Home & Food

An at-home school holiday guide

Iso friendly holiday activities

As lovely as it would be to pack up and head off for an adventure somewhere new and exciting, for many families, and for many different reasons, these school holidays may feature a fair bit of home time!

I don't know what it's like at your whare, but we've certainly been running low on 'things to do' inspo at our place. And then there's the fact that sometimes my kids have to entertain themselves while I plow through some 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

  1. Water play: (if it works in your climate!) Most kids love playing with water and relish the freedom to get wet and make a mess, even in winter. 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.

  2. Playing shops: Raid the recycling and set up a shop with cardboard boxes, empty packages and containers. Add some coins and notes (they can make their own!) 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Make a nature collage: A walk in the fresh air, the collection of leaves and then a beautiful mess of paper and glue all over the table – sounds idyllic, right?!

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

  7. Toilet roll tunnels: Create a maze of tunnels by taping toilet rolls and paper towel rolls to a wall with some washi tape (or easily removed masking tape) and supply a bunch of small light objects (pompoms are great) for hours of posting fun!

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

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

  10. 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

  1. Go home, stay home camping: Camp in your lounge with fairy lights, microwave s'mores and card games

  2. Throw a breakfast pancake party: This could be post camp-out... and depending on the age and capability of your kids, get them helping with the pancake make.

  3. Nerf challenge: Set up a Nerf challenge where certain targets have to be hit in a certain order and give kids a tally card to keep score of points. Bonus points for obstacles and blindfolds. Actually, blindfolds don't sound like a good idea...

  4. 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!)

  5. Baking: 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 we're going to give it a go these holidays.

  6. Gardening: 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... perfect timing with Matariki too.

  7. 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.

  8. 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 kids without watching a screen.

  9. Make greeting cards: Simple watercolour paints on white card can result in some charming effects.

  10. 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.

  11. Study science: Sure, why not! The Smithsonian Science Education Centre and Mystery Science let kids discover loads of science-based topics, and offer free online games and resources which are loads of fun.

  12. Sewing: My kids are really keen to sew stuff, and although we're starting basic, they love creating things as simple as little pillowcases or handbags to carry around the house. And if sewing's a stretch, set them a wearable arts challenge (and after dinner fashion show) conjuring a garment from recycled and waste materials they find at home. Messy, but magic!

  13. 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 chooses 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.

  14. Midwinter Christmas: 'Tis the season (and a whole chicken is one of the best grocery bargains at the moment!). Get the kids involved in setting a winter scene with paper snowflakes, a festive looking table, and prepping the food - add carols and candlelight, friends, and perhaps even a simple Secret Santa, and you're onto a winter winner.

  15. Virtual adventures: Ask Google to direct you to a range of brilliant activities and school holidays programmes on offer virtually – * MOTAT’s boredom-busters at motat.fun/kids

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

Tweens and teens

  1. 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. We found this option to print photo cards which can then be used to create a collage on the bedroom wall.

  2. Masterchef Get yourself a few nights off cooking by setting a Masterchef challenge for the holidays - each family member steps up and creates their own menu (teens could shop for it too). Set a budget, the judging requirements, and slot those dates in the calendar to look forward to.

  3. Quiz night: Go solo or ask another family over for Trivial Pursuit, or Kahoot quiz. Putting these quizzes together can take AGES, so a good way to while away a rainy afternoon.

  4. Fancy family dinners: Note, Midwinter Christmas we mentioned above, and Matariki too, which both make the perfect excuse to add a little extra wow one night - invite friends or family, dress up, think of entertainment... ask the teens to host (even if it’s delivered via UberEATS)

  5. Charades: 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!)

  6. Take time for TikTok: Create TikTok videos together (even if you're not sharing them there!). 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.

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

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

  9. Take time to up-skill: Challenge your kids to learn something new. There are loads of ideas and tutorials for craft projects on YouTube. They could create a macrame wall hanging, 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.

  10. Virtually arty: Remind yourself of the wonders beyond your own neighbourhood – get your kids to choose one or two free places to revisit over the break if you're in the vicinity. Take a virtual tour of Auckland’s favourite public art and sculptures, here.

  11. Global art tour: While you’re feeling cultured, virtually visit some of the world's best art galleries and museums. Pretty cool we can hang out at the Louvre or the Great Wall of China from the comfort of our living rooms!

  12. Full credit holidays: Yoobee offers a wide range of online school holidays programmes that give your kids the chance to try out a creative niche, and earn NCEA credits! (You don't even need to tell them it's learning!) – * Yoobee (offers 2D Animation, Make-up, E-sports, Ethical Hacking, Game Design, and more) i

Holly Jean Brooker

Holly Jean Brooker

Holly Jean Brooker works as a PR Specialist, Writer and Presenter 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. Holly is co-founder of MakesSense.org.nz.

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