pieces of furniture and door handles around the house so the kids have to get through the ‘web’ without touching the string.

Play a storytime podcast

Kids can get quite happily engaged with a craft or building with blocks while a story podcast or audio book is playing in the background.

Make your own Christmas wrapping paper

It's never too early to start getting festive! Use paints, craft supplies and stamps to repurpose scrap or drawing paper into gift wrap

Decorate the windows

Decorating the windows with chalk paint pens on windows and glass doors is a bit of fun – and easy clean up too!


Simple sewing with felt shapes is a fun way to develop hand eye coordination.

Fairy gardens

Paint some rocks and pick flowers to create a fairy garden. Level up with tiny furniture made from whatever you can fine. Cotton reels, ice block sticks, buttons, bottle tops...

Street art

Create a chalk masterpiece on the footpath or driveway. Level up with chalk hopscotch and bike tracks.

Teddy Bears' Picnics

Sit down with your little ones to enjoy a teddy bear’s picnic. Spending some focused time together, with a parent joining a child at their level, will help kids get into an activity. Use funny voices to chat with the toys and dolls, and then when your child is happy to play alone you can get some work done alongside them. Fingers crossed!

If the weather is grim, pull a sturdy chair up to a sink full of warm soapy water and give your little one a collection of plasticware to ‘wash’

The kids in the middle

Virtual adventures

Ask Google to direct you to a range of brilliant school holidays programmes on offer virtually: MOTAT’s school holiday experience That's So Random, Scratchpad Coding for Kids (includes coding, robotics, electronics, 3D design and printing), Yoobee (offers 2D Animation, E-sports, Ethical Hacking, Game Design), Bricks4Kids (a LEGO STEAM holiday programme with free Saturday classes) and Little Scientists School Holidays Party.

Go home, stay home camping

Camp in your backyard with fairy lights, smores and card games

Throw a breakfast pancake party

For the brave, try an outdoor pancake cook-out after your camp-out.

Nerf wars

Set siblings up with a Nerf war (indoors or outdoors), just lay out the guidelines first!

Pizza party

Kids can have a go at making their own dough from scratch and decorating their own pizzas with various toppings. (Bonus – dinner is now sorted!)


Kids love making cupcakes and decorating cookies, and the baking process is great real-life learning too. Level up – try an extra challenging recipe you don’t usually have time for. We’ve never made a gingerbread house, so are going to give it a go these holidays.


Gardening is such soul food. Whether its planting vegetable seedlings or tidying up your current garden, get the kids involved and chat about what you are doing so they learn how to care for the earth.

Press pause for some mindfulness

Practise mindfulness or yoga together. You can use an app or YouTube clip, or sit down together with some mindfulness colouring in.

Listen to stories

Storytime From Space is a unique experience: NASA astronauts read stories to kids while floating around in space! We also love the Kiwi podcast Story Space, as well as StoryPirates. A great way to entertain them without watching a screen.

Make Christmas cards

As I said, it's never too early to get organised for Christmas! Simple watercolour paints on white card can result in some charming effects.

Build a fort

You're never too old for the classic blanket hut! Build a fort in the lounge and have a movie night inside it.

Study science

Sure, why not! [The Smithsonian Science Education Centre](https://ssec.si.edu/_ and Mystery Science lets kids discover loads of science-based topics, and offers free online games which are loads of fun.


My kids are really keen to sew stuff, and although were starting basic, they love creating things as simple as little pillowcases or handbags to carry around the house.

Lego Masters

Challenge your kids to a masterful Lego project and give them an hour to submit their entries (prizes optional – it's a brave parent who choses one child's creation over another!) Recently I've challenged my kids to build their dream island out of Lego and they're currently working on a Lego candyland brief as I type.

You're never too old for the classic blanket hut!

Tweens and teens

Old school photos

Remember when we used to print out photos? Give your teen the challenge of creating a family photo album (or one with their friends) using an online photo publishing website. These books are a neat keepsake and the creation process is fun and inspiring, plus a great chance to practise some design skills.

Dive deep

Remind yourself how cool Kelly Tarlton’s is with a virtual tour.

Quiz night

Host a Kahoot quiz night with wider family in other bubbles. Putting these quizzes together can take AGES, so a good way to while away a rainy afternoon.

Fancy dinners

If we can’t get fancy to go out, why not dress up and have a dance party in your living room, or ask the teens to host a fancy dinner (even if it’s delivered via UberEATS)


Get silly and have fun. Charades is a classic for family hilarity. We love using the HeadsUp app, as it’s easy for younger kids too (the older kids whisper the word to the younger kids who are acting but can’t read!)

Take time for TikTok

Create TikTok videos together. If you can’t beat them, join them, right? Have a laugh at yourself. Your tween will love that you are entering their world – even if they will find your efforts hilarious/mortifying.

Karaoke night

Have a karaoke night using music videos with lyrics on YouTube.

Gartic games

Host a Gartic phone games night – fun for adults too.

Take time to upskill

Challenge your kids to learn something new. There are loads of ideas and tutorials for craft projects on YouTube. You could create a Christmas wreath or a trendy macrame piece, sew some clothing or shopping bags, learn calligraphy, make candles or soap, learn how to make bagels, or have a go at a sourdough starter.

Virtually arty

Remind yourself of the wonders beyond your own neighbourhood – take a virtual tour of Auckland’s favourite public art and sculptures.

Global art tour

While you’re feeling cultured, virtually visit some of the world's best art galleries and museums. Lockdown silver lining – we can hang out at the Louvre or the Great Wall of China from the comfort of our living rooms!

Holly Jean Brooker

Holly Jean Brooker

Holly Jean Brooker works as a PR and Communications Specialist for Parenting Place. She is a mum of two, runs her own marketing consultancy business and has a background in high school education where she specialised in health and social sciences