Cost-effective ways to entertain kids during school holidays

Mum-of-two blogger Maria Foy shares top hacks for keeping kids amused for less.
Mum-of-two blogger Maria Foy shares top hacks for keeping kids amused for less. Photo credit: HappyMumHappyChild/ Instagram

With the new school term officially starting next Monday, time and cash-strapped parents have just a week or two left before enjoying a well-deserved break of their own.

As the school holidays can be an expensive time for parents, Newshub spoke to mum-of-two Maria Foy and a coach at Parenting Place for their top tips on how to spend less. 

Maria Foy, a full-time mum and blogger at 'Happy Mum Happy Child', said that keeping the kids happy shouldn't require parents to dip into their pockets - and the majority aren't spending hundreds each day. 

"[Plan] an at-home movie day, a scavenger hunt around the house, colouring-in competitions, board games, making huts inside or outside - or just let the kids play together," Foy suggested.

"If the kids want to chill in front of the TV, I don't mind either. 

"They've been working hard all year and there's nothing wrong with TV time."

Balancing the demands of work and home can put pressure on parents, and although kids need more time during the holidays, they needn't cost more money.

Jenny Hale, a family coach at Parenting Place, said kids need to feel noticed and seen and when parents make time and are totally present, that's something money can't buy.

"Parents are communicating:

  • "You are more important than anything else right now.
  • "I enjoy your company - I like being with you.
  • "I learn more about you - what you like, think about and worry about.
  • "We get a chance to get closer - reconnect again."

Devices can be useful if parents need time for work or chores and Hale said that they can be fun and educational if used between daily activities and routines. 

"[Get them] playing games, reading books, moving outside, helping out with a chore, using their imagination in creative ways and involved in art or construction activities," Hale suggested.

"Head to your local playground or library or take the bikes for a ride around the block - there are loads of great walks that are kid-friendly," Foy added.

Visiting local parks and playgrounds is an ideal way to spend quality time together.
Visiting local parks and playgrounds is an ideal way to spend quality time together. Photo credit: Getty.

If parents find themselves in situations whether other parents are forking out for café lunches and ice creams, Foy said she explains to her children early-on that they can only have what they're given.

"I'm honest with my kids and often say [to them], 'other kids may be allowed more than you, but today, you're not getting anything extra'.

"I'll often follow this up by saying 'don't worry though because we'll have something special at home' (e.g. a scoop of ice cream or an ice block)," Foy said.

Hale said that although what parents spend may not always seem 'fair', kids learn to compromise or adjust when parents role-model the behaviour.

"There are lots of ways to say 'yes' to something, but do it on your own terms. 

"Planning is key: say 'yes' to meeting friends at the beach but instead of [buying] ice creams, bring a box of ice blocks and share them [around].

"Children can manage disappointment if they know that there is a softener with it," Hale said.

Having exhausted other options, parents wanting a cost-effective way to keep the kids amused could consider letting them burn off energy at their local pool.

For parents based in Auckland, there are a number of Auckland Council pools offering free entry for kids aged under 16, including: Albany, Birkenhead, Franklin, Glenfield, Glen Innes, Henderson, Mt Roskill, Pakuranga, Manurewa, Massey, Otahuhu, Otara, Papatoetoe, Parnell, Stanmore Bay, Takapuna and Waiuku.

In Wellington, certain pools are free for kids under five, or costs start from $1.60.  And in Christchurch, kids can enjoy free paddling pools around the city, pre-schoolers can also go free to any Christchurch City Council pool, or prices start from $3.60.